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For Trump, why Goldwater history will repeat itself in the fall

Donald Trump supporters and some pundits like to fantasize that the real estate magnate will put blue states like New York, Massachusetts and California in play this fall against Hillary Clinton while also running strong in the industrial Midwest. Trump could win! It's not gonna happen.

Trump, should he lock down the nomination next week by winning Indiana, will go into the fall campaign as the most toxic Republican nominee since Barry Goldwater in 1964.

Just begin with Trump's overwhelmingly negative personal ratings. Nationwide, around 65 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of Trump. Clinton has her own problems but her unfavorable rating is 10 points better than Trump's. Where it really gets dismal for Trump is among women, 70 percent of whom view him negatively compared with 45 percent who view Clinton negatively. In a hypothetical head to head matchup, Clinton leads Trump by 58 percent to 31 percent among women.

Donald Trump
Kamil Krzaczynski | Reuters
Donald Trump

Women accounted for 53 percent of the 2012 electorate and President Barack Obama won them by 12 points, 56 percent to 44 percent. Clinton could double that gap rendering any advantage Trump has among white males completely meaningless.

Trump and his supporters like to say that their campaign is winning among women in the GOP primaries. That's true but it also doesn't matter. Mitt Romney won among white women in 2012 and still wound up with a huge gender gap to Obama. Trump's numbers among minority women voters are likely to be historically bad.

And what has Trump done to begin to address this enormous electoral problem? He used his victory speech Tuesday night to denigrate Clinton, a former New York senator and secretary of state, saying she would not even get 5 percent of the vote if she were not playing "the woman card." A gleeful Clinton campaign seized on the comments to portray Trump as a blustering misogynist.

Trump's comments will certainly emerge in negative ads this fall directed squarely at women in swing states like Ohio, Florida and Virginia. Trump's supporters thrill to his brutal attacks on Clinton. Many of them, if Twitter is any guide, believe that none of it will matter because Clinton will be in jail by the time the election rolls around. That's not going to happen either.


Let's then take the argument that because Trump is winning GOP primaries in blue states by large margins that he puts those states "in play" in November. Trump got 60 percent of the vote in New York. That sounds great. But he received around 500,000 votes. Clinton got more than 1 million. Trump cannot win New York.

He also can't win California even if he prevails in the state's primary by a wide margin on June 7. Currently, Clinton leads Trump by 30 points, 59 to 29, in California. There is simply no way the state becomes competitive. Clinton will easily hold onto the core elements of the Democratic Electoral College base.

A better question is whether Clinton's huge advantages among women (53 percent of the 2012 vote) and minorities (28 percent) put traditional red states in play. Clinton leads Trump in Arizona and received about the same number of votes as Trump in the state's primary. Clinton also received more votes than Trump in the Georgia primary and polled very close to him in Alabama and Mississippi. She got more votes than Trump in Louisiana and Arkansas. Bernie Sanders received more votes than Trump in Oklahoma. Clinton got over 100,000 more votes than Trump in Virginia. You get the picture. Overall, Trump has received about 10 million primary votes to 12 million for Clinton.

Let's stipulate that anything is possible in 2016. A new, better, more presidential Trump who does not completely alienate women, African-Americans and Latinos could emerge between now and November. But we've seen how previous attempts to be "presidential" have gone for Trump.

Moving away from his core brand of uncensored attacks could also crush Trump's turnout among white men, who he needs to win in record numbers. Clinton could somehow stumble in debates (very unlikely) or investigations into her email use could take a surprising turn (also unlikely).

At bottom, there is very little reason to think the current picture — a very big Clinton win — will change very much between now and November. The GOP with Trump on the top of the ticket will probably go down to a Goldwater-type defeat and once again the Republican Party will have to try and reinvent itself at the presidential level.

—Ben White is Politico's chief economic correspondent and a CNBC contributor. He also authors the daily tip sheet Politico Morning Money [politico.com/morningmoney]. Follow him on Twitter @morningmoneyben.