IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Why Trump's in Trouble: He's Underperforming Romney in 2012

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.
Image: Donald Trump Holds Campaign Rally In Nevada
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Henderson Pavilion on Oct. 5, in Henderson, Nevada.Ethan Miller / Getty Images

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.

Why Trump’s in trouble: He’s underperforming Romney in ’12

Our latest national NBC/WSJ poll is bad news for Donald Trump’s prospects three weeks out until Election Day, and the problem for him runs deeper than the headline result showing Trump trailing Hillary Clinton by double digits. He’s also underperforming Mitt Romney with key parts of the electorate, including women, men, Latinos, whites, and whites with college degrees. Just look at comparison between Trump’s standing in our new poll and Romney’s eventual standing in the 2012 exit poll:

  • Women: Clinton +20 (55%-35%); Obama +11 (55%-44%)
  • Men: Trump +3 (48%-45%); Romney +7 (52%-45%)
  • Whites: Trump +11 (51%-40%); Romney +20 (59%-39%)
  • Latinos: Clinton +53 (70%-17%); Obama +44 (71%-27%)
  • African Americans: Clinton +77 (86%-9%), Obama +87 (Obama 93%-6%)
  • Independents: Trump +6 (41%-35%); Romney +5 (50%-45%)
  • 18-29 year olds: Clinton +18; Obama +23
  • Whites with college degrees: even; Romney +13.

As NBC/WSJ co-pollster Bill McInturff (R) observes, these numbers in the poll don’t align with anyone who has gone on to win a presidential election. So if Trump is going to win with three weeks to go, it will be one of the most dramatic comebacks in the history of American politics.

Explaining why Trump’s deficit in the battleground states is less than his national deficit

Our national NBC/WSJ poll also shows that Clinton is ahead of Trump by an average of seven points in the battleground states (AZ, FL, GA, IA, MI, NC, NH, NV, OH, PA, WI). But then how is Clinton’s overall national lead greater -- 11 points in a four-way race and 10 points in the two-way? Well, Trump is ahead in red states by an average of nine points. That’s compared with Romney’s eventual 18-point margin here in 2012. Bottom line: It’s very possible that Trump carries, say, Texas by less than Romney’s 16-point margin in the state. And if that’s the case, then Trump’s deficit nationally could very well be larger than his deficit in the battlegrounds.

NBC/WSJ/Telemundo oversample: Clinton leads big among Latinos

And here’s one more set of numbers from our poll, as one of us writes: “Hillary Clinton is maintaining a 50-point lead over Donald Trump among Latino voters heading into the final weeks of the presidential election, and more Latinos now say they they're very interested in the November contest, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/ Telemundo poll. The poll found that 67 percent of Latino likely voters back Clinton in a four-way matchup, while just 17 percent back Trump. Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein each garner three percent support.”

To expand the battleground map or not to expand battleground -- that is the question

As the Washington Post writes, the Clinton campaign faces a choice in the next three weeks: Does it work to expand the battleground map to win in places like Arizona and Georgia? (Note that Chelsea Clinton and Bernie Sanders are hitting Arizona for Clinton this week.) Or does it work to solidify its position in the traditional battlegrounds of Florida, Ohio, Nevada, and North Carolina. There’s a rationale to trying to run up the score in non-traditional states. “Victories in unexpected places could boost that total, handing her more of a mandate come January and decreasing the potency of Trump’s complaints of a ‘rigged’ election,” the Post says. To us, it comes down to one of three strategies:

  • Strategy #1: Stick to the major battlegrounds
  • Strategy #2: Shoot for wins in unexpected battlegrounds in Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, and Missouri
  • Strategy #3: Go with a middle ground – the battlegrounds and unexpected places were there are key Senate contests (so Florida, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, as well as Indiana and Missouri).

Trump once again makes the dangerous claim that the ’16 race is being “rigged”

Speaking of the unfounded Trump talk that the 2016 presidential race is “rigged,” Trump tweeted this yesterday, “The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary - but also at many polling places – SAD.” That DIRECTLY contradicted what running mate Mike Pence said on “Meet the Press” yesterday: “As Donald Trump said in that first debate, I'll say to you again today, we're going to accept the will of the American people. But between now and election day we're going to work our hearts out against all odds, against most of you in the national media. We're going to go lay out a story for a stronger more prosperous America.” As NBC’s Peter Alexander reported in “Today” this morning, House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office rejected talk about a rigged election, with a spokeswoman saying. “The speaker is fully confident the states will carry out this election with integrity.” (Remember, many state election offices are run by Republicans.) But that prompted this response from Trump, “The Democrats have a corrupt political machine pushing crooked Hillary Clinton. We have Paul Ryan, always fighting the Republican nominee!” And guess what: Trump tonight campaigns in Ryan’s state of Wisconsin.

The WikiLeaks dump is a Rorschach test on Hillary Clinton

That’s the assessment from NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald: “Now into its second week, Wikileaks’ daily releases of emails allegedly stolen by Russian hackers from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair personal account, are confirming what everyone thought they knew about Hillary Clinton. For Donald Trump fans, they show she’s corrupt; for Bernie or Busters they show she’s beholden to Wall Street; and for Clinton supporters, they show she’s as thoughtful and substantive in private as in public. For everyone else, there’s an unprecedented look inside a powerful political network, with all it’s messy complexities and contradictions, thanks to what will likely become a seminal primary source for students of political campaigns for years to come.”

Obama Legacy Watch

Syria: Finally, on “Meet the Press” yesterday, one of us asked Vice President Biden if Syria was turning into the Obama administration’s Rwanda and if there was regret they aren’t doing more. Biden’s answer: “The answer is, we regret whenever anyone dies. I regret, I, I, I regret that, that we're not doin' somethin' about-- you know, genital mutilation in Africa. I, I regret there's, there's still real problems in-- in Afghanistan. But there has to be a sense of humility about what is able to be done at the time. And what we're doing is the right thing. Generating a consensus among the Arab countries as to what we should be doing in the region. And at the same time, going after I.S.I.L. to destroy it.”

On the trail

Donald Trump holds a rally in Green Bay, WI at 7:00 pm ET… Mike Pence campaigns in Ohio… Bill Clinton spends his day in New Hampshire… And Bernie Sanders stumps for Clinton in Colorado.

Countdown to third presidential debate: 2 days

Countdown to Election Day: 22 days