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Welcome to the general election: Where did Hillary's cakewalk go?

The presumptive nominee is despised and distrusted. No way they can win a general election. This thing is over.

Must be talking about Donald Trump you say? Nope. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

It's easy to lose sight of the fact that while wide swaths of the American electorate revile Trump, Clinton will begin the 2016 general election in nearly as bad shape. And while Trump has locked down the GOP nomination and is now consolidating support among the formerly reluctant Republican establishment, Clinton continues to fight a nasty rear-guard action against an irascible Bernie Sanders who apparently doesn't care if he mortally wounds the eventual nominee.

Under another scenario where the Democratic nominee was not mired under decades of partisan attacks and scandals — both real and imagined — the 2016 campaign would probably be a walkover.

Trump has no governing experience, no consistent set of beliefs (other than liking to win) and a penchant for saying ridiculous things like trade wars don't matter. He is completely toxic with African-American and Latino voters and non-white women. He would represent a soft hanging curve over the middle of the plate for a generic Democrat to slam out of the park. But as it happens, Trump's opponent may be in worse shape than he is.

The latest CBS/NYT poll shows just how crummy a position Clinton is in as she stumbles toward the Democratic convention in Philadelphia this summer. The survey is filled with grim news for the Democratic front-runner. She does enjoy a 6 point overall lead over Trump in the poll but that is down from 10 points in April as GOP voters come home to their nominee. Other recent surveys show Trump in the lead.

And Clinton is now viewed by 64 percent of the public as "not honest and trustworthy." That's the exact same number as Trump. The American public is going into the election thinking both major party nominees are basically complete phonies.

Clinton has been badly damaged by a nasty primary campaign in which Sanders has portrayed her as a corrupt captive of big-money interests on Wall Street. And the recent fracas over delegate allocation during the Democratic convention in Nevada last week has only served to further embitter Sanders supporters against Clinton.

In the latest YouGov poll, 61 percent of Sanders voters say they have an unfavorable view of Clinton.

And while Republicans will now coronate Trump at their convention, Democrats face the prospect of nasty platform fights between Sanders supporters and Clinton backers in Philadelphia. The previous conventional wisdom that Clinton would glide to a pristine convention while Republicans seethe and gnash their teeth in Cleveland has been turned on its head.

There is still time for Democrats to unite as they head to the convention, especially if Clinton locks up enough delegates to take the nomination before voting concludes on June 14. But the next Democratic contest isn't until June 5 in Puerto Rico so Sanders and Clinton have two weeks to keep sniping at each other.


Meanwhile, the Trump campaign appears set on a bank-shot strategy to keep driving up Clinton's negatives and neutralize her strengths by attacking former President Bill Clinton.

Trump went so far as to label the former president as a rapist referring to allegations made by Juanita Broaddrick. She later recanted those allegations but has since recanted her recantation. Clinton has never been charged with any wrongdoing in the case.

The Trump campaign strategy is clearly to try and inoculate the real state mogul from charges that he has behaved boorishly toward women over the years by saying that Hillary Clinton enabled and tried to cover up her husband's behavior.

Trump cannot beat Clinton in November if she enjoys a big lead among women overall. There is little chance that Trump can repair the damage he has done with Latino voters with his comments about Mexicans as rapists and pledges to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants while building a giant wall on the southern border. But if he can beat Clinton by a significant number among white women and keep his overall gender gap at a reasonable margin, he will at least have a shot at taking some critical swing states like Virginia, Ohio and Florida.

Democrats looking for a cakewalk win over Trump in November may eventually get it. The electoral college strongly favors Clinton. And Trump is always a step away from a total meltdown. But in an election in which Americans are disgusted with their choices, anything can happen and a Trump presidency is a real possibility.

—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.