Mainstream Voters Underwhelmed by Clinton and Trump

Posted: Sep 16, 2015 12:01 AM

WASHINGTON -- The 2015-16 presidential campaign has turned into a bitter battle between two mighty forces fighting over what qualifications are needed to get control of a hopelessly dysfunctional government.

On one side, an anti-establishment insurgency believes an outsider with no previous experience in elective office can achieve such a monumental task.

On the other side is the establishment, mostly governors with a track record for reform and moving an aggressive agenda for change through the political process.

That battle is now being fought out in the GOP by anti-establishment candidates like billionaire Donald Trump and acclaimed former surgeon Ben Carson, front-runners in the race for their party's presidential nomination.

Trump is polling 33 percent support among registered Republicans, according to the latest CNN survey. Carson polls 20 percent. Everyone else is well behind in single digits.

But whether any of them succeeds remains to be seen, because nearly two-thirds of voters think Trump and Carson are not qualified for the job.

Last week, a Washington Post/ABC News poll asked voters around the country this question:

"Regardless of whether or not you'd vote for him, do you think Donald Trump is or is not qualified to serve as president?"

Sixty percent of all the voters they polled said he was not qualified, 37 percent said he was, and 2 percent had no opinion.

Seventy-eight percent of Democrats said he wasn't qualified, but 20 percent of them said he was.

Among independents, 61 percent said he wasn't qualified, but 37 percent said he was.

Among Republicans, 64 percent said he was qualified, but 35 percent said he was not.

The polling numbers also reveal just how much voters deeply distrust establishment politicians.

Over 7 in 10 voters believe that people in government can't be trusted, and 6 in 10 say the entire political system is broken.

Meantime, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner, has bigger problems. Her numbers are falling sharply, particularly in her own party.

In July, a Post-ABC News poll found that 71 percent of Democratic-leaning women voters said they intended to vote for the former secretary of state. That number has since plunged to 42 percent, falling 29 points in just eight weeks.

Notably, Clinton drew significantly higher support from nonwhite Democratic-leaning women, 60 percent of whom supported her. But 37 percent of white Democratic women say they support her now.

Clearly, the email scandal that has led to an FBI probe, congressional investigations and an abject apology for what she calls a "mistake" in judgment has severely hurt her candidacy.

The findings in this week's Post-ABC News poll give us other clues about what the voters think of Clinton at this juncture.

Reading brief statements, pollsters asked voters to "tell me whether this applies to Hillary Clinton":

-- "Is honest and trustworthy." 56 percent said no and 39 percent said yes.

-- "Understands the problems of people like you." 51 percent no, 46 percent yes.

-- "Has the kind of personality and temperament it takes to serve effectively as president." 41 percent no, 56 percent yes.

But Trump doesn't do well on these descriptions, either:

-- "Honest and trustworthy." 59 percent say no, and 35 percent say yes.

-- "Understands the problems of people like you." 67 percent no, 29 percent yes.

-- "Has the kind of personality and temperament it takes to serve effectively as president." 63 percent no, 33 percent yes.

When pollsters asked registered voters "who would you vote for" if the election were held today, the response is underwhelming.

Forty-six percent said Clinton. Forty-three said Trump. Twelve percent said someone else or had no opinion.

But it's a long way from here to Election Day, and there will likely be several major blockbuster revelations before this campaign is over.

The Club for Growth, which gives money to tax-cutting, pro-growth Republican candidates who are challenging liberal GOP incumbents, is running ads against Trump.

David McIntosh, president of the group, says the ads show that Trump is "liberal on taxes, trade, health care and eminent domain."

"In past years, Trump has embraced liberal policies and has contributed money to Hillary's earlier campaigns. These ads let Trump speak for himself," McIntosh said.

This week, the computer firm that managed and handled Clinton's secret email server revealed that it had not been "wiped" clean and her emails could be recovered.

When the story first broke that she had been mingling her official State Department and personal emails on her own private computer, Clinton said she had deleted all of her messages that she deemed personal -- 31,000 emails in all.

That led investigators to believe that they were erased and gone forever. But Platte River Networks, a Denver-based company that has managed her private system, told the Post it's now possible that all the emails may be retrieved.

"All the information we have is that the server wasn't wiped," said a spokesman.

What is still stored on the computer system? And will there be many more classified emails to come that will contradict her repeated denials of any wrongdoing?

Stay tuned.