Donald Trump would be the most widely reviled presidential nominee in recent history
"I've been very successful," says Donald Trump. "Everybody loves me."
He certainly has been successful, particularly in the Republican presidential primaries. But everybody does not love Donald Trump.
Commentators have talked a lot about Trump's limitations as a general election candidate. But even so, this simple, broad point hasn't been fully appreciated: If he prevails and becomes the Republican nominee, Donald Trump may be the most disliked, even reviled major party nominee in recent history.
To get a sense of how widespread this dislike is, let's look at a Washington Post/ABC News poll released on Tuesday. It found, consistent with every other poll, that Trump still leads the race for the Republican nomination. But it also found that the voters — particularly all voters, but even those within the GOP — don't think highly of him. When matched in one-to-one trial heats against Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, Trump lost, by 54-41 to Cruz (who has at least a theoretical chance of winning the nomination), and by 51-45 to Rubio (who has almost no chance). In other words, it appears that everyone was right when they said that Trump would be vulnerable as soon as the race came down to him against one other candidate. The trouble is that the race still has four candidates, and if it ever comes down to Trump and one other, it will probably be too late.
Only 51 percent of Republican voters said they'd be satisfied if Trump were their nominee. Compare that to the 74 percent of Democrats who would be satisfied with Hillary Clinton and the 72 percent who would be satisfied with Bernie Sanders.
But the really brutal numbers come among the electorate as a whole. Only 30 percent of the public says they have a favorable opinion of Trump, while 67 percent says they have an unfavorable opinion. (Even Hillary Clinton — hardly America's most popular politician — has a 46 percent favorable rating, versus 52 percent unfavorable.) Other polls have produced similar figures for Trump: approval somewhere in the 30s, disapproval somewhere in the 60s.
This is critical to understand when you see Trump fill a stadium with 20,000 people and then win a primary the next day. While he might have a plurality of support within the GOP, most of the public seems to find him utterly repellent. Now let's look at some of the attribute questions the poll asked:
We've all marveled at how no matter what Trump says or does, it doesn't seem to dent his support among GOP voters. But that doesn't mean all those controversies have had no impact. His loyalists are sticking with him, but the rest of the country doesn't like what they see.
Republicans hoping to stop Trump are now pinning their hopes on a brokered convention, in which Trump would arrive with less than a majority of delegates, and in multiple votes the assembled party members would select someone else. That well might happen, but think about what the response would be among Trump's supporters. He arrives at the convention having gotten more votes and more delegates than anyone else. After a campaign in which everyone talked about their disgust with the party establishment, Trump — the most anti-establishment candidate of all, whose very candidacy is a giant middle finger to the operators in Washington — gets pushed aside in favor of someone selected by party insiders. The result would be fury and chaos. Some people are literally predicting violence.
"A brokered convention would be the equivalent of the political 'Hunger Games.' And I am not exaggerating," said GOP strategist Anna Navarro. "Take a look at what's going on at Donald Trump events. Take a look at what happens to protesters. They get basically assaulted. If you think people aren't going to get clubbed like baby seals on the floor of the convention you haven't been watching what's been happening."
Things may not get that far — Trump may manage to get a majority of delegates, or you could have a brokered convention in which he still emerges as the nominee. But no matter what happens, there is no way this nomination fight ends with anything other than a whole lot of hurt feelings, resentment, and anger. The only question is who ends up angriest at whom.
And if Trump does triumph, you'll have a general election campaign in which Republicans are led by a spectacularly unpopular figure. To boot, there will be some Republicans campaigning against him, even if most fall into line. All those people he ridiculed and belittled will be highly motivated to come out and vote against him. He'll be getting criticized from all directions, and even if his most ardent supporters won't be dissuaded from voting for him, lots of other people will be.
And I'm pretty sure that through it all, Trump will continue to insist that everybody loves him.