This year should tell us that nothing in politics is certain, but right now, there’s just no way for the Republican party to leave the convention in Cleveland unified. You can’t square this circle. A certain percentage of Trump voters won’t support anyone but their man as the nominee. On the flip side, 37 percent of Republican voters yesterday said they would “seriously consider” voting for a third party or other candidate if Trump is the nominee.
Barring a sudden Ted Cruz surge in the final 20 contests, the Trump folks will argue their guy won the most votes, the most states, and has the most delegates. Nothing we’ve seen in Trump’s behavior going back years indicates he’s capable of graciously conceding defeat and pledging to do his part to help elect the Republican nominee. Nothing we’ve seen from his supporters suggests they’re amenable to voting for Cruz or some other Republican.
All the polling indicates Rubio would have crushed Hillary Clinton in a general election. Cruz looks like he’s got a shot -- not a great shot, but a shot. Donald Trump’s general-election numbers are sinking like a stone. (If you can stand him, John Kasich matches up quite well.)
Trump’s fans walk around with great confidence about his general election strengths for which there is no real evidence. They’re convinced he will win over traditional blue-collar Democrats. So far, he doesn’t. They’re convinced he will win over African Americans. Polling in February puts his support among African Americans between 4 and 10 percent. (Romney won 6 percent.) They’re convinced he’ll win a lot more Latinos than everyone thinks. (He’s currently at less than half Mitt Romney’s level of support.) They’re convinced he’ll win Democratic states like New York, New Jersey, and Michigan. (He trails by 18 to 23 points in those states in the most recent polls.)
Trump fans gleefully point to his 7.5 million votes in the primary so far, and forget that the universe of voters in the general election will be on a completely different scale -- probably 130 million voters. (Mitt Romney won 10 million primary votes.)
When you mention Trump’s awful head-to-head polling with Hillary Clinton, you hear a lot of references to Ronald Reagan’s trailing Jimmy Carter in March 1980. Ronald Reagan never had the unfavorable numbers Trump has now.