What a world, in which the tightening Democratic race is the big news from a national 2016 poll, and the continued lead of Donald Trump among Republicans is the ho-hum, who-cares storyline.
Let’s dispatch with Trump quickly: In Quinnipiac’s new national survey the Bouffant Bruiser continues to Godzilla his way through the Republican field. What’s interesting here is the undercard, where Jeb Bush slips into the single digits. In Real Clear Politics’ polling average, Bush is now in third — a position he hasn’t been in since last October, save for a brief Scott Walkerenaissance late last month. He can thank Ben Carson for that new position: Carson moves to 12 percent support in the new poll, matching what he had in Fox News’s poll right after the first debate.
But again, that gap between first and second is the surprise.
As is the gap between first and second on this chart.
There are two different scales at play here, but they’re not as far apart as you might think. Hillary Clinton still leads Bernie Sanders by 21.5 points in the RCP average. Trump’s lead is only 13.2. But those … are in the same ballpark. In this poll, Trump is up 16 points on Carson and Clinton is up 23 on Sanders. That is a 7 point difference.
The Democratic gap is narrow because the new Quinnipiac poll has Clinton under 50 percent for the first time in its polling. It conducted surveys in May and July that show how the Democratic race has changed.
Part of what’s obscured there is Sanders’s improvement. You can look at the Democratic race as being between two factions: The Clinton/Joe Biden faction and the Sanders/Elizabeth Warren faction. This is imprecise and an approximation, but we’ve noted before that Clinton and Biden share elements of support (working class people, people of color) and that Sanders absorbed most of Warren’s support when she decided not to run.
If you look at how each has polled in Quinnipiac surveys, you can see the drop in Clinton/Biden support in the newest poll. Clinton/Biden support had been around two-thirds of total support combined, and Sanders/Warren less than 20. No longer — despite Biden’s improvement in the most recent poll.
Part of that is because Clinton is viewed increasingly unfavorably, even among Democrats. Which should offer a bit of caution to Biden as he mulls a decision: Nothing makes politicians unpopular faster than their trying to run for office (unless of course your name is Donald Trump).
Look at where Clinton was before she started her bid, and look at where she is now. Her net favorability (those who view her favorably minus those who don’t) has dropped 23 points since last November. Even Sanders’s favorability fell slightly, despite fewer Democrats not knowing enough about him (which is the main reason his favorability trails the others).
That’s one reason why the Quinnipiac poll’s finding that Biden does better against possible Republican opponents than Clinton is worth a few grains of salt. He’s not even running! That might have worked as an excuse in May, but it ain’t May.
Now, close your eyes and imagine it is May. I come up to you, sit you down, and show you a Quinnipiac poll from the future, in which Donald Trump leads the Republican field by 16 points, and Clinton leads the Democrats by only 23.
What a world.