Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

No, Donald Trump Isn't "Closer To The Presidency."

My Facebook feed is lighting up with people freaking out over Donald Trump's good night.  This is because we tend to think in narratives rather than large numbers.  Yes, Trump solidified his grip on the GOP nomination, but that doesn't mean he will become president.

And here are the reasons why:

1) Winning the GOP isn't winning the election.  How is President Romney doing these days?  Wait, the guy who ran for re-election with 7% unemployment and stagnant wages beat Romney handily? How can that be?

It's because America is moving more and more each year towards a Democratic electorate.  Each year brings fewer angry old white people and more Hispanic and African Americans, more socially liberal Millenials.  If America "looked" like it does today in 1972, George McGovern would've beaten Nixon.  And few candidates will more motivate the Obama Coalition to vote than Donald Trump. Trump trumps Clinton for voter mobilization.

This is why GOP elites are freaking out.  This is why Mitch McConnell is planning for his vulnerable Senate colleagues to run away from Trump in the general election.  The GOP needs a special set of circumstances to win the White House.  Those circumstances don't exist.  Why do they need a special set of circumstances?

2) Because it's all about the electoral college.  Here is my "best possible" map for Trump.  I don't see Trump winning many states that Romney lost.  Maybe he does resonate better among Ohio voters.  But poaching Ohio won't get him to 270.  Obama won Ohio by about 100,000 votes.  But even if Trump can get those "missing white voters" to the polls, how many independents recoil from his candidacy?  Romney won Arizona by about 200,000 votes.  How many missing Hispanic votes will show up this time around?  Same goes for Florida.  Obama won Minnesota by 8%, Nevada by 6%, New Hampshire by 6%, New Mexico by 10%, Pennsylvania by 5% and Wisconsin by 7%.  Did these states suddenly become MORE friendly to Republicans?

3) Trump hasn't been really beat up yet.  The Jon Oliver bit that has gone viral is just the first of many assaults on Trump.  These assaults won't matter to his core supporters.

BUT!  His core supporters consist of about 40-50% of the GOP electorate.  The GOP is about 30% of the entire electorate.  Where Trump could lose substantial support is among those who vote Republican but identify as independent.  Especially as attacks like those that Jon Oliver leveled become more common.

Trump is a target-rich environment.

4) Hope wins over fear.  Absent a catastrophic attack or an economic crisis, hope always wins.  Trump's message is nonsensical and fear-based.  Clinton unveiled her new theme that emphasizes unity and positivity.  That's a great message for her and a great message for anyone who is trying to beat Trump in a general election.  The GOP is full of people who are angry and afraid. But the country isn't full of the GOP.  A guy like Reagan won by being a sunny optimist, even if he did use coded racial attacks.

The difference between Trump and Rubio or Kasich isn't in their policies.  If anything, Trump's policies (to the degree he has any) are to the center of those guys.  It's his rhetoric that verges into Mussolini territory.  That will motivate only a few people.

5) Trump is a phony.  He's a con artist.  A lot of people understand this.  If they don't right now, they will by November.

6) Clinton benefits from running against Trump.  Clinton - to win - needed to motivate Democratic voters who are a bit fatigued with her and with the Clinton era politics.  Trump solves this problem for her.  Clinton has her share of baggage, but she has shown arguably the toughest "chin" in politics.  She has taken more shots than any political figure I can think of (except maybe her husband) and she comes out the other side every time.  You think the email thing is a scandal?  Wait until Trump's business ventures go under the microscope.

I don't know if Clinton could've beaten Rubio - a photogenic cipher - but she will beat Trump.  She has been through the wringer.  Trump hasn't.  Not yet, but he will.

So what special circumstances could propel Trump to the White House?  A massive attack on US soil, on the order of 9/11 but more so.  A complete collapse of the economy.  Or Hillary Clinton dropping dead in October.

That's the only way this happens.  And I get that Trump winning the nomination means that the chance of his becoming president becomes something more than zero.  But when it comes to actual policy, I'm not sure I see a ton of daylight between Trump and Ted Cruz or even Marco Rubio.

I know Clinton has her problems, but most of those problems are about perceptions.  She's too cold, too calculating.  She's inauthentic.  That makes her the anti-Trump.  Except Trump is lying his ass off.  He's illiterate on policy.  He doesn't know how government works.

That may not matter on the GOP side, but it will in the general election.

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