WASHINGTON, May 12, (Agencies): Republican Donald Trump pulled even with Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Wednesday, in a dramatic early sign that the Nov 8 presidential election might be more hotly contested than first thought.
While much can change in the six months until the election, the results of the online survey are a red flag for the Clinton campaign that the billionaire’s unorthodox bid for the White House cannot be brushed aside.
Trump’s numbers surged after he effectively won the Republican nomination last week by knocking out his two remaining rivals, according to the poll.
The national survey found 41 percent of likely voters supporting Clinton and 40 percent backing Trump, with 19 percent undecided. The survey of 1,289 people was conducted over five days and has a credibility interval of 3 percentage points.
“Very happy to see these numbers,” Trump said in a written comment to Reuters. “Good direction.” A spokesman for Clinton’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment on the poll.
A Reuters/Ipsos survey conducted in the five days to May 4 had the former secretary of state at 48 percent and the New York magnate at 35 percent.
Republican strategist Dave Carney said the Reuters/Ipsos poll showed the vulnerability of Clinton, who is still battling US Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination.
“She has been in the public eye for decades, served in high office, and now she’s in a dead heat with Trump, in a race that everyone thought she would win easily,” said Carney, who has been critical of Trump. “Everyone thought it would be a romp.”
Trump has his own problems, though. He is struggling to bring some senior Republicans behind his campaign after primary election battles in which his fiery rhetoric rankled party elites.
Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney criticized Trump on Wednesday for not releasing his tax returns, saying the only explanation was that the documents contained a “bombshell.”
Trump has said that he will make public his tax returns on the completion of an audit.
Clinton and Trump both poll well with voters of their respective parties, but independent voters continue to express uncertainty about who they will support, with 38 percent in the Reuters/Ipsos poll saying they are unsure or would vote for someone else.
With the party’s primary season winding down, the two likely nominees have turned their attention to attacking each other, both on policy and personality.
Clinton took aim at Trump’s tax reform plan at a rally in New Jersey on Wednesday.
With a typical American family earning $54,000 per year, Clinton said, “It would take that family 24 years of work to earn what Donald Trump’s tax plan will hand out to people like him in just one year. That is no way to create good job with rising incomes for the vast majority of Americans, is it?”
Trump has taunted Clinton in recent days for failing to “close the deal” against Sanders.
University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato said Trump – who has promised to force Mexico to pay for a border wall to halt illegal immigration and called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country – could also face a wall of opposition among minority voters.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan pledged to work together despite their differences after a meeting Thursday aimed unifying a party torn over Trump’s rise to the cusp of the Republican presidential nomination. The speaker appeared closer to offering a full-throated endorsement.
Trump and Ryan issued a statement describing their meeting as a “very positive step toward unification” that recognized “many important areas of common ground” as well as areas where they disagree. Ryan stunned Republicans by withholding his endorsement a week ago when it became clear Trump was on a firm path to the nomination.
The much-anticipated meeting unfolded Thursday morning as more Republicans have begun urging the party to put the extraordinary discord behind. The statement by the two suggested both are invested in tamping down the Republican infighting as they try to pull the GOP together for the fight against Hillary Clinton and Democrats in the fall.
Ryan told a news conference they are “planting the seeds” to accomplish that.
Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York, a Trump supporter, said it will help both the candidate and the speaker if they can work through their differences.
“I don’t think it’s do or die, any endorsement in particular,” he said outside the building. But “Donald Trump’s candidacy is strengthened with an endorsement from the most powerful person, top-ranking Republican in the country. It helps.”
On the eve of the meetings, Trump eased his defiant tone of recent days. Asked on Fox News who leads the party in his view, he said Ryan. “I would say Paul for the time being and maybe for a long time,” he said.
“We can always have differences,” he said. “If you agree on 70 percent, that’s always a lot.”
The two men represent vastly different visions for the Republican Party, and whether they can come together may foretell whether the GOP will heal itself after a bruising primary season or face irrevocable rupture.
Trump, for years a registered Democrat, has offended women, Hispanics, and others while violating establishment party orthodoxy on numerous issues Ryan holds dear, from trade to wages to religious freedom. Ryan, a policy-focused conservative, insists the GOP must be a party of ideas, and has championed an agenda that has drawn Trump’s scorn by pushing cuts in Medicare and other government programs.
Indeed, a broader swath of Republican voters appears to be moving behind Trump, despite big-name holdouts such as Ryan, both former president Bushes and the party’s 2012 nominee, Mitt Romney. Romney went after Trump on Wednesday over his refusal thus far to release his taxes, calling it “disqualifying” and asserting that the only explanation must be “a bombshell of unusual size.”
Still, almost two in three Republican-leaning voters now view Trump favorably, compared with 31 percent who view him unfavorably, according to a national Gallup Poll taken last week. The numbers represent a near total reversal from Gallup’s survey in early March.
And on Capitol Hill, where Ryan has managed to remain popular since taking over as speaker in the fall, some Republicans made clear that they would like to see him come around to supporting Trump sooner rather than later.
Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, an ally of GOP leadership, said Thursday his biggest worry about Trump is that he is “’unpredictable.” Yet Trump is also a “change agent,” Cole said. “That’s exactly what people want right now, so in that sense he’s very well-positioned for a general election.”
“It seems to me they have every incentive to find common ground,” he said of Trump and Ryan, “because to be successful they both in a sense need one another.”
Three meetings were on tap for Trump: the one with Ryan and the party chairman, then with Ryan joined by other senior House GOP leaders and one with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other top Senate Republicans.
McConnell was quick to embrace the mogul after he clinched the nomination and said this week that Trump is looking like he’ll be “very competitive” in November.