CNN Pre-Super Tuesday Poll: Sanders or Clinton Could Take Trump, But…

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March 2, 2016; CNN

Last night’s Super Tuesday returns arguably suggest a Trump vs. Clinton faceoff in our future. Still, as political commentators are fond of saying, this race to date has been less than predictable, so it may be worth keeping an eye on both sides of the whole field for one more minute.

Yesterday morning, a CNN poll looking at hypothetical matchups in November found that either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton could take the general election against Republican front-runner Donald Trump. In fact, either Florida Sen. Marco Rubio or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz would give Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner, a more challenging run for her money.

According to the poll, Clinton tops Trump 52 percent to 44 percent among registered voters but trails Rubio 47 percent to 50 percent, as well as Cruz by 48 percent to his 49 percent.

Sanders is seen as being able to top all three Republicans by wider margins: 57 percent to 40 percent against Cruz, 55 percent to 43 percent against Trump, and 53 percent to 45 percent against Rubio.

And the poll also finds a strange blip in the favorability ratings of the candidates.

Sanders holds the most positive favorability rating of any of the top candidates for president: 60 percent of registered voters view him positively, 33 percent negatively. He is the only candidate seen favorably by a majority of voters, and one of four who are seen more positively than negatively.

The two front-runners, Clinton and Trump, are seen unfavorably by majorities of voters. Almost 6-in-10 have a negative view of Trump, 59 percent with 38 percent favorable, and 53 percent have a negative view of Clinton, 44 percent see her positively.

Be that as it is, we are left with a few vivid impressions from last night that are hard to ignore—specifically, Chris Christie’s thousand-yard stare as he stood behind Trump at that very well staged press conference, and the semi-stunned behavior of some of the other Republican candidates.

So, it’s hard to know where this will all go, but one thing we do know is that the scene is likely to get even more ugly as one charismatic candidate kicks the contest rulebook unceremoniously to the curb. For those of us concerned about the rights of women, immigrants and refugees, and disabled people, and about core issues like income inequality and the environment, it will be important to stay active in the days leading up to the election because the public is clearly conflicted.—Ruth McCambridge

  • One potentially troubling factor for Democrats this year is low voter turnout for the primaries thus far, compared with 2008 and 2012. Low turnout should be a big boost for Hillary Clinton, and, indeed, she remains the frontrunner. However, it can be argued that Bernie Sanders is doing far better than should be expected, both with voters and with donors, given the low turnout numbers.