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Take two minutes to flip through the new NBC-Wall Street Journal poll and you are left
with two very clear takeaways:

Hillary Clinton is deeply vulnerable in a general election.  Donald Trump and, to a lesser
extent, Ted Cruz, are the exact wrong candidates to take advantage of Clinton's
weaknesses.

That is the reality that faces Republicans as they look down the road at the general
election.  A totally winnable race after eight years out of the White House that may be
unwinnable -- or close to it -- because of a primary process that has put forward two
of their least appealing general election candidates.

Start with this: Just one in three (32 percent) of general election voters see Clinton in a
positive light while 56 percent regard her negatively.  That's Clinton's worst score since
NBC-WSJ started asking about Clinton's image in early 2001.

And, the NBC-WSJ numbers are far from an outlier. Her numbers -- particularly when
it comes to the number of people who view her as "honest" and "trustworthy" have
long been in net negative territory -- and the ongoing questions surrounding her private
email server while serving as Secretary of State doesn't help matters.  The simple fact
is that Clinton is totally known by the general electorate and somewhere between mildly
and strongly disliked by a majority of them.

That's a problem.  In a "normal" election year it's a really BIG problem.

This is not a normal election year, which of course you know unless you've been
hiding under a pile of coats for the last 15 months.  So, yes, Clinton is unpopular. But
her numbers look positively great when compared to where Donald Trump stands in
that same NBC-WSJ poll.

Just one in four (24 percent) of respondents give Trump a positive rating while 65
percent give him a negative one. That's a "historic low for a major presidential
candidate in the NBC/WSJ poll," according to NBC deputy political director Carrie
Dann.

But, when you look inside those Trump numbers, things get even worse.  Check this
out: Seven in ten women view Trump negatively! Three in four millennials! Eight in ten
Hispanics!

Those numbers are historically bad. And, I would say that no candidate could win a
general election with them except that I have witnessed Trump flip his negatives to
positives with Republican voters so I am not ready to rule it totally out. What I will say
is those numbers make it virtually impossible for a candidate to win a general election.

Cruz is not Trump. But, neither is he popular with the broader electorate. Twenty six
percent of people had a positive view of him as compared to 49 percent who had a
negative view. That's a net -23, right in line with Clinton's net -24. And, it's worth
considering that Cruz is less well known than either Clinton or Trump, meaning that he
has room to grow -- either positively or negatively -- if and when he becomes the GOP
nominee. My guess is that Cruz's Senate record would provide Democratic groups as
well as Clinton's campaign with ample opposition research to cast the Texan as too
conservative for the average swing voter in, say, Ohio.

The old adage that you can't beat someone with no one fits here. Put slightly more
accurately, it's that you can't beat an unpopular person with someone even less popular.

If Clinton and Trump are the two presidential nominees, which still seems the most
likely outcome today, you can expect a race-to-the-bottom the likes of which have been
rarely seen even in presidential politics. Given where each of the candidate's numbers
stand, the only way to win will be to make it a choice between bad and worse.

Clinton seems poised to win that fight -- by a wide margin against Trump and a
narrower margin against Cruz.  Should Clinton be elected the 45th president of the
United States, Republicans will spend the next four years (at least) kicking themselves
at missing such a great opportunity. But, as it stands today, that is exactly what they
are poised to do.
Hillary Clinton can be beat in a
general election. Just not by Donald
Trump or Ted Cruz.
  Donald Trump                         Ted Cruz                               Hillary Clinton