On Wednesday, Reuters/Ipsos released a poll putting Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton nearly even in the general election. Whether you believe that polls are rock-solid crystal balls on what's to come in this godforsaken election cycle and will continue to be, or subscribe to a more "it's pointless to do this now because anything and everything will change in the next six months" school of thought, it's hard to deny that these new numbers are coming at a terrible time for Clinton. These results are pretty much the last thing the former Secretary of State wants to be dealing with right.
Bernie Sanders only has a 3 percent chance of winning the nomination, according to PredictWise. However, he has, nonetheless, picked up a string of recent victories, including last week's Indiana primary and Tuesday's West Virginia primary, and he's apparently making Clinton nervous in states like Kentucky. As POLITICO's Gabriel Debenedetti wrote, "the former secretary of state is suddenly investing in television advertisements in Kentucky — a state that should have been in her wheelhouse." No, Sanders is not going to win the nomination, but the longer he stays in the race — which he says will be until the very end of the nominating process in June — and keeps winning primaries, the weaker Clinton looks. While that concern isn't new, the reality of it has never been highlighted quite as starkly as it has been this week.
Mere weeks after we were hearing about how both Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz would get slaughtered in the general election and that the only GOP candidate with a shot at defeating Clinton was Ohio Gov. John Kasich, this Reuters/Ipsos poll arrives to tell us that 41 percent of voters surveyed last week would vote for Clinton in November, while 40 percent would choose Trump. Nineteen percent remained undecided.
It's kind of hard to say which of those three numbers is scarier. And if you're tempted to dismiss the data because it only represents 1,289 people (the United States is, after all, huge), know that most political polling sample sizes are similarly small — around 1,000 people, according to PollingReport.com — and that they've pretty much been the most consistent indicator of a candidate's strength that we've had during this bonkers nominating process. Reuters claims the poll credible to within about three percentage points.
What's wrought this change in the last week, as Reuters notes, is the withdrawal of Kasich and Cruz. Now that Trump — and the GOP electorate in general — has less infighting to distract and detract, the party, however reluctantly, may fall in line and focus their energies on Clinton in full.
Plus, a poll like this, coupled with Sanders' recent streak, only encourages the Berners to burn more brightly, dividing Clinton's own eventual electorate from the inside (more than, you know, it already is). Clinton has long had the reputation of electability in her favor against Sanders, but more polls and pundits have challenged that — and these latest numbers may irreparably sully that image.
While Republicans were predominantly viewed as the ones with a party in disarray this election cycle (and, granted, they still often are), the heavy speculation about brokered conventions and dramatic battles on the floor of the convention in Cleveland are pretty much irrelevant. But Sanders keeps nipping at Clinton's heels — and it's looking like it's leaving its mark.
Image: Bustle/Dawn Foster