I was never very popular in grade school.

The girls didn’t like me because I was a boy, and the boys didn’t like me because I wasn’t good at sports, and the teachers didn’t like me because I talked too much and didn’t do my homework.

It’s too bad that no one back then ever thought to comfort me by saying, “Don’t worry, when you grow up it won’t matter how unpopular you are. You can still run for president.”

Because sure enough, here in 2016 the two front-runners for the nominations of the Democratic and Republican parties are by far the least popular candidates in the race.

According to Gallup, Hillary Clinton is seen unfavorably by 53 percent of Americans, a dangerous number for a politician in a two-party system. But she might be OK if she runs against Donald Trump, who has a he’s-got-cooties, pick-him-last unfavorability score of 63 percent.

No one else in the race is even close. Ted Cruz, widely believed to be the most disliked member of the U.S Senate, is only unpopular with 44 percent of the nation, according to Gallup. Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist who promises to raise taxes, has an unfavorable rating of 34 percent.


But Clinton and Trump are both leading their respective packs, and while there are still a lot of states left to express themselves in a nominating process that just got officially underway this month, odds are that we will see an election in November between two people who are each disliked by more than half the public.

This should be a familiar scenario for people in Maine. We have seen Paul LePage, a candidate with high unfavorable ratings, get elected – and re-elected – governor.

Elections are no longer a battle for the middle ground. The candidate who can turn out more of his base wins, and passionate supporters can matter more than the negative impressions of people who were never going to vote for you anyway.

But does it make sense that all of the time and money spent on the nomination process should produce candidates who come to the starting line with more enemies than friends?

To be fair, there are people who are liked less than Clinton or Trump.

Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, a perpetrator of crimes against humanity, has an unfavorable rating of 68 percent.


Vladimir Putin, who invades neighboring countries and murders those with whom he disagrees, has a 69.

Fidel Castro, a thorn in the side of 10 presidents, is seen unfavorably by 83 percent of Americans.

But it’s telling to see who is more popular than the current presidential front runners.

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, the architects of a disastrous war in Iraq that took thousands of lives and is still destabilizing the Middle East, are only seen unfavorably by 47 percent and 52 percent of the country.

Alan Greenspan, who as chairman of the Federal Reserve promoted policies that crashed the whole world’s economy, has an unfavorable rating of 14 percent.

And what must be especially tough for Clinton, whose unpopularity is usually attributed her association with her husband Bill – the only president ever to be impeached for sexual misbehavior – is that even he has a lower unfavorable rating than her, coming in at 38 percent.


But in an unpopularity contest, Hillary Clinton is just another loser compared to Trump.

To fully understand how many people just can’t stand the guy, compare his numbers with Bill Cosby’s. After a long string of sexual misconduct charges, the once-popular comedian has an unfavorable rating of 62 percent.

Yes, that’s right, the likely Republican standard bearer is seen in a negative light by more people than a man widely assumed to be a serial rapist.

Trump’s high negative rating is why there are still plenty of people who don’t believe that he can end up with the nomination, despite his persistant lead in the polls over his Republican opposition and his strong showing in the early primaries and caucuses.

Can someone really win an election when two-out-of-three people can’t stand him? Doesn’t this all have to come crashing down?

But if it doesn’t, and Trump bulls his way to the nomination; and if Bernie Sanders’ revolution doesn’t materialize in time to stop Clinton; Clinton-Trump will be the match-up in November – whether anybody likes it or not.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.