Continuing our POLITICO feature, where we dig into the latest polls and loop in other data streams to tell the story of the 2016 campaign. Here are five numbers that mattered this week.
Bernie Sanders said Thursday at the White House he was waiting for two things before deciding the next steps for his stalled campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination: next week’s primary in the District of Columbia, and the final count in this past Tuesday’s California primary.
“I look forward to the full counting of the votes in California, which I suspect will show a much closer vote than the current vote tally,” Sanders said Thursday.
Sanders’ problem? He isn’t closing the gap as counties have begun counting those late ballots.
When The Associated Press stopped counting votes on Wednesday afternoon, Hillary Clinton had about 1.9 million votes, or 55.8 percent. Sanders had tallied 1.5 million votes, or 43.2 percent.
Since then, Clinton has added around 188,000 votes, as of late Friday — more than the roughly 151,000 votes Sanders has added to his tally. The race now stands at Clinton with 55.7 percent, and Sanders at 43.3 percent — almost identical to the percentages on Wednesday.
The more than 334,000 additional votes represent only a small portion of the post-Election Day votes that will be added over the coming weeks; mail ballots were still being accepted through Friday if they were postmarked by Tuesday. But, based on the first wave of these late ballots, Sanders is unlikely to close the gap in any meaningful way.
Now that the two major parties have — for all intents and purposes — chosen their standard-bearers going into the fall, a significant number of voters are looking around for other options.
Some pollsters are asking about former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party nominee, who will be on the ballot in nearly every state. But for now, Johnson’s name-ID remains very low, so a more instructive measure of voters’ appetite for a third option is their inability to line up behind one of the two candidates with near-universal name-ID.
Every pollster asks its ballot test differently: Some offer specific options for undecided voters, while others follow up with those undecided voters to ask if they are leaning toward one candidate or the other.
But a pollster-to-pollster review shows that more voters are declining to say they will vote for Clinton or Trump.
This week’s Fox News poll found, in a Clinton-Trump matchup, a combined 19 percent who said they would vote for someone else, wouldn’t vote or were undecided, including 35 percent of independents. Compare that with an early-June 2012 poll, when 14 percent were left between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Going back to last month, a combined 10 percent of registered voters in an ABC News/Washington Post poll chose “neither,” “wouldn’t vote,” “other” or “undecided” in a Clinton-Trump match-up. That’s double the 5 percent combined in a May 2012 poll. (NBC News/Wall Street Journal polls from May 2012 and May 2016 showed identical percentages of uncommitted voters.)
These differences aren’t that large, and they don’t necessarily point to a massive appetite for a third-party candidate. Ninety-eight percent of voters have an opinion about Clinton and Trump; in the June 2012 Fox News poll, for example, 12 percent of voters still hadn’t formed an opinion of Romney, who had already clinched the nomination.
The Fox News poll also laid bare two of Trump’s most significant, basic weaknesses: Voters don’t think he has the knowledge or temperament to be president.
The poll findings are striking: Nearly six-in-10 voters surveyed said Trump doesn’t have “the knowledge to serve effectively as president.” Just 38 percent believe he does.
Trump scored even worse on whether he has “the temperament to serve effectively as president”: Only a third believe he does, and 62 percent said he doesn’t.
Those are remarkable numbers for the presidential nominee of a major political party, and they are in stark contrast to Clinton. Majorities said she has the knowledge (70 percent) and temperament (60 percent) to serve as president.
Clinton has her weaknesses, too, the poll shows. A 54-percent majority think Clinton doesn’t have “the integrity to serve effectively as president” — though she still outpaces Trump on that question, with 59 percent saying he doesn’t have enough integrity to be president.
Six-in-10 voters say Clinton “is lying about how her emails were handled while she was secretary of state,” however. And asked whether Trump’s Twitter epithet for Clinton — “Crooked Hillary” — is “an accurate characterization” of her, slightly more voters say it is (49 percent) than say it isn’t (47 percent).
The final Republican primaries of the season came at a precarious time for Trump, who was criticized by elected officials and commentators from both parties who contended that his attacks on the U.S.-born judge handling the Trump University case were racist.
In each of the five states that voted Tuesday, Trump faced opposition on the ballot from his departed rivals for the nomination. And in each of those states, a chunk of Republicans voted for those zombie candidates.
Trump’s best showing on Tuesday was in New Jersey, winning 80 percent of the vote to Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s 13 percent.
His worst showing was in South Dakota, continuing a pattern of underperformance in the Plains states. Trump won only 67 percent of the vote there, compared to 17 percent for Cruz and 16 percent for Kasich.
In New Mexico, which George W. Bush carried in 2004 but has since been rendered uncompetitive as Hispanic voters have abandoned the GOP in droves, Trump won 71 percent of the vote. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz finished second with 13 percent.
In California, Trump won 75 percent of the vote, with Kasich in second place, with 11 percent. In Montana, Trump won 74 percent, with Cruz at 9 percent.
While that would seem to indicate significant GOP hesitance toward Trump, it’s actually in line with recent history. The same five states closed out the GOP primary calendar in 2012, with Mitt Romney winning similar percentages in California (80 percent), Montana (68 percent), New Jersey (81 percent), New Mexico (73 percent) and South Dakota (66 percent).
It didn’t take Republicans long to turn on the GOP-controlled Congress.
When the 114th Congress began, with the GOP in control of both the House and the Senate for the first time in eight years, approval of Congress rose among Republicans. But the honeymoon only lasted a few months.
Over the past year, according to Gallup, only 11 percent of self-identified Republicans have approved of the job Congress is doing. Comparatively, 15 percent of independents and 17 percent of Democrats have approved of Congress’ job performance.
GOP approval of Congress is much lower than other stretches with one-party control of Congress, though it also appears related to which party controls the White House.
It’s not because Republicans don’t know that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are the congressional leaders: 69 percent of Republicans correctly identified the GOP as the party running the show on Capitol Hill, according to the Gallup poll.