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First Read: With 47 Days to Go, Trump Needs Outside Forces to Win

by Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann /  / Updated 
Republican nominee Donald Trump speaks at "Joni's Roast and Ride" in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., August 27, 2016.CARLO ALLEGRI / Reuters

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First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

With 47 days to go, Trump needs outside forces to win

Ahead of Monday’s first debate, Hillary Clinton holds the advantage in the 2016 presidential contest, according to our new national NBC/WSJ poll. In the four-way horserace, Clinton gets support from 43% of likely voters and Trump gets 37%, while Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson is at 9% and the Green Party’s Jill Stein is at 3%. In a head-to-head matchup without those third-party candidates, Clinton’s advantage expands to seven points, 48%-41%. This is the NBC/WSJ poll’s first general-election poll of likely voters in the 2016 race. Among the broader electorate of all registered voters, Clinton is ahead of Trump by five points in the four-way contest, 42%-37%, which down from Clinton’s nine-point lead in August. And in a two-way race, Clinton’s edge among registered voters is seven points, 48%-41%, which also is down from nine points in August. Looking at these and other numbers in the poll, NBC/WSJ co-pollster Peter Hart (D) puts it this way: “Trump needs outside forces to win,” either through a “lousy turnout operation by the Democrats” (where African Americans and Latinos don’t show up) , or a “lousy” debate performance by Clinton that does not convince millennials to abandon their votes for Johnson and Stein. Bottom line: Trump doesn’t control his own destiny. “Donald Trump has closed the margin since August, but as we head towards the debate, he still needs to push this campaign closer,” adds NBC/WSJ co-pollster Bill McInturff (R).

The 2016 race’s remarkable consistency

What’s also striking about the poll is the remarkable consistency of the race. Among registered voters in the two-way race, Clinton has the advantage with African Americans (81%-7%), women (51%-37%) and those ages 18-34 (50%-34%), while Trump is ahead among men (46%-44%) and whites (49%-41%). And the poll reveals a familiar pattern among white registered voters: Those without a college degree break for Trump, 53%-35%, while those with college degrees tilt in Clinton’s favor, 49%-43%.

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Clinton and Trump are unpopular, but one is much more unpopular than the other

Speaking of consistency, the NBC/WSJ poll finds that both Clinton and Trump are unpopular figures, but Trump is MUCH more unpopular. The positive-negative numbers:

  • Barack Obama: 51%-39% (+12)
  • Bill Clinton: 45%-38% (+7)
  • Democratic Party: 37%-43% (-6)
  • Hillary Clinton: 37%-52% (-15)
  • Republican Party: 29%-48% (-19)
  • Donald Trump: 28%-61% (-33)

But Trump’s numbers aren’t the worst in the poll. That honor goes to Vladimir Putin (6%-66%) and the news media (19%-59%).

Trump holds the advantage on economy, Clinton on all other issues

Asked which candidate is better on the economy, 46% of registered voters say Trump, while 41% pick Clinton. But Clinton leads on every other issue the poll tested -- on being in charge of nuclear weapons (51%-25%), on being a good commander-in-chief (48%-33%), on dealing with immigration (50% -39%) and on terrorism and homeland security (44%-43%). Clinton also holds the advantage over Trump on being knowledgeable and experienced enough to handle the presidency (60%-23%) and on having the right temperament to be president (56%-23%). But Trump holds the edge on being honest and straightforward (41% say Trump is better here, versus 31% who say Clinton is).

Obama’s approval rating stands at 52%

The NBC/WSJ poll also finds President Barack Obama’s job-approval rating at 52% -- unchanged from August. Indeed, this is the fifth-straight NBC/WSJ poll in which his job rating has been above 50%.

Democrats hold a 3-point lead in congressional preference

And the poll shows Democrats enjoying a three-point advantage on which party should control Congress: 48% of registered voters prefer Democrats in charge, while 45% want the GOP in control. Democrats held a four-point advantage on this question a month ago.

NBC/WSJ/Telemundo: Clinton is about matching Obama’s 2012 performance with Latinos

In addition to all of these numbers, we have our new NBC/WSJ/Telemundo oversample of Latino voters (300 registered, 266 likely), which shows Clinton beating Trump here 65%-17% in a four-way contest among likely Latino voters. In a two-way race, the margin is 71%-18%. Back in 2012, Obama beat Romney 71%-27% among Latinos, according to the exit poll. But there is a warning sign for Clinton in these numbers. While 60% of voters overall say they are "very interested" in the election, only 49% of Latino voters say the same. And among younger Latinos, enthusiasm about the election is even lower, with just 38% of Latinos aged 18-39 saying they are "very interested" in the election. By the way, here are the favorable/unfavorable numbers among registered Latino voters:

  • Bill Clinton: 68%-18% (+50)
  • Barack Obama: 65%-17% (+48)
  • Democratic Party: 57%-23% (+34)
  • Hillary Clinton: 57%-30% (+27)
  • Republican Party: 21%-54% (-33)
  • Donald Trump: 15%-78% (-63)

On the trail

Donald Trump delivers an energy-themed speech in Pittsburgh, PA at 11:00 am ET, and then he holds a rally in Aston, PA at 7:00 pm ET… Tim Kaine stumps in Nevada… And Mike Pence hits Colorado and Arizona.

Countdown to first presidential debate: 4 days

Countdown to VP debate: 12 days

Countdown to second presidential debate: 17 days

Countdown to third presidential debate: 27 days

Countdown to Election Day: 47 days

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