A new poll from Rasmussen Reports shows Donald Trump edging Hillary Clinton in a hypothetical general election match-up. The poll, of likely voters, finds Trump with 41 percent, followed closely by Clinton with 39 percent.
While the poll is certainly good news for Trump supporters, there is one interesting caveat to the result. Voters were not given the option of simply staying home and not voting. Last week, when a Rasmussen poll gave voters that option, Trump and Clinton were tied, taking 38 percent of the vote each.
Even with the “staying home” option removed, 20 percent of voters say they would support a third candidate or are undecided between Trump and Clinton.
Obviously, one can’t really remove the “stay home” option for voters. Even if one were able to do this, however, the benefit to Trump is slight. Essentially, the race between Trump and Clinton is a toss-up, according to Rasmussen.
Indeed, Rasmussen polling in the race has been largely static over the past six months. In October, Trump lead Clinton by an almost equal amount, 38-36 percent. In December, Clinton had the edge, 37-36, over Trump. Clinton’s best showing was in early March, when she led the GOP frontrunner by five points, 41-36.
Both Trump and Clinton are still facing some headwinds among their party’s voters. Trump has the support of just 73 percent of Republicans in a general election contest, while Clinton has the backing of just 77 percent of Democrats. Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats to support a third-party candidate.
Among truly Independent voters, with no ties to either political party, Trump leads Clinton by 6 points, 37-31. Actually, among these voters, Clinton comes in third. Almost one-in-three unaffiliated voters, 32 percent, back a third-party candidate or are undecided.
The Rasmussen poll suggests a slug-fest in November. The numbers suggest that neither candidate is particularly popular beyond a small core of supporters. The conventional wisdom from partisans of both candidates that the one will crush the other in November seems very premature.
Neither Trump nor Clinton seems to have any kind of insurmountable advantage over the other at this stage. Clinton, however, does have more room to grow her support. Among black voters, she leads 71-9 percent. Among non-black minorities, she leads 45-33 percent.
In both voting blocks, Trump is garnering an average level of support for a Republican candidate. Clinton’s support, however, is far below that expected of a Democrat candidate. If she can get these numbers closer to that of an average Democrat, without losing support, her position in November will strengthen.
In the end, this poll probably says more about the candidacy of Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump. Those Republicans worried about Donald Trump being the nominee would do well to remember that the Democrats will be saddled with Clinton. She is currently one of the worst performing Democrat candidates in a very long time.