One quirk of the American political system is that a candidate can win a primary with a much narrower slice of the electorate than he’d need to win a general election. Donald Trump claimed 45 percent of the vote in Republican primaries and caucuses this year, about 14 million votes. That’s a healthy total as these things go: the highest number of votes ever received by a Republican in the primaries. But Trump will need four or five times as many votes — perhaps 65 million — to win in November. His primary voters are just a drop in the bucket.
All presidential candidates face some version of this problem. But most make at least some effort to expand beyond their base and build a majority coalition. Trump hasn’t — and he has his work cut out for him like no nominee in history. Trump’s decision this week to make Stephen Bannon of the combative, anti-establishment website Breitbart News his campaign’s chief executive suggests that he’s moving in the opposite direction.
In January, even as he stood atop Republican primary polls, Trump was exceptionally unpopular with general election voters. At that time, Trump had a 33 percent favorable rating and a 58 percent unfavorable rating with the general electorate. Today? His numbers are even worse. His favorability rating is just 32 percent, according to the HuffPost Pollster aggregate, while his unfavorable rating has risen to 65 percent.
Trump is helped by the fact that Hillary Clinton might be the second-most-unpopular nominee ever, after Trump. But still, remarkably few Americans are willing to commit to voting for Trump. In the table below, I’ve listed every poll from a 2012 …