The two Real Clear Politics frontrunners based on the average of the national polls, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, have already reached a dubious historical point that no other recent open seat Presidential candidate has done – sky high negatives!
The dynamic duo of the 2016 race are despised by Americans. While this nation has been skeptical of politicians even before tea was dumped into Boston Harbor, Trump and Clinton take the cake.
Looking at the three most recent open seat Presidential contests, none of the other main candidates ever reached the level of negatives that Hillary and The Donald are already currently at.
In the latest NBC/WSJ poll, Trump fares the worst with Americans, having just a 27% positive/59% negative image! In the words of Trump, those are yuuuge negatives! In fact, only 12% are very positive, while 47% are very negative.
To quote Trump, those numbers belong to a “loser.” They are more “ridiculous” and a “disaster” than “excellence,” “phenomenal,” “wonderful,” “amazing,” “fantastic,” “fabulous,” or “spectacular.” No, Donald, 27% positive/59% negative does not make you a “winner!”
While the Democrats are publicly attacking Trump despite privately wishing for him to be the GOP’s nominee, they have their own problems. While Donald Trump is not likely to be the GOP nominee for a whole host of reasons, Hillary Clinton is cruising to the Democratic nomination despite her 37% positive/48% negative image rating with Americans overall.
While that is a whopping 21 net points better than Trump’s image, Hillary faces significant perceptual problems.
First, look at the images of the other leading competitors:
While that’s interesting and we will see some change in the images of Sanders, Carson, Rubio, and Cruz throughout the winter, the clearest indicator of the trauma that The Donald and Hillary are going through is comparisons with historical data.
I went back and looked at the worst images for the candidates in the last three open seat Presidential races – 1988, 2000, and 2008. None of the candidates were in the same neighborhood of negatives as Trump and Clinton:
So, just eight short years ago, neither Barack Obama nor John McCain were underwater on their images. Even at a time when the Republican brand was collapsing, the Maverick from Arizona was still more liked than disliked.
And, in 2000, the polarized election that lasted until mid-December, Al Gore’s negatives never got above 38%. He was underwater, but only by a point. For a candidate whose woodenness and, er, unusual speech cadence were ripped by the Democrats after he lost, Gore was disliked but not despised like Trump and Clinton are.
Only in 1988, at the very end of the campaign, was Michael Dukakis’s image essentially on the same level as Hillary and Donald. The man in the tank tanked at the end, dropping to a 30% favorable/43% unfavorable image on November 2nd (CBS/NY Times polling). At his worst pre-election, George H.W. Bush was a couple of points underwater at 33% fav/35% unfav in May. He steadily recovered throughout the summer.
Hillary’s image is likely to improve a bit as she becomes the Democratic nominee. If Trump does falter and fails to become the nominee, it is likely that Hillary will have the highest negatives of any major party candidate going into an open seat Presidential election.
Right now, Hillary’s image is already worse than any major party candidate in the history of NBC/WSJ presidential polling had in October of the election year, from 1992 to 2012. So, while the candidates in the last six presidential elections were suffering the slings and arrows of negative ads and daily attacks in October before the election, Hillary is worse off now than they were despite the fact that she is going through a rather benign primary.
Team Clinton should know that hoping that Donald Trump is the GOP nominee is not a strategy. Meanwhile, all of her image resets so far have failed. In an election where Republicans have a major math problem in both the Electoral College and the demographic make-up of the electorate, Hillary will start with a major math problem of her own. Barack Obama was wrong – Hillary is not likable enough.