According to the Huffington Post, in such a matchup, Clinton leads 45% to 38%, with the rest either undecided or voting for somebody else.
A lot could change in the next several months, but both of these candidates are fairly well-known, so let’s dissect their strengths and weaknesses.
On policy, Clinton has a clear edge. She is a policy wonk, while Trump is a policy lightweight (to be charitable).
As a communicator, it’s a toss-up. Trump is better at the sound-bites, but he is more prone to making unforced errors. He is also a master at branding (in fact, his whole career is marketing). Clinton is not a natural communicator, but she tends to be more disciplined.
On government experience, Clinton as a First Lady, United States Senator and Secretary of State has it in spades. Trump has experience dealing with municipal governments as a developer and some limited experience as a campaign contributor at the Federal Level.
On business experience, Trump of course is a successful business man (at least that’s what he tells us). Clinton worked for a law-firm but has little real world business experience outside of that.
With scandals, Clinton’s career has been dogged by allegations of illegal activity and inappropriate conduct, from Whitewater to Travelgate to intimidation of her husband’s paramours to the Benghazi and her latest email controversy. It’s not exactly clear how much of this is a figment of the imagination of a vast right-wing conspiracy and how much has some truth to it.
Trump’s business dealings will increasingly come under scrutiny. There are allegations of him dealing with the mob in New York (which comes with the territory for any developer in the Big Apple). His hiring of Paul Manafort could bring the former lobbyist’s connections with Vladimir Putin and could hurt the putative GOP nominee.
The personal lives of Clinton and Trump are open books that would make great fodder for a scandalous best-seller. Clinton’s marriage is a double-edged sword. Her husband helped propel her to her Senate post, but his various dalliances have proven to be embarrassing. Trump has been married three times and has boasted on the Howard Stern Show about his sexual conquests. You literally cannot make this stuff up.
Clinton has done very well with minority groups in the primary. Hispanics, African-Americans and female voters have been the strongest part of her coalition. Trump, obviously, has done the best among white men, especially older white men who don’t have a college degree.
Trump will have to win over 70% of white voters if Clinton can replicate the turn-out from the Obama coalition. Trump will probably do as poorly among Hispanic voters as Romney did. It’s unclear if black turnout will be as high as it was during the last two Presidential elections.
Neither Clinton nor Trump will do well among younger voters. Younger voters flocked to the polls for Obama, especially in 2008. Many of those same voters are supporting Bernie Sanders this time around and it is unclear if they will be energized by the Clinton campaign.
Hillary Clinton is a political insider. She has a long-track record in government, stretching back to her time as a staffer on the Watergate investigative committee in Congress. She has a big network of friends, allies, lobbyists and former staffers who will help her to navigate the Congress, but also shape her policy views.
Donald Trump is a political outsider. His campaign is viewed as a hostile takeover of the party. Many Washington insiders are bitterly resistant to his nomination and are thinking about starting third party as a protest. Indeed, it has been hard for Trump to hire political talent because there is such antipathy to his candidacy. He approaches politics and policy with an outsider’s mentality.
This is a change election and Hillary Clinton is campaigning as a status quo candidate. Being an outsider during a change election (think Jimmy Carter in 1976 or Ronald Reagan in 1980) is usually a strategic advantage.
That is Trump’s best hope to win in November.