Think of this for homework: Hillary Clinton is probably rooting for Donald Trump. Not for Trump to win the presidency, but for the maverick businessman to win the Republican nomination.
Here’s why. Clinton has high negative ratings among American voters, many who distrust her or see her as cynical. In match-up polls, where US voters are asked to choose between two candidates as if it was already November, Clinton fares poorly against almost all the remaining Republican candidates. The only one she beats handily is Trump.
The last remaining mainstream Republican candidate, John Kasich, beats her handily in these polls. The Realclearpolitics average of such polls shows the former Ohio governor ahead of her by 7.4 % points. Against the other establishment runner, Marco Rubio, she was four points behind before he dropped out of the race three days ago.
Even against Ted Cruz, a candidate associated with the extreme Christian rightwing and heartily disliked by many of his own party leadership, she is neck-and-neck. Cruz is ahead by a statistically irrelevant 0.8 points – but some recent polls indicate this lead may be increasing slightly.
But when Clinton is pitted against Trump, the pendulum swings and gives her a solid 6.3% points lead. And this lead is increasing over time. In February, matchup polls showed her lead hovering between 5 to 8 points. In surveys in March, this increased to 9 to 13 points.
With the Democratic candidacy almost in the bag, Clinton has begun firing broadsides at Trump. This would make sense. Trump is easily the Republican frontrunner and Clinton increasingly wants to remind everyone she is only thing standing between Trump and the nuclear button.
To put it another way, Trump is the only candidate who attracts more negative sentiments than Clinton with US voters.
A fear of a President Trump gives her an advantage among many crucial voting groups. One would be youth, so-called millenials, who have been foot soldiers for her rival for the Democratic candidacy, Bernie Sanders. They would rally more than two–to-one in her favour if the choice was Donald versus Hillary, says a USA Today/Rock the Vote poll done a few days ago. Trump is also the least liked Republican candidate among independents, the crucial swing 40% of the electorate, with a net favourability rating of minus 27% according to Gallup. Worse, polls show a quarter of Republican voters would defect to the Democratic side to keep Trump out of office.
Obviously, match-up polls at this point in the electoral battle, eight months from the election day are indicative of voter mood but useless to measure actual behaviour at the ballot booth. However, they are remarkably consistent in showing Clinton would struggle in an election against almost anyone except Trump.
Who would do best of all against Trump, however, is Sanders. As much a maverick as Trump, if from the left rather than the right, Sanders beats Trump by 10 percentage points on average in matchups and a recent poll has put that margin as high as 18%.