Clinton opens 12-point lead on Trump as Johnson — not terror — leaves mark on race

Two opinion polls taken since the Orlando shootings have Hillary Clinton widening her lead over Donald Trump.

Bloomberg has the Democrat 12 points ahead:

  • Clinton: 49%
  • Trump: 37%
  • Johnson: 9%

CBS (which doesn't discount undecideds) has her clear by seven points:

  • Clinton: 39%
  • Trump: 32%
  • Johnson: 11%

Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton have sparred over Orlando.

Mr Trump has painted the incident as Islamic terror and reiterated his policy to ban Muslims from entering the US.

Mrs Clinton has emphasised the hate crime aspect of the shootings, and pointed out a ban at the border would not have prevented the tragedy given the killer was born in New York. Better gun laws might have.

The presumptive Republican nominee seems to be winning that fight. The Bloomberg poll found 50% thought Trump would deal with a terror attack better than Clinton (45%).

But it's not a decisive margin. Overall, the Orlando debate has reinforced Trump supporters' prejudices about Mrs Clinton, and vice versa. And with Mrs Clinton still ahead in the Bloomberg poll overall, "terror" is not perhaps as much a vote-deciding factor as some in the Trump camp think.

The New Mexican
Perhaps a bigger factor has been the entry of Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson into the race last week.

The minor construction industry tycoon and former two-time Republican governor or New Mexico is hardly a political powerhouse (he makes Jeb Bush look dynamic). But he does serve as a convenient rallying point for disaffected "NeverTrump" Republicans – which could explain why he is polling so far ahead of the 1% he achieved at the last election. Mr Johnson is also drawing some independents and even a few Clinton supporters. But according to Bloomberg's numbers, he's doing the most damage to Trump – as you would expect from someone whose party occupies the same slot on the political spectrum as ACT does here.

The next major development in the horse race could be the official entry of Green Party leader Jill Stein, expected later this month – at which point we can expect her name to start being included in polls. In a Guardian USA poll, one of the few to preemptively include the presumptive Green nominee, Ms Stein got 4% support, cutting Clinton's lead over Trump to 3%.

The Greens have barely registered in previous US elections. But this time around, Ms Stein will have an opportunity to snare disaffected Bernie Sanders supports, just as Mr Johnson has the accidental lightning rod NeverTrump Republicans.

Mr Trump will continue to offend some Republicans and Mrs Clinton put off some Democrats. The race will turn on which candidate manages to alienate the most into voting for a third-party candidate.

Collateral damage
As a footnote, the Bloomberg poll also finds the Republican Party's favorability rating at 32%, the lowest level in its history. That's got to be a worry for those in the party who fear Mr Trump's candidacy would not just cost the GOP a shot at the presidency but also wipe out its majorities in the House and Senate as collateral damage. Mr Trump is winning his  feud with Paul Ryan and others in the party's establishment but at a cost to the GOP's image.

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2012 presidential race

  • Barack Obama, Democrat: 65,915,796 votes (51.06%)
  • Mitt Romney, Republican: 60,933,500 votes (47.20%)
  • Gary Johnson, Libertarian: 1,275,971 votes (0.99%)

(A half dozen other candidates shared the 0.74% balance of the vote)

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