Conventional wisdom says Donald Trump has two chances of defeating Hillary Clinton and becoming president:
Extra slim and none.
Four big reasons:
— His unfavorables are the highest ever for a presidential candidate with 60 percent of Americans viewing him negatively in some polls.
— Many leading Republicans hold him in contempt and others give tepid support, making it unlikely he can unite the party behind him.
— He’s facing a gender gap of historic proportions with polls showing women prefer Clinton by 20 or more points.
— The electoral map heavily favors Clinton. If you add the states that are “safe” or “leaning” for the Democratic nominee, you get 249 electoral votes. If she wins Florida, its 29 votes would vault her over 270 and make her the nation’s 45th president. Recent polls put her ahead in Florida.
Many Democrats can’t believe how fortunate they are to have Trump for an opponent. I was talking with some Democratic friends at dinner last week, and one said, “This is more than a best-case scenario for Hillary; Trump just about guarantees her election. She could pick Tina Fey as her running mate and still win.”
While you can make a strong case for a Clinton landslide, I’m not at all sure her election is a lock.
Think back 10 months. Did you believe Trump had a shot at becoming the GOP nominee?
Trump is a one-of-a-kind candidate whose flaunting of political campaign orthodoxy has succeeded beyond all expectations. He has connected with voters in ways the most politically savvy people could not foresee. His extraordinary performance in the primaries is reason enough not to write him off in November.
Maybe even a bigger reason to like his chances was served up last week by Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of the Washington Post.
(The Post has not been kind to Trump, and he ripped the paper and owner Jeff Bezos again Thursday for running “false stuff ” about him. He claimed Bezos acquired the paper “for power” to protect his much bigger company, Amazon, from being taxed properly.)
Trump had to like Hiatt’s piece, however, for pointing out that as bad as his unfavorable rating may be, the country’s is worse.
“In the most recent average of polls calculated by RealClear- Politics, 26.9 percent of Americans think the nation is headed in the right direction and 64.9 percent think we are headed down the wrong track,” Hiatt wrote.
“What if even voters who respect Hillary Clinton’s competence reject her as the embodiment of business as usual? And what if even voters who do not like Trump’s bigotry or bluster care more that he will, in their view, shake things up?
“Sure, these voters might tell themselves, he may be crude, or inconsistent, or ill-informed. He may insult women and Hispanics and other groups. But it’s part of a shtick. He probably doesn’t mean half of it. He’s just an entertainer. The desire to send a message of disgust or disapproval could lead voters to overlook, discount or excuse many Trump sins.”
Clinton can’t change her status as a prominent member for the past quarter-century of the political establishment many voters despise.
She’s spent eight years in the White House as First Lady, nine years in the U.S. Senate and four years as secretary of state. She may have the experience, the political skills and the policy chops, but those assets won’t overcome the negative feelings many people have for politics as usual.
And despite her deep resume, her unfavorable rating sits around 55 percent in the polls, not much better than Trump’s. She’s far from invincible.