Even before the Washington Post reported on a 2005 recording of Donald Trump making crude comments about exploiting his celebrity to sexually assault women, Hillary Clinton’s campaign was on the upswing. Her strong performance in the first presidential debate had pushed her national polling numbers up fairly quickly. Not as quickly as after the party conventions, mind you, but even before a new NBC-Wall Street Journal poll released on Monday, she led by about five points.
Then the new poll came out. As always, one poll could be an outlier. This poll has a relatively high margin of error of about 4.6 percent. It’s always worth being cautious until more polls come in. But with all of those asterisks applied, the results of the poll are dramatic.
Clinton leads Trump in a four-way contest by 11 points with likely voters. In a one-on-one race, she leads by 14. That’s up from their last polls by five and seven points, respectively.
It’s clear that part of Trump’s problem stems directly from the tape. Forty-one percent of respondents said that Trump’s comments were “completely unacceptable.” More than half disagreed with a statement that the tape was unimportant because it happened so long ago. Overall, voters view Clinton more negatively than positively by 10 points. They view Trump more negatively than positively by 34.
There may be some trickle-down effect, too. In September, Democrats had a three-point advantage in a generic congressional ballot. Now, the advantage is seven points. (This may explain why House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., all-but-gave-up on Trump on Monday morning.) More than half of poll respondents also said that Republican candidates for Congress should either rescind support for Trump or demand he drop out of the race.
In the last few weeks of the 2008 campaign, the biggest margin of victory in recent presidential cycles, Barack Obama only had leads this big in a handful of polls, including an NBC-Journal one in the middle of October, where he led by 10. In 2012, there was no lead this big in the last few months.
This is the part where I go back and reiterate the caveats above: one poll, big margin of error, etc. But remember, the tape came at a moment when Trump was already trailing badly. Without the tape being factored in at all, applying current state polling averages to the electoral vote totals in each state would give Clinton a 341 to 197 electoral vote victory. That’s before the tape.
Donald Trump is once again on the brink of electoral disaster. The good news for him, such as it is, is that he’s clawed his way back from the brink before. But that wasn’t with four weeks to go.