Monday, November 30, 2015

Can Trump Win the GOP Nomination?

image via Kevin Drum at
Ezra Klein had a funny quote about who will win the Republican nomination:

A lot of pundits — and I include myself in this group — have a sort of Underpants Gnomes theory of Marco Rubio's chances. Step one is Rubio is the only acceptable nominee to Republican elites. Step two is ... something. And step three is Rubio wins the nomination.
And I think the corollary  conventional wisdom is Trump can't win because....he's Trump, basically.  Too brash, too outrageous, too polarizing, too many outright lies, and basically too much of a fucking dick.  I mean, this is a guy who attacked John McCain for getting caught and tortured in a POW camp and made fun of a guy with a severe physical disability and called Iowa voters stupid and called Mexicans a bunch of rapists and...... The list is virtually endless.

But however funny Klein's quote is and however dickish and absurd Trump is, neither make Trump the impossible candidate party and media elites want him to be.  About a third of the GOP base love him according to polling.  And it seems to me they won't stop loving him no matter what crazy shit he says.  And that's because, despite many non-conservative positions he's espoused, he's "Conservative" with a "R".  And that "R" stands for Racist, and sexist and just generally hateful towards people the extremist GOP base hate.  The Takers, the Muslims, the Librul Eleets!  Even the sellout RINOs who have let America fail and helped elect a Kenyan Islamist as president.  These people don't give a shit about whose tax plan does exactly what, or other wonky, nerd nonsense.  They know Trump is on their side and not scared to tell the truth no matter how much the left wing, mainstream media attack him.  No matter how the notoriously biased "factinistas" claim he's objectively wrong.  And most definitely no matter how much the traditional GOP politicians and pundits tell them Trump is unelectable.  After all, that's what they said in 2008 and 2012, but "moderate" McCain and Romney both lost to Obummer (#thanksobama).

So I'll start with the premise the Trump can easily hold on to his current RealClearPolitics Average of 28%.  I'll also posit that Carson is going to fade and eventually drop out.  For him this was a money making scam to sell books and expand his brand.  He's been up to this kind of grifting for decades.  But the shine is coming off his brand as people look into the stories of him stabbing a friend and trying to kill his mom with a hammer and it turns out they're almost certainly lies.  I won't go into how surreal it is that these stories are somehow seen as good thing by his supporters.  But if Carson drops I think it's reasonable to think at least half of his voters could go to Trump's camp, adding another 10%.  Cruz will also drop and probably close to all of his voters will turn to Trump, adding about 12%.  That leaves about 50% for a single Trump alternative.  But of that 50% I could easily see 10%  voting for Trump instead of Rubio.  So in this totally speculative scenario 60% of the party could end up supporting Trump for the nomination.  Now there's lots of complications and super delegates etc in the nomination rules which I'm not well versed on and would come into play, but this is basically what I see as a feasible, totally believable, scenario for Trump being the GOP nominee.  Anyone discounting the possibility is fooling themselves.

Now, the polling could change drastically as we go forward as Nate Silver at argues, saying in part:

Quite often, however, the Trump’s-really-got-a-chance! case is rooted almost entirely in polls. If nothing Trump has said so far has harmed his standing with Republicans, the argument goes, why should we expect him to fade later on?
One problem with this is that it’s not enough for Trump to merely avoid fading. Right now, he has 25 to 30 percent of the vote in polls among the roughly 25 percent of Americans who identify as Republican. (That’s something like 6 to 8 percent of the electorate overall, or about the same share of people who think the Apollo moon landings were faked.) As the rest of the field consolidates around him, Trump will need to gain additional support to win the nomination. That might not be easy, since some Trump actions that appeal to a faction of the Republican electorate may alienate the rest of it. Trump’s favorability ratings are middling among Republicans (and awful among the broader electorate).....But there’s another, more fundamental problem. That 25 or 30 percent of the vote isn’t really Donald Trump’s for the keeping. In fact, it doesn’t belong to any candidate. If past nomination races are any guide, the vast majority of eventual Republican voters haven’t made up their minds yet.
But it's odd to see a statistics guy discount a case "rooted almost entirely in the polls".  Surely, polling is a decent, if limited, basis for an argument.  Particularly when Trump's polling has remained consistent for so long.

I still don't believe Trump in the most likely nominee, mainly for the same logically flawed reasons Klein and others put forward.  It just seems crazy.  But large parts of the GOP base are apparently crazy, so who the hell knows what's possible these days.

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