My friend Jay Cost (a fellow non-fan of the current Republican nomination system) outlines a scenario in which Donald Trump could lose to Hillary Clinton by an electoral-vote tally of 396 to 142. This is certainly possible, if the Trump campaign goes into a complete tailspin. But if Trump gets out of the current turbulence he has encountered (or has created) and steadies his campaign, the issues of the day favor him. Moreover, he's not really that far behind.
As of midday on Monday, Trump is behind by between six and seven points in the Real Clear Politics average of recent polling. But RCP's averages of statewide polling find him doing reasonably well in Florida and Ohio (states he must win), and perhaps surprisingly well in Nevada and Iowa (states where President Obama always won by more than he won by nationally).
Indeed, if Trump were to cut his current deficit to Hillary Clinton by four points in each of these four states, he'd move ahead in each of them. Such a four-point swing would also move him ahead in North Carolina and Georgia. He would then be on course to lose to Clinton by a tally of 273 to 265 in the electoral vote. In other words, he's only a four-point shift away from making this a very tight race.
The problem for Trump is that he's doing poorly in many other swing states, one of which he'd have to win to get over the top: Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire (which would get him to 269), Colorado, and Wisconsin. And while he's doing reasonably well in Michigan (down by about the same amount as he's down nationally, which is good for a Republican), he has a lot of work left to do there to win it.
While Trump could lose in a close race, however, it seems unlikely that he will. Either he'll decide to shift this campaign to one about the issues (immigration, Obamacare, the economy, law-and-order, terrorism, the Supreme Court—all of which favor him) and likely win. Or he won't start talking about the issues (or will let such talk be drowned out by unforced errors), in which case he'll probably lose big, as Cost suggests.
The irony, of sorts, is that Trump won the nomination based on issues—as the GOP race was centered around his positions on immigration and trade. One wonders why he has decided to change course in the general-election campaign.
This deemphasizing of issues seems especially surprising in light of what an inviting target Obamacare is in a general-election race. Trump couldn't run against Obamacare when battling for the nomination with Ted Cruz, who had the upper hand on that issue (even though he didn't really take advantage of it). But he sure can against Clinton.
Jeffrey H. Anderson is a Hudson Institute senior fellow.