The Hill (Opinion)
By Juan Williams
May 23, 2016
Donald Trump is getting good news in the polls.
Last week, a Fox News poll saw him take a 3-point lead over Hillary Clinton in a national survey. That’s within the margin of error.
But step back and take the long view. Clinton led by seven points in April. If this is a horse race, Trump is clearly coming on fast.
Even after last week’s surprising polls, Clinton still leads in the RealClearPolitics nationwide average by 3 points. But that makes the race a toss-up — her big lead is gone.
The strength of Trump’s rise in national polls is also evident in swing states. A Quinnipiac poll, released two weeks ago, showed him leading Clinton by four percentage points in the swing state of Ohio. Meanwhile, Clinton’s lead in two other critical states is razor-thin. In both Florida and Pennsylvania, the poll gives her a one-point lead — 43 to 42.
These national and swing state polls are pure joy to Trump’s supporters. But there is reason to be cautious. The polls are hiding some hard truths about what it will take for Trump to win the White House. The electoral college battlefield is forbidding for him.
A Trump-Clinton matchup will dramatically expand the electoral playing field beyond Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania — in Clinton’s favor. The most recent polls show a statistical dead-heat between Trump and Clinton in red states, like Arizona and even Georgia, which have reliably voted for the GOP nominee in recent presidential elections.
In 2012, GOP nominee Mitt Romney won 206 electoral votes to President Obama’s 332 electoral votes. This was an improvement over 2008 when the Republican candidate, John McCain, won only 173 electoral votes and Obama won a whopping 365.
To win the 270 votes needed to claim victory in the electoral college, Trump will have to keep every single state won by Romney — including Arizona and Georgia — and find 64 more electoral votes somewhere.
The question is where? If Trump holds all the Romney states and carries Virginia, Pennsylvania and Florida, he still loses.
“Every preliminary electoral-map forecast this spring paints a bleak picture for Donald Trump in his effort to win the presidency against Hillary Clinton,” Dan Balz recently wrote in the Washington Post.
Balz pointed to separate forecasts from three veteran political handicappers who make the same prediction: Trump is going to get crushed by Clinton in an electoral college landslide.
Larry Sabato, Charlie Cook and Stu Rothenberg all predict a big Clinton victory. For example, Sabato projects Clinton to win 347 electoral votes to Trump’s 191.
“Trump has proved to be largely impervious to attack in the primaries, but he’s now facing a much different electorate,” Balz concluded in depicting voters beyond the GOP base as younger, more racially diverse, more educated and more balanced in terms of gender. “If he isn’t ready for what is coming at him, the opening phase of the general election could prove decisive.”
In Arizona, where 30 percent of the voters will be Hispanic, McCain is telling supporters that his own reelection “may be the race of [his] life.” Over 2 million Hispanics live in the Grand Canyon State.
McCain privately told supporters recently: “If you listen or watch Hispanic media in the state and in the country, you will see that it is all anti-Trump. The Hispanic community is roused and angry in a way that I've never seen in 30 years.”
Trump galvanized support during the overwhelmingly white GOP primary by smearing Mexican immigrants as “rapists,” calling for construction of a border wall and promising to stop remittances to Mexico.
Last month, a poll of registered Latino voters from America’s Voice and Latino Decisions nationwide found that 87 percent had an unfavorable opinion of Trump – 79 percent of those were “very unfavorable.” Non-white voters, especially Hispanics, could make the difference statewide.
McCain is perhaps the most surprising example of an incumbent Republican senator whose own reelection is jeopardized by having Trump at the top of the ticket. But he is not the only one.
Ohio’s Rob Portman, New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte, Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson, Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey and Illinois’ Mark Kirk are at great and growing risk of being swept out of office on an anti-Trump wave.
It is almost impossible to imagine any electoral college scenario where Trump is elected without carrying at least one of those states. It is also hard to imagine moderate and independent voters splitting their ticket — voting against Trump for president but reelecting senators who back him.
Now, here’s an ironic twist. After the bitter 2000 presidential election and the famous Florida recount which made George W. Bush president, newly elected Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) called for doing away with the electoral college entirely.
“We are a very different country than we were 200 years ago,” she said back then. “I believe strongly that in a democracy, we should respect the will of the people and to me that means it’s time to do away with the electoral college and move to the popular election of our president.”
One can only assume that today’s Clinton is glad that Congress did not follow her advice then.
Juan Williams is an author and political analyst for Fox News Channel. His latest book, "We The People," published by Crown, is out now.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com