Since the two conventions have finished, there have been two kinds of polls that have been released. The first, a much smaller number, show Clinton with a very small lead – LA Times shows it as a 1 point lead, Reuters/Ipsos shows it at 4, YouGov has it at 3. A much larger group of polls shows Clinton with a relatively comforting lead of anywhere between 7-15 points.
Add another one to the stack that sees this race as not being particularly close, with Monmouth University releasing a poll showing Hillary leading Trump by a whopping 13 points among likely voters. However, you see the final result, this poll shows a trend that has been consistent even with the other polls that show this to be a close race; Hillary Clinton has a pretty typical lead among Democrats (garnering about 90% of the Dem vote), while Trump is unable to close the deal with even 80% of Republicans. At one point Trump made up this difference by leading among Independents, but Hillary has closed the gap to the point where she is almost tied with this group. Add it all up and it amounts to Hillary winning – whether by a little or by a lot, it does not matter; if Trump cannot win 80% of Republicans he cannot win the election unless he dominates among Independents.
Here, I think, is the key finding to this poll:
Currently, only 27% of voters feel that Trump has the right temperament to be president (down from 32% in July) while 67% say he does not (up from 61%). This contrasts with Clinton, who 61% of voters feel is temperamentally suited for the Oval Office (up from 52% in July), with just 34% saying she is not (down from 42%).
This means that even some portion of voters who would pull the lever for Trump acknowledge that he does not have the right temperament to be president. “Has the right temperament to be President” is one of those necessary but not sufficient conditions for winning a Presidential election. It’s not enough to get you over the line by itself, but if you don’t have it, you are doomed. The number of people who will actually step into a voting booth and commit the power of the U.S. Military into the hands of a person they believe is too unstable for the office is vanishingly small, regardless of where the candidates might come down on ideology.
This is probably the main reason that Trump is hemorrhaging Republican support to such an extent, in spite of the fact that Republicans by and large hate Hillary. And it’s also why the unhinged, screaming hatred from Trump supporters directed at Republican Trump skeptics is the exact wrong tactic. Trying to win over people who think that Trump is dangerous and mercurial by engaging in dangerous and mercurial behavior towards them will, if anything, only solidify the problem.
Trump cannot move forward in this race and seriously challenge Hillary unless he fixes the rift he created within his own party. His supporters have tried for over three months since Indiana now to apply peer pressure and intimidation against Republicans who are not falling in line, because they realize this. If it hasn’t worked by now, it’s not going to work. If anything, it is moving the needle in the wrong direction. The only thing that can salvage the race now is for Trump himself to convince the Republicans and Independents that he’s alienated that he’s at heart a different guy from what they’ve seen on the campaign trail so far. And frankly I don’t know if he has that in him.
One other thing that should be observed here. If Trump loses by 7-8 points, that is one thing. That’s the same margin McCain lost by in 2008, in roughly the same environment. The end result of this was that Republicans lost 8 seats in the Senate and 21 seats in the House. If Trump loses by 13 or 15 points, there’s no telling how bad the bloodbath could get. Republicans could be back where they were in January of 2009, or maybe even worse. Such a Trump loss would completely wipe out the major gains in both 2010 and 2014.