Welcome to Super Tuesday III. As Republicans in five states and one territory head to the polls with 361 bound delegates up for grabs, a conservative group has released an ad featuring female voters reading Donald Trump's verbatim quotes about women through the years. For reference, this is the same organization that previewed Democrats' inevitable racial attacks against Trump should he become the Republican nominee. Make no mistake, these broadsides are coming. They will be extremely well-funded. They will be ruthless. And their target will not be a subset of angry, political correctness-allergic Republican voters, but a broad electorate that is already exceptionally negatively predisposed towards Donald Trump. Don't say you weren't warned:
Mollie Hemingway doesn't think the spot is nearly as effective as it could be, but it does underscore a real problem. Polling in December and January showed Trump getting pummeled among women, a weakness Hillary Clinton's campaign will unrelentingly exploit. Since that data was gathered, Trump's overall standing with voters has deteriorated further. Two recent national polls show the controversial billionaire's net favorability rating at (-37) and (-39), down significantly from his (already dead last) position just a few months ago. One might argue that Trump is bottoming out right now as his Republican opponents throw the kitchen sink at him, and that his numbers will rebound once a large portion of anti-Trump GOP voters reconcile themselves to him if and when he secures the nomination. The theory is that once the race comes down to a choice between Trump and Hillary, an overwhelming majority of Republican voters will do what it takes to prevent the latter option. But as we've learned so many times already, Trump isn't an average political candidate. This reality cuts both ways. Due to his views, temperament and approach to the campaign, there will be a large contingent of 'never Trump' right-of-center who decide to stay home, vote third party, or even back Hillary in the general. Add those numbers to the legions of independents, women, young people and voters of color who will be mobilized against Trump, and the GOP could be in for an extremely ugly night in November -- despite the abject terribleness of Hillary Clinton. Remember, every voter in America already has a strong (and strongly negative, in most cases) impression of these two people. His unpalatability manages to exceed even hers:
We've already gotten a sense of how Team Trump plans to push back against the 'anti-women' criticism, beyond baseless, boastful assertion: He'll come after Bill Clinton's sordid history, which isn't a terrible play...if executed adroitly. Anything that smacks of blaming Hillary for her husband's conduct is counterproductive, especially coming from a proud, admitted adulterer. But raising Mrs. Clinton's role in smearing Bill's accusers ("nuts and sluts"), especially vis-a-vis her current rhetoric on sexual assault, might be more effective. Is anyone confident that Trump's critiques will be disciplined, surgical and carefully-deployed? Early indicators have not been promising. I'll leave you with Marco Rubio's viral comments amid weekend unrest in Chicago and elsewhere:
Rubio has the only chance -- albeit a very slim one -- of beating Trump in Florida, even if you disregard all the bad polls and latch on to evidence like this. John Kasich has a much better shot at defeating Trump in Ohio. Ted Cruz is best positioned to deny Trump delegates and victories in other states, and has the strongest path moving forward. Parting thought: If Trump has a good night, and the field contracts to two or three candidates, does the frontrunner stop debating? Allahpundit thinks so, based on Trump's recent comments. But The Donald has also expressed a willingness to debate Cruz one-on-one. Plus, would Trump's ego permit him to ignore endless challenges and needling from Cruz, even if it makes strategic sense to do so?