Here is how Hillary Clinton argued that she would beat Donald Trump in a general election.
“Well, let me start by saying that, the last time I checked as of last night, Donald Trump had received 3.6 million votes, which is a good number,” she said at Sunday night’s debate in Flint, Mich. “And there is only one candidate in either party who has more votes than him, and that’s me.”
She went on to point out that she plans to build a coalition of voters and so on, but it’s worth picking out that particular claim.
First of all: It’s true. Clinton has received more votes than Trump, even though Republican turnout has consistently topped Democratic turnout so far in 2016.
What does that tell us about November? Good question. The answer is that it tells us nothing about November whatsoever.
Hillary Clinton saying that she has more votes now than Trump, so she can win in November, is like Barack Obama saying that he could be elected governor of Oklahoma because he won 502,000 votes there in the 2008 presidential race, more than Gov. Mary Fallin, R, got in 2014. They’re two different races, and that makes a difference.
Trump is still facing three opponents, who are splitting up the vote with him. Overall, the Republicans who are still in the race have far more cumulative votes than the Democrats.
If Trump had one opponent and matched Clinton’s vote percentage, he’d have 5.8 million votes — 1.6 million more than Clinton.
Put another way: The person with the fourth-highest vote total on the Republican side is John Kasich, with about 658,000. The person with the fourth-highest total on the Democratic side is — and we’re not making this up — Rocky De La Fuente of California. He has more than 16,000 votes.
That doesn’t mean Clinton is going to lose in November any more than it means she’s going to win. It’s simply a bragging point. The only thing we can say with confidence based on these numbers is that Trump would probably beat Rocky De La Fuente pretty easily.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Philip Bump