Local Columnists

Can Donald Trump win in November? Yes

The road to victory for GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump rolls through the industrial Midwest.
The road to victory for GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump rolls through the industrial Midwest. The Associated Press

It was just one poll.

And, yes, the timing of the survey came in the wake of Donald Trump’s claiming of the Republican presidential nomination. So he was on a roll.

But the respected Quinnipiac University survey out this week for the swing states of Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania curled the toenails of more than a few Democrats, including Hillary Clinton.

All three states are sweaty-palms close.

“We need to be ready to wage what we think will be a very tight general election contest,” Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon acknowledged this week.

The possibility remains — and it’s not a remote one — that Trump’s bluster and bombast will put him on the ugly side of a November landslide. But there’s also fresh evidence that all this talk, coming as it does even from Trump’s GOP enemies, that he’s walking headlong into a slaughter may be way overblown.

The Quinnipiac poll suggests precisely that.

If you are a Democrat who has been relishing the prospect of a Clinton-Trump contest, sit up and pay attention. These numbers were stunning:

Ohio, a state Republicans traditionally must win to claim the White House: Trump, 43 percent; Clinton, 39 percent.

Florida: Clinton, 43 percent; Trump, 42 percent.

Pennsylvania: Ditto Florida. Exact same numbers.

“At this juncture, Trump is doing better in Pennsylvania than the GOP nominees in 2008 and 2012,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac poll.

Ohio and Florida are about where the contests stood in both 2008 and 2012, he said.

What’s even more astonishing are the little nuggets you find in the crosstabs of these polls, and I found these jaw-dropping.

Let’s stay with Ohio for a moment. Voters there viewed Trump — despite all his comments about women and walls and Latinos and low-income Americans — slightly more favorably than they do Clinton, although both are deeply underwater with voters on this metric.

Trump had a 36 percent favorable ranking and a 57 percent unfavorable. Clinton stood at 34 and 62.

Here’s another finding buried in the survey: In Ohio, almost an equal percentage of Democrats (81) back Clinton as Republicans (80) back Trump. That comes despite all this talk that Trump is toxic and that one leading Republican after another is walking away from him.

In Ohio, one of our great bellwether states, Trump led among independents 40 to 37 percent.

For Democrats, this all boils down to a single word: Yowser.

While the media focus remains riveted on Trump, Clinton’s struggles to connect with voters continue unabated. Core issues such as ethics and honesty aren’t going away.

“What people are missing in this is there’s no love lost right now for Hillary Clinton,” said GOP pollster Neil Newhouse, who surveyed for Mitt Romney four years ago and has KC area roots. “She’s barely eking out her own party’s nomination.”

The road to victory for Trump, Newhouse pointed out, rolls through the industrial Midwest. He has to win states with heavy blue-collar populations such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Right now, Missouri is still considered a probable Trump pickup, while Kansas is a more certain win.

The Washington Post pointed out this week that the Quinnipiac poll may have oversampled white people, so that’s a caveat worth noting. The survey comes six months before Election Day, and so much can happen in a span of that duration. The FBI, we learned this week, is working assiduously on the Clinton email caper.

Yes, the Electoral College heavily favors the Democratic candidate. And so do many of the country’s demographic trends.

But Newhouse points out this is the most unpredictable election cycle of our lifetimes.

Trump may still get crushed.

“But to simply write off Donald Trump now is a huge mistake,” Newhouse said.

One poll showed us that this week.