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Donald denialism

[ 169 ] December 24, 2015 |

trump

A striking number of people are still assuming one or more of the following things:

(1) Donald Trump either doesn’t want to be president or doesn’t believe he can win. Thus his campaign isn’t what it superficially appears to be (an attempt to win the GOP nomination and then the presidency) but rather something else: a publicity stunt, an ego trip, a branding exercise, or what have you.

(2) Trump is much less likely to win the nomination than Rubio or Cruz.

(3) Even if (1) and (2) turn out to be wrong, Trump would have next to no chance in November.

I think points (1) and (3) are both clearly wrong and are also — not wholly by any means, but to some significant extent — products of denialism, in the sense of the rejection of disturbing conclusions because they’re disturbing. Point (2) is much more plausible, but the extent to which the available evidence supports it is, in my view, exaggerated.

As for (1), this theory certainly had some initial plausibility, given, among other things, that Trump’s announcement of his presidential run looked by conventional measures more like an outrageous publicity stunt than a typical campaign kickoff:

“They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing their problems,” he said. “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists, and some I assume are good people but I speak to border guards and they tell us what we are getting.”

He promised that as President Trump, one of his first actions would be to build a “great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall”.

Of course this was just the beginning of a long series of statements that, again according to conventional wisdom, would have killed the campaign of an ordinary candidate. But what became clear over the summer, and is even clearer today, is that such gestures, far from derailing Trump’s campaign, are making it stronger.

In any case, the theory that Trump’s campaign is a publicity stunt in the manner of Herman Cain’s or Ben Carson’s antics always suffered from the flaw that Donald Trump was already vastly better known among the American public than any of the people he was and is running against. (What do you suppose the ratio was in June between people who could tell you three things about Trump and three things about Marco Rubio? My guess would be about 100 to 1.). Furthermore, the truism that there’s no such thing as bad publicity is not actually true. If Trump’s campaign is actually a publicity stunt, the sort of publicity it has gotten him has, to this point, cost him some very valuable things.

As to the argument that Trump doesn’t actually want to be president because it would be a lot of work, that strikes me as denialism in its purest form. Trump has spent the last six months criss-crossing the country, giving dozens of speeches, countless interviews, etc. Trump lacks many qualities, including most notably any sense of shame — this is a man who has more than once used a national media platform to announce that he would like to have sex with his daughter — but the claim that he lacks the energy and ambition to put in the work to become and then be president is just bizarre.

The claim that Trump is much less likely to win the nomination that Rubio or Cruz is based on both standard political science models of prediction, and a couple of common sense observations about his behavior to this point.

In regard to the former, Trump is, to put it mildly, completely unacceptable to the party elites, and, generally speaking, the relevant models predict that “the party decides.” But, as Scott has acknowledged, there are good reasons to be uncertain whether the standard models will necessarily hold in this case, especially since such models are based, necessarily, on interpreting the meaning of a very small number of precedents, in a rapidly shifting social and media environment. In short, the Trump phenomenon seems to have several characteristics that make predictions based on past performance shakier than they were otherwise be.

Political science also tells us that national polls prior to any primaries tend to be highly unreliable, and therefore Trump’s current huge lead in such polls doesn’t necessarily mean much. This is certainly a valid point, but again, Trump is an unusual candidate. He is both far better known and produces a far more intense response, both for and against, than the typical fall front runner for a party nomination. Thus there are good reasons to suspect that his lead in the polls, which has lasted for many months now and is growing, is more significant than it would otherwise be.

The relevant common sense observations are that Trump to this point is spending very little of his own money, and that he hasn’t done the sort of on the ground organizing that Barack Obama used to such good effect in 2008. These points also have force, but they also have some obvious rejoinders. First, why would Trump spend his own money before he needed to? Candidates spend money early in a campaign to buy media coverage above all. Obviously, any such spending on Trump’s part would have almost no marginal value, since he has carefully constructed his campaign to bring him more free publicity than the rest of the GOP field combined. (Hence the endless stream of outrageous statements etc.).

Second, the kind of ground game Obama put together in 2008 made sense in the context of his candidacy — one in which as late as the fall of 2007 he was a relatively little-known underdog. Again, the contrast with Trump could hardly be more stark. Perhaps Trump doesn’t have, or yet have, the kind of campaign infrastructure necessary to win primaries as opposed to polls, but as of now this is more of an assertion of faith than anything else.

As for the argument that Trump has little or no chance to win the general if he gets the nomination, this wouldn’t seem to need much of a rejoinder, given the fundamentals of contemporary American presidential elections. While I agree Trump would, as of now, be a distinct underdog to Hillary Clinton, any GOP candidate is going to start with a floor of perhaps 45% of the popular vote, and somewhere north of 100 electoral votes.

In sum, I would argue that much of the confidence that Trump can’t win the nomination is based on wishful thinking/denialism, while the good arguments to that effect, based as they are on traditional models of American presidential elections, are not as compelling as they would otherwise appear to be, given the highly unconventional nature of both the Trump campaign and what might be called the Trump moment.

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  1. J. Otto Pohl says:

    My favorite theory along this vein is that his entire campaign is meant to ensure that Clinton is elected. Could you please expand on this particular conspiracy theory?

    • Murc says:

      It’s pretty straightforward. It’s based on the premise that Trump will expose the mouth-breathing toxicity of the right in all of its splendor and glory, and this will lead to the country rejecting it and instead embracing Clinton.

      This makes perfect sense if you assume Republicans can only get into power by lying about their motives, beliefs, and intentions.

      I mean, it’s still wrong as a matter of fact, because it proceeds from flawed premises, but the internal logic underpinning it is sound.

      • NewishLawyer says:

        There is some meme I see on facebook that my friend pass around. It is a Trump quote from the late 1990s where Trump said that if he ran for President, he would run as a Republican. Trump’s reasoning was that Republicans were dumb and believed anything they heard on Fox News.

  2. sleepyirv says:

    I find it innately incomprehensible to step pass point 2 to point 3. It’s like arguing “If Donald Trump can learn to fly by flapping his arms very quickly, OF COURSE he’s going to fly to Japan.” You can’t walk pass the point of impossibility and then suggest what would that impossible universe HAS to be like.

    And if point 2 IS possible, I don’t think it’s outrageous to suggest Hillary would cream Trump. The fact Republicans have a 45% floor in the general election is on the basis that the Republican party does not nominate random people off the street. There are all sorts of Republicans voters who would not for Trump, or at the very least, would not turn out. The fact Republican voters are a black box to liberal bloggers doesn’t mean 95% of them are self-destructive.

    • Murc says:

      I don’t think it’s outrageous to suggest Hillary would cream Trump.

      It isn’t. This is a reasonable suggestion.

      What isn’t a reasonable suggestion is to suggest that Trump will have no chance in November. That’s massively overconfident.

      The fact Republicans have a 45% floor in the general election is on the basis that the Republican party does not nominate random people off the street.

      You have that completely backwards. It’s on the basis that the Republican Party could nominate a random person off the street and still get 45% of the vote.

      Now, obviously, this has never been tested, and you can’t prove a negative anyway. But it’s worth pointing out that the two people who were blown out the hardest in postwar elections (Goldwater and Mondale) both still got around 40% of the vote, and the person who was blown out most strongly in a post-realignment world (McCain) got 45% of it.

      Basically, there’s a lot of strong evidence that the floor of any Republican Presidential nominee, be he Zombie Abraham Lincoln or Zombie Joe McCarthy, is about 45%. That might be wrong. We’re dealing with low sample sizes. But I think the evidence is strong enough it is incumbent on you to build the case disproving it, or a case proving a different model is more valid.

      • MAJeff says:

        Basically, there’s a lot of strong evidence that the floor of any Republican Presidential nominee, be he Zombie Abraham Lincoln or Zombie Joe McCarthy, is about 45%.

        It would definitely be the latter. The former would look at the current GOP and say, “Didn’t I kick your ass 150 years ago?” and then shoot himself in the head.

      • sleepyirv says:

        That’s not “strong” evidence, it’s either a 40% floor with two examples or a 45% floor with one example.

        I can understand the importance of the subject makes people wish to handle the subject in a scientific manner, but it’s simply not possible to speak about Presidential elections in such a way.

        Paul, you, and I can speculate all we want, but it can hardly be said any of us can prove on this particular issue.

        Edit: Excuse me, a floor of 40% with three examples, I forgot McGovern winning 37%. Perhaps Trump could get that high.

        • DAS says:

          Yeah but even the liberal media made sure to warn everybody about what a dirty hippy McGovern was. OTOH, any Republican nominee will automatically be treated as a serious man, a man of substance … and don’t you know both sides are equally bad and the truth is somewhere in the middle?

      • Manny Kant says:

        You have that completely backwards. It’s on the basis that the Republican Party could nominate a random person off the street and still get 45% of the vote…the person who was blown out most strongly in a post-realignment world (McCain) got 45% of it.

        Whuh? John McCain was not a random person off the street. He was a nationally known and widely respected Senator, who was, for a Republican, pretty highly regarded by non-Republicans. The idea that him getting 45% somehow proves that Alan Keyes would also get 45% is absurd.

        • dmsilev says:

          Counter-argument: McCain ran an almost uniquely-bad campaign (remember him suspending the campaign shortly before one of the debates, calling for an “economic summit” and then showing up and not actually saying anything, etc.). Add to that a cycle featuring an incumbent Republican President roughly as popular as toenail fungus. Add to _that_ Governor Snowbilly Starburst (also, of course, an entry in “uniquely-bad campaign” above). And he was facing one of the most gifted campaigners of this generation, both in oratory and in building campaign infrastructure.

          And he still got the 45%.

      • cleter says:

        The GOP nominated a random person off the street for VP in 2008.

        • ColBatGuano says:

          Thus proving that the VP candidate has no effect on the election outcome.

          • CrunchyFrog says:

            Have to agree. What Palin’s nomination did was energize a Republican base dispirited by the McCain selection. However, all of those folks would have voted for McCain anyway in the end.

            • random says:

              Governor Palin energized GOP voters, which probably did have a real impact on turnout. But also alienated crossover voters, which also likely had a small impact in skewing some undecideds to Obama.

              The idea that VP picks don’t impact elections is mostly an outdated bit of conventional wisdom, based on a combination of few data points involving non-conventional VP picks, as well as outright bad methodology (“Randos who wished they had a Gore-Cheney ticket to vote for generally ended up voting for Gore over Bush. Therefore Gore could have picked David Duke as his running mate and the outcome would have been exactly the same!”)

          • random says:

            This isn’t true in general (modern voter attitudes about the candidate are substantially impacted by the candidates’ VP choice, the POTUS campaign itself is largely constrained by the VP pick) but it really wasn’t true in 2008. Even the skeptics will admit that Palin had a measurable impact on the outcome there.

    • efgoldman says:

      The fact Republicans have a 45% floor in the general election is on the basis that the Republican party does not nominate random people off the street.

      It’s not a national election; it’s 50 state elections. Whoever the RWNJs nominate is likely to win the traitor states by huge margins (~70%) against HRC, as they did against Obama. It’s still the same number of EVs. On the other hand, the Dem is likely to wind most of both coasts, but by lower margins. Still gets all the EVs.
      National percentages can be somewhat of a predictor, but not absolute.

      • catclub says:

        Win those states. yes. Win by huge (70-30) margins? No. HRC will get a lot of votes that were not gettable for Obama, but lose very few.

        Ex: In Mississippi 11% of white voters voted for Obama. if he gets 16-17% of white voters he wins Miss. On the one hand, that is almost doubling his fraction of the white vote, on the other, it is just 5%.

        Georgia could be very close even this year.

        • Ahuitzotl says:

          I disagree – HRC will lose a lot of black voters that turned out for Obama but will stay home this time – not because they dislike her, but because they were energised by the idea of a black president.

      • Manny Kant says:

        Please name the former confederate states that Obama lost 70-30. I’ll give you a hint: there aren’t any. The lowest Obama got in any ex-Confederate state was Arkansas, where he got almost 37% (and where I assume Hillary will do marginally better).

        The only states Obama did as badly as you’re talking about are mountain west states (Utah, Idaho, Wyoming) and Oklahoma.

    • SatanicPanic says:

      The fact Republicans have a 45% floor in the general election is on the basis that the Republican party does not nominate random people off the street.

      I agree. If you’re going to throw out the model for Trump, because Trump is so unusual that who knows if he can win the nomination, then why keep the model for the general? Trump could very well fuck everything up and end up with 25% of the vote.

  3. Thirtyish says:

    And a very merry Christmas to you, too.

  4. Ransom Stoddard says:

    As for the argument that Trump has little or no chance to win the general if he gets the nomination, this wouldn’t seem to need much of a rejoinder, given the fundamentals of contemporary American presidential elections. While I agree Trump would, as of now, be a distinct underdog to Hillary Clinton, any GOP candidate is going to start with a floor of perhaps 45% of the popular vote, and somewhere north of 100 electoral votes.

    It would actually seem to need a serious rejoinder, given that unemployment is at 5.5% and falling and Trump is seriously divisive within the Republican party, with a 17 percentage points wedge between non-college and college educated voters (compared to 2-7 wedges for the runners up). The “fundamentals” of elections often mostly boil down to unemployment in the quarters before them, and the news there is mostly positive. In every poll of a Hillary Clinton/Donald Trump match up, Clinton wins; RCP gives the average spread of the polls as +6.1% (6.1%!) in favor of Clinton (which is a little misleading but still informative).The political impact of changing demography is too complex to invest the time necessary writing a good comment about it, but the composition of the American electorate, particularly in presidential elections, clearly continues to favor the Democrats. All in all, I would find Trump’s winning the nomination to be a positive: he’s about as horrible as the rest of the Republican field in terms of substantive policy, but he’s better at making it seem absurd to the general public.

    Also, the betting markets put a Trump nomination at 20%, and Nate Silver puts it at >0% but <<20%.

    • xq says:

      Which betting market are you looking at? PredictIt gives 28% which seems about right to me.

      https://www.predictit.org/Contract/838/Will-Donald-Trump-win-the-2016-Republican-presidential-nomination#data

    • Bruce B. says:

      Just talking about unemployment like that is terribly misleading. We need to look at whether people are able to get as much work s they’d like (or are getting far more work than they can safely handle over time), what their wages are doing in real terms and relative to their costs, and like that. The stock market rocks, some numbers are good, but the clear reality of a lot of people’s lives is that things suck, and I wish that there were more Democrats in visible places talking about how hard it is for so many Americans. Playing like things are great leaves a lot of openings for right-wing scumbag fear mongers.

      • CrunchyFrog says:

        Well, even more, look to 2000 for a situation where the economy is doing well, the President is term-limited so the incumbent isn’t running, and one party has Congress while the other has the White House. In that situation economy simply ceases to be a factor in the choice of candidates. The “swing voters”, such as they are, don’t associate the recent economic success with either party or candidate. Granted 2000 was a bit different in that the economy was doing well but cooling off from a very hot period, whereas in 2016 it appears that the economy will be doing well after a prolonged recovery period. However, I think voter attitudes are going to be the same.

        • random says:

          The “swing voters”, such as they are, don’t associate the recent economic success with either party or candidate.

          You can predict Gore’s performance in 49 states by how high Clinton’s approval rating was in that state. The only exception to this rule was FL.

          It’s also likely that McCain never had a chance, since the incumbent was in his party and had miserable ratings.

          • CrunchyFrog says:

            You can predict Gore’s performance in 49 states by how high Clinton’s approval rating was in that state. The only exception to this rule was FL.

            I was arguing that the economy was not a predicting factor in 2000. I wasn’t arguing that Gore’s results weren’t linked to that state’s perception of Clinton. In fact, 4 years after Fox News launched this was the beginning of the extreme political polarization we now experience – very much not surprised that the votes in each stated matched perceptions of the two parties. But I’ll bet those voting GOP would have argued that the good economy had more to do with the GOP Congress than the Dem President.

            It’s also likely that McCain never had a chance, since the incumbent was in his party and had miserable ratings.

            He didn’t have a chance. No GOP candidate did. But, going back to the original point, unlike 2000 or 2016 (if things continue as expected), 2008 occurred in a bad economic environment. In those situations people do tend to blame the party of the departing president.

    • random says:

      Silver’s not an expert on GOP primaries and he’s been consistently over-predicting Trump’s collapse from the beginning. His original model for a Trump candidacy was Steve Forbes, to give you an idea.

      His rational explanation for why he doesn’t think Trump can possibly win necessarily requires you to conclude that Jeb Bush (who literally has far more in common with previous Presidents than any candidate in the history of the US) is going to win this and is basically guaranteed to win the Presidency as well.

  5. Tehanu says:

    In sum, I would argue that much of the confidence that Trump can’t win the nomination is based on wishful thinking/denialism,…

    I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m hanging on to wishful thinking and denialism as hard as I can. The whole Trump phenomenon — well, I don’t want to Godwin the thread, but …

    • Morat says:

      As the alternatives are Rubio, who is aiming to launch Operation Iranian Freedom, or Cruz, who wants to “carpet-bomb Syria until I find out whether I can make sand glow in the dark”, there’s a limit to how enthused I can get about Trump losing the nomination.

      • trollhattan says:

        The obvious danger is whichever maniac the Republicans nominate has a chance to become president because no matter what one thinks the outcome will be, you still hold the election just like you still make the ’76ers play the Warriors.

        And with that out of the way, a President Cruz scares me a lot more than a President Trump. It would be like electing David Koresh.

        • Brien Jackson says:

          I don’t think a President Cruz would actually order the use of nuclear weapons. It’s sad but…that’s something.

          • efgoldman says:

            I don’t think a President Cruz would actually order the use of nuclear weapons.

            Based on?

          • Morat says:

            Sure, but the mainstream GOP position right now AFAICT is to get into a dickwaving contest with Russia and China while invading Iran and/or Syria. Of the three, Trump is the dove. *vomit*

            I agree that there’s little chance that Cruz is going to actually nuke Syria. But I’m not too sanguine about taking the chance that he’s not going to bomb the shit out of some city that happens to be under ISIL (or Assad’s) control. Or that he’ll manage not to saber-rattle his way into a major confrontation with Russia over nothing.

            Trump would be horrible. I just can’t get that worked up about the Republican nomination battle because all the plausible winners are different flavors of evil dickhead.

            • Brien Jackson says:

              I mean, massive bombing campaigns are terrible in the destruction they bring, but using nukes sets off a global panic that potentially leads to a truly apocalyptic outcome. There’s a big difference there.

              • Morat says:

                Yes, I agree that there’s no comparison between nuking Raqqa and merely bombing it to pieces, and that Cruz ain’t gonna do the former.

                But, again, my point is that I can’t find a reason to care that much about who wins the GOP nomination. I’m not arguing that Cruz is uniquely worse than Trump or Rubio. If anything, Rubio is the ultra-hawk.

                The only reason I can see for hoping Trump loses the nomination is the chance he gets pissed enough to go third party.

            • CrunchyFrog says:

              Of the three, Trump is the dove. *vomit*

              Reminds me that in the last few days before the Iraq Occupation began in 2003, Sean Hannity characterized Colin Powell as the Bush administration “dove” in describing how “even the dove” thinks we should invade.

              Wow. Calling a career military officer who rose to the rank of Chairman of the JCOS a “dove”. The sad part is, the GOP even then was so extreme regarding wanting permanent war, that by comparison Powell probably did play that role in the administration.

              • Right, Powell was the “Are we sure we really want to do this guys?” guy.

                • Murc says:

                  I don’t think Powell gets any Dove cred, as when they said “Colin, go lie to the UN and Congress so we can have our war” he said “Sir yes sir!”

                • CrunchyFrog says:

                  Have to agree with Murc. Just to be clear, I wasn’t saying he was a dove – he after all in a just world would be serving a life sentence for war crimes for his UN lie-fest. But it’s telling that the GOP has become so extreme that a former Chairman of the JCOS is, relatively speaking, the “dove” in their group.

                • “Colin, go lie to the UN and Congress so we can have our war” he said “Are we sure we really want to do this guys?” “Yes, we’re sure.” they said. “Fine, I’ll do it but I won’t like it!”

              • CrunchyFrog says:

                “Fine, I’ll do it but I won’t like it!”

                “Just remember your promises to keep my son and I rolling in the dough with phoney-baloney pseudo jobs after we ‘retire’ from the administration in 2005 or I’ll have my lawyers publish the tell-all book I’ve written.”

  6. N__B says:

    I deny Trump exists. I think he is a group hallucination that reveals the national id.

  7. Avattoir says:

    “Perhaps Trump doesn’t have, or yet have, the kind of campaign infrastructure necessary to win primaries as opposed to polls, but as of now this is more of an assertion of faith than anything else.”

    “Perhaps” doesn’t come near to describing what’s actually there, which is a purely national campaign based on little to no connection with the pre-TeaPster Republican establishment (which still remains the largest power source in the GOP, despite the impression left by TeaPster and Freedumber Kochheads having had enough success in maybe up to a fifth of House GOP seats that they’ve been able pick off a few establishment scalps IN THEIR OWN PARTY and otherwise scare the bejeebers out of maybe up to another fifth of House GOPers).

    Trump’s campaign organization is populated with his own companies’ management types – a lot of them young, largely new to business in general and total neophytes in electoral politics, who’s main success has been as advance troops in organizing the rallies Trump himself attends – along with a minority of skeezy mercenaries from the margins of past GOP battles (and mostly as “looooozzzzers”), and a veritable host of white supremacist creeps, bullies and assorted halfwits. Some in this motley crew are full-time paid Trump palace guards, some are involved thru a patchwork of crazy piece-work deals, and the rest are beyond incompetent.

    This isn’t any “assertion of faith”: this is like a pro sports team loading up on a single element of what goes into winning, like an MLB franchise that spends all it has on lumbering sluggers and nothing at all on pitching, fielding or even those who can make contact or draw walks to get on base. This is like an NFL franchise that lards up on former Heisman Trophy winners while recruiting lineman out of bars and mixed martial arts clubs. The only reason we don’t have the metrics to make all this clear is that no one has ever before been able to get this far on pure unrefined bullshit.

    I think Paul Campos has never actually been involved in the organiztion and running of a successful political campaign. There exists an abundance of empirical evidence that ground games are a necessary element to success in electoral politics, based on the rather sensible, indeed self-evident notion that seeing a candidate in person, better yet meeting that candidate, and having that followed up by that candidate or that candidate’s ground forces multiple times, correlates to actually supporting that candidate and showing up to vote for that candidate.

    Watch what happens as Trump loses Iowa and then New Hampshire; he might do very well in South Cackalacky, but then that was the key to the successful run of President Gingrich in 2012, yes?

    • Murc says:

      How are we defining “lose” here, though? Coming in second in Iowa and New Hampshire and then taking it to the SEC primary sounds like a perfectly viable path to me.

      Gingrich didn’t just “lose” in the sense of “not winning” he lost in the sense of “way back in the pack.”

      I mean, I’m not saying you’re wrong. You’ve laid out a lot of strong points. But… Trump has numbers. Durable ones. Numbers don’t mean everything but I don’t think he can just be dismissed out of hand.

      • Brien Jackson says:

        I don’t think it’s a very viable path if he loses Iowa to Cruz and Rubio doesn’t win New Hampshire. I don’t think it’s especially likely to happen (Cruz wins Iowa, Rubio wins New Hampshire) either.

    • CaptainBringdown says:

      The only reason we don’t have the metrics to make all this clear is that no one has ever before been able to get this far on pure unrefined bullshit.

      Exactly. So it remains to be seen how far one can get on pure unrefined bullshit. If he’s gotten this far, it’s hard for me to dismiss out of hand that he can get further. Perhaps a lot further.

      • postmodulator says:

        Him getting further is unlikely; but him getting this far was also unlikely.

        I’m still stuck on the point that in order for him to lose, someone has to beat him. Who does that?

    • Dr. Ronnie James, DO says:

      “This isn’t any “assertion of faith”: this is like a pro sports team loading up on a single element of what goes into winning, like an MLB franchise that spends all it has on lumbering sluggers and nothing at all on pitching, fielding or even those who can make contact or draw walks to get on base.”

      For Pete’s sake, there are *Mariners* fans on here. This needs a trigger warning.

      ” This is like an NFL franchise that lards up on former Heisman Trophy winners while recruiting lineman out of bars and mixed martial arts clubs.”

      No Raider fans AFAIK. Trigger away!

    • Manny Kant says:

      If Trump doesn’t win New Hampshire, who does? He’s had a big lead for months, and the establishment vote is actually remarkably split up at the moment – Rubio 14.1%, Christie 10.8%, Kasich 7.9%, Bush 7.1%. Together, that should be enough to give it to an establishment candidate, but it’s kind of hard to see that really happening, given that Rubio isn’t really campaigning in New Hampshire, and he’s the only one to consolidate around at this point.

      • nocutename says:

        The next GOP debate is only going to have probably six people on the main stage, and Kasich is one of the likely ones to get pushed down to the kids table. Looks like the establishment are trying to force out some of the candidates with this move and force a voter consolidation.

  8. Docrailgun says:

    I still don’t believe Rubio or Cruz can win the nomination – at the end of the day they are both scary brown people with commie pinko islamofascist foreign ‘murica-hatin’ names.

    • Davis X. Machina says:

      Rubio or Cruz can come from the planet Voltron, it doesn’t matter.

      The GOP primary voter has one question:

      “Do they hate the same people I hate? If they do, I’m voting for them.”

      Color doesn’t enter into it, except insofar as the people they hate, have it.

    • brettvk says:

      I really think Cruz codes as white to GOPers. The name doesn’t matter that much, I’ll bet — his admirers know there’s a leading (white) actor with the same name, spelled a little differently. Rubio, on the other hand, is visibly the shade of lightly toasted Wonder Bread, and “Rubio” actually sounds Cuban. I don’t know to what degree white Republicans are motivated by racism; the big question is how many are active versus passive racists, and how many can’t will themselves to pull the lever for a nonwhite even if he’s their guy.

      • Gregor Sansa says:

        But it means “whitey” in Cuban.

      • Pseudonym says:

        I really think Cruz codes as white to GOPers. The name doesn’t matter that much, I’ll bet — his admirers know there’s a leading (white) actor with the same name, spelled a little differently.

        There is in fact a well-known white actor with the same name, spelled the same too. But how many Americans even think of her as white?

  9. Yankee says:

    I seen folks say the river don’t come up this high come floating by on they ridge pole.

  10. keta says:

    Call me crazy, but I actually have a lot of faith in the American electorate. Which is why I think Trump fizzles out.

    • politicalfootball says:

      You’re crazy. The American electorate picked Bush in 2004.

      • BartletForGallifrey says:

        They picked the incumbent, during a war, running against a cardboard cutout.* And any other incumbent would have won by a much bigger margin. I don’t think we can judge the American electorate based on 2004.

        *I’ve met John Kerry. In person he’s delightful. This did not translate on television.

  11. SamInMpls says:

    On Monday, Nate Silver tweeted: Sometimes it’s like we can only communicate about the primaries in metaphors.”Dean and Gephardt in Iowa” = “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra”

    Dean and Gephardt didn’t declare their truce until 3 days before the Iowa Caucuses. From the polls I can find, Kerry’s numbers didn’t creep up until about a week out.

    I am wondering two things at this point:

    1) To what extent are the candidates actually willing to cooperate to “stop” either Cruz or Trump and what happens if both of them are viable candidates after New Hampshire? Assume Cruz and Trump finish 1-2 in Iowa. Next, assume that Christie manages to finish above Rubio in New Hampshire. Trump and Cruz become the favorites going into March, yes? The talk radio guys are already pushing Cruz. So are some big donors. At that point the establishment has to seriously reassess their options.

    2) Based on comments from people like Nate Silver on his campaign podcast and from Cliff Schecter on Seder’s Majority Report, it seems to me that the perception does exist, at least among some people, that putting Trump or Cruz at the top of the ticket could have a dramatic impact on key house races and foreclose on any chance of holding onto the senate. Silver talked about Cruz costing them 5 points in the general election. If this perception were to take hold, what happens between Trump or Cruz clinching the nomination and the convention? How do the party elites respond to being defied?

    • Gregor Sansa says:

      I don’t know, but between worrying about the very real chance of Rubio winning, and worrying about the significantly smaller chance of Trump or Cruz winning, I don’t think it’s “denialism” to tactically prefer the latter. I’m not saying it puts the House in play, but it puts “spitting distance in the House” in play.

  12. Brien Jackson says:

    On 2) the two candidates mentioned here are pretty disparate. Yes, at this point arguments for Rubio are getting pretty tortured and holding on to the idea that anti-establishment candidates can’t win by definition, but the premise for Cruz is pretty straight-forward. LSS, he’s both beloved by the conservative movement/talk radio set AND a polished politican and committed Republican partisan, so if he wins Iowa (where he’s leading) and makes it a two person race with Trump, the establishment is likely to throw up their hands and back him. In essence, he’s arguably the only cadidate with any chance of bridging the GOP gap and he’s also leading in Iowa.

    On 3), I find Paul’s argument unconvincing. The same electoral floor applies to the Democrats, and Trump is pretty clearly the least positioned to win over anyone in the middle, will be a singular boon to Democratic GOTV efforts, and will quite plausibly actually lose some support from that supposed floor through his sheer crassness and extremism. He’d need some sort of severe economic downturn next year to have any plausible chance at winning a general election under pretty much any forecasting model.

    • burnspbesq says:

      Except that the Democratic floor in electoral votes looks more like 220 than 100.

    • Manny Kant says:

      Can someone explain the basis for the assumption that Cruz is more acceptable to the party establishment than Trump?

      • efgoldman says:

        Can someone explain the basis for the assumption that Cruz is more acceptable to the party establishment than Trump?

        Lesser of two weevils?
        Already a Senator?
        The triumph of hope over experience?
        Deluding themselves that they can control him, at least a little?

      • Brien Jackson says:

        I…thought I did. He’s a committed Republican partisan in a way that Trump is not, and he’s an actual politician who knows how to dress his crazy up in less crass terms than Trump. Beyond that, basically the entire divide between Cruz and the establishment revolves around personal issues. If the choice is simply Cruz vs. Trump, the establishment can learn to deal with the former.

    • xq says:

      pretty clearly

      I share your belief but not your confidence in it. I think Trump could attract some Democrats no other Republican could get by attacking unpopular Republican economic policies. And many Democrats strongly disfavor immigration.

      • Brien Jackson says:

        At this point, any self-identified Democrat who would vote for Trump is probably going to vote for whomever the Republican nominee is.

        • xq says:

          What makes you so confident?

          • Brien Jackson says:

            Because it’s vastly more likely that our hypothetical person is part of the 10% or so of self-identified Democrats who always vote for the Republican than it is that superficially populist economic messages would prompt an actual Democratic partisan to vote for Trump over one of their party’s most popular national politicians.

            • xq says:

              Well, yes, the vast majority of voters have already decided the party they will vote for. The question is whether, among the small minority of voters who might be influenced by who the candidates are, whether the group that would vote for any Republican but Trump is larger or smaller than the group that would vote for Trump, but no other Republican. It’s not obvious to me which of these groups is larger. I think Trump does offer something other Republicans do not. (And remember that undecided voters tend to be ignorant of politics, so “superficial” things can matter).

            • Matt McIrvin says:

              I think there are a substantial number of people living out West who consider themselves liberals but are freaked out by Mexicans. The one of these I actually know seems to be leaning toward supporting Trump. She might not vote for a Republican other than Trump.

              However, she lives in a deep-red state, so it doesn’t matter anyway. Not sure how many of these people would be important in swing states.

    • nocutename says:

      He’d need some sort of severe economic downturn next year to have any plausible chance at winning

      Or another terrorist attack.

  13. Jeff Ryan says:

    Obviously, tea-leaf reading is about as reliable, and valid, as any other predictive model regarding Trump, but a couple of cavils: First, I seriously doubt that Trump starts with a 45% base. That is precisely the sort of old school thinking that Trump has disproven in other ways. I think 40% would be a generous figure right now. I don’t see anything that would lead to the conclusion that Trump could count on any percentage that high. He commands a plurality of a minority party, and many of his supporters aren’t serious voters. They are not the sort of Republicans who will vote the party ticket no matter what. And there is probably a not inconsiderable amount of Republicans who will vote against him in the privacy of the voting booth.

    Second, if Cruz should win Iowa (a real possibility), two things will happen: Trump’s status as frontrunner will be damaged, and he will respond like the poor loser he is. And that is something I don’t think he can get away with unscathed.

    • Brien Jackson says:

      Indeed: Cruz flips Trump’s attack pattern on its head, because a substantial portion of possible Trump voters have favorable views of Cruz.

    • Pseudonym says:

      [Trump supporters] are not the sort of Republicans who will vote the party ticket no matter what. And there is probably a not inconsiderable amount of Republicans who will vote against him in the privacy of the voting booth.

      These two points seem somewhat contradictory. Part of the potential danger of Trump in the general election is that he might be able to rely on the support of bedrock straight-ticket-Republican voters as well as expand turnout among “non-serious” voters. Is there strong evidence that base Republicans wouldn’t show up to vote for Trump, or at least vote against Hillary (or socialism)?

      • Gregor Sansa says:

        Against Hillary? Yeah, they’ll be there.

        Against socialism (ie, Bernie)? I think a non-negligible portion of Trump supporters don’t give a shit about socialism. Socialists were going to kill you in your sleep, 30 years ago; now, it’s just another word for “liberal, but not a normal politician”, which is one bad thing and one good thing, so meh. Nowadays, it’s only Mexicans, Muslims, and of course Urbans, who are gonna kill you in your sleep.

        • Pseudonym says:

          Nowadays, it’s only Mexicans, Muslims, and of course Urbans, who are gonna kill you in your sleep.

          Who do you think is going to get all those socialism bucks, in the GOP’s mind?

        • weirdnoise says:

          Sorry, but the over-55 voters, who’d even turn out to vote during a zombie apocalypse, still remember the bugaboo of USSR-style “Socialism.” The steady rightward tilt of the Boomers is the demographic cause beneath the assent of the GOP, and to them the term still has power.

        • Redwood Rhiadra says:

          Gallup’s last poll on “Will you vote for an X if they are a member of your party and you agree with them on issues” shows that 60% of the country will not vote for a socialist. Even atheists do better than that now. Even 40% of *Democrats* will refuse to vote for a socialist, every other category gets 90+% support (from Democrats).

          Your belief that “socialist” is just another word for “normal liberal” is false.

      • mijamison says:

        On the flip side of that Trump’s presence might drive massive turnout in Latino voters.
        The turnout question is one that generally seems to dog Democrats, especially in down ballot races in non-presidential years but also generally. The core of the Tea Party and the folks who seem to be showing the love to Trump are white and middle-class. It would seem that Republicans have less to be gained from higher turnouts (hence voter ID and all sorts of other voting deterrents.

    • Brian Adamson says:

      Don’t we jump too far ahead here by ignoring the doubling-up effect of an actual party ticket?

      If Cruz wins the nomination and Trump joins the ticket as Veep, that may be a coupling that attracts enough straight Republicans plus retains Trump’s core to get past the 270 EV threshold.

  14. waspuppet says:

    As for (1), this theory certainly had some initial plausibility …

    I’ll take it a step farther: I think (1) was actually true at the time he announced. I think he’s as surprised as anyone else at what’s happened since, but if he has one talent (at most) it’s to adjust to circumstances while still driving basically forward.

  15. Nick056 says:

    Trump was a Democrat until he was more than 40 years old, and then a Democrat again starting in his 50s for eight years. He has, in fact, spent most of his adult life as a registered Democrat and much less time as a Republican. So he has no history of partisan commitment or lifelong ideological immersion. And yet he’s visibly dominating the heir of the most successful conservative dynasty since John Adams and JQA.

    He’s also shrugging off competition from two Cuban Americans — men whose youth, biography and ideology should instantly render them more dynamic and more of the moment than Donald Trump. If you step back, all this is astonishing. And a deep cynicism toward the GOP electorate doesn’t make up the difference between precedent and present reality. Neither do observations about news coverage and name recognition driving poll results. His success is beyond all that.

    We need to accept that Trump is charismatic, even deeply so. He’s a natural New York talker of the kind I’ve known all my life. He covers every venomous line of attack with sweeteners about who he loves, who he respects, and who loves him — and after a while you can begin to believe him, or at least believe that he believes himself. It’s a regional, very New York style, yes, but obviously it works on a broad level just like Clintonesque Southern charm works so well. And he has an innate and profound gift for bringing out your personal weaknesses. Look at him say he likes Cruz, for example, and pat Cruz on the back — all for the effect of getting Cruz to radiate a sort of pathetically callow gratitude. Watching Cruz next to him is like watching an ambitious student basking in the praise of his demanding and difficult teacher.

    Intellectually I know Cruz could beat him, but the idea that Cruz is obviously more dangerous than Trump, electorally, comes from a very strong and, to my mind, “out of touch” bias. Cruz induces the vertigo in an audience that comes from watching someone speak a lie and decide, in the process of saying the lie, that it must be true, because it sounded rhetorically potent in his own voice. With Cruz, we are watching a man take not so much his beliefs, but his own humanity, out for a spin to see how it fits. It’s a greasy spectacle.

    Trump, meanwhile, knows three things: China, Mexico, Muslims. And he recombines them all the time, and adds a populist sheen, but Trump can basically walk away from this presentation in a heartbeat and rely on his personal charisma and ability to destroy opponents to retain his credibility even as his entire campaign shifts around him. I genuinely think he has sounded so awful and racist that many people would react to an Etch-a-Sketch with unfeigned relief, instead of incredulity.

    None of this is to say I’m calling it for Trump. But what stops him?

    • slothrop says:

      “Greasy spectacle.” Thank you.

    • Manny Kant says:

      Yeah, this seems right to me.

    • Malaclypse says:

      the most successful conservative dynasty since John Adams and JQA.

      By what reasonable standards does anyone call JQA a conservative?

      • Nick056 says:

        As a Congressman? None, I’d say. As president, though, I think it’s fair to say he and Clay could be considered conservatives, in certain respects, compared to Jackson’s democratic coalition. The simple fact that Jackson wanted to redefine the nature of presidential and democratic power where Adams wanted to uphold an older balance of affairs supports a fair description of Adams conserving a faded order and reaching back to the remnants of pre-“good feelings” rule. I mean, the white labor movement was pretty clearly Jacksonian, and Jackson was calling for the end of the electoral college whereas Adams’s inaugural warned against “being palsied by the will” of his constituents (i.e. the Democracy). This argument is significant, and I lingered over calling JQA “conservative” but you can definitely make an argument that the last president before the Jacksonian revolution is almost by nature a conservative figure.

      • wjts says:

        By misunderstanding the way John C. Calhoun became his Vice President and/or being a knee-jerk pro-Mason liberal? (I’m not entirely sure that Adams père quite qualifies as a conservative in the contemporary sense, either.)

    • Morse Code for J says:

      Let’s not also forget that a large part of the congressional Republicans despises Cruz for what he’s done since he’s come to town, e.g., the shutdown embarrassment that Cruz, quoting Cato the Younger, walked them into; fundraising for the Senate Majority Leader’s primary opponent.

      The Republicans will keep the House pretty much no matter what, until the next census is complete. Meanwhile, Cruz is probably no better than Trump in terms of his down-ticket impact on Senate races in purplish states. Why does Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan or any of these senators in competitive races work to get Cruz elected over Trump?

    • Schadenboner says:

      It’s just unfortunate we can’t convince him that Uyghurs are speaking Spanish, or we could hit the trifecta.

    • MDrew says:

      The way you talk about how Trump relates to Cruz, basically sonning him in the appearances part of the craft, I’d add that that’s how I see Cruz relating to Rubio. And the transitive property seems to apply here to me. Rubio just seems like a hopelessly naive, callow, earnest kid next to these two sharps. To me.

      That’s purely on atmospherics. On substance Cruz buries Rubio on pure ability, even if Rubio’s positions are slightly better (not even sure about that; Rubio’s more hawkish), while Trump simply opts out of the standard policy substance game.

  16. burritoboy says:

    You’re all missing the central point – because I think that no one wants to face up to what Trump means. What Trump means is that at least 15% of the American population are fascists (or are so close to fascism that you have to do lots of work to see daylight between them and full-bore fascism). We all know that that’s enough to lead to a fascist regime. Of course, random events or good luck may keep the USA from going fascist fully in the near term. (Which is a good thing but less than a sure thing.)

    But, even if the USA doesn’t go fascist soon, the fascists and the people who hope to harness them aren’t going away. Trump might not make it this cycle because of his own personality or mistakes he might make (or might have already made) or just random occurrences. But that’s secondary – a horde of potential tyrants are learning from Trump every second and, if he falters, there’s no shortage of hopefuls who will try to clinch the deal later if he can’t. Trump learned a lot from Berlusconi and Putin (and Sarkozy and UKIP to a lesser degree) and I thought at the time that other wannabe tyrants were going to pop up and imitate those leads fairly soon.

    And we know what that means: every time in the future that the economic or political situation takes a serious nose dive in the USA, there’s going to be agitation from the fascists. That means that all of our assumptions about what politics in the USA is, what economics in the USA is, has all gone out the window in the past six months.

    • NewishLawyer says:

      I think 15 percent of any nation can probably count as fascist and authoritarian. It seems like a natural number in any political landscape.

      • burritoboy says:

        That’s another type of Donald denialism. Some percentage of any population are probably closer to authoritarian than the rest of that population, which is true almost as a tautology (I’m sure that some percentage of Finns are more authoritarian compared to the rest of the Finn population, but that’s not what we’re talking about). What isn’t always true is that the fascists are united and united under one leader who seems to want to be a fascist tyrant. (Lots of authoritarians loved Goldwater, for example, but Goldwater himself wasn’t an authoritarian who wanted to become dictator.) That’s something new and dangerous in the US.

        Let’s leave aside that authoritarians aren’t necessarily fascists, and most authoritarians in US history didn’t go full-bore fascist (until now, that is.) Even the most horrific of the old-time segregationists never argued against democracy (they wanted to exclude African-Americans from that democracy but didn’t suggest that white people should be ruled under a fascist regime).

    • Spiny says:

      You’re all missing the central point – because I think that no one wants to face up to what Trump means.

      I think rather that you’re much too eager to make conclusions about what Trump means, based on polls that have little historical correlation with actual outcomes, long before anyone has actually voted for anyone. I doubt this is the first time you’ve concluded that fascism is looming in America.

  17. NewishLawyer says:

    1. I thought part of the argument against Trump was that his supporters were the WWC. These are not the older retirees that are reliable voters for the GOP and show up in every election. The WWC largely do not show up and vote.

    2. Is there any evidence that Donald Trump has a GOTV strategy or any traditional campaign network? I thought the answer was no.

  18. catclub says:

    He is both far better known and produces a far more intense response, both for and against, than the typical fall front runner for a party nomination.

    Trump’s negatives within the GOP started out super high (so that there was much comment that thus he could not win the nom), but have fallen dramatically. I bet this is the opposite of all the flash in the pan leaders in 2012.

  19. Warren Terra says:

    The simple fact is that anyone who gets a major-party nomination is a real risk to get elected, no matter how crazy they are, and while it still seems inconceivable The Donald could win the nomination, no-one has yet offered a good explanation of who’s going to beat him, and how – and the most serious candidate suggested is Cruz, who isn’t obviously any less dangerous than The Donald.

    Because I had a reasonably good first-hand seat at a critical time in my developing political consciousness, my touchstone for the notion that no matter how manifestly unsuitable a major-party nominee must be considered a real threat to win is the 1996 Governor’s Race in Washington State. Washington is a reasonably good bellweather state, leaning Democratic in Presidential years but not by an enormous margin, and 1996 was a pretty good year for the Democrats, with Bill Clinton running against nominal opposition from the remnants of Bob Dole. The Democratic nominee was Gary Locke: popular County Executive of the state’s sprawling urban region, technocratic, moderate, non-controversial. Emerging from a ridiculous eight-or-so person Republican primary was one Ellen Craswell. She was absolutely bugnuts crazy, and an incompetent campaigner to boot. Her husband became an evangelical Christian when he hallucinated a sixty-foot-tall Jesus by the highway, and her faith was confirmed when Jesus cured her cancer. She had dabbled with the Christian Identity movement, and said she wanted to have an administration of “Wise And Godly” people (she later retreated to saying they had to be Wise or Godly). She proposed selling the state’s university, with no notion of who would buy it, nor for how much. She said she’d cut taxes by a third but not touch law enforcement or education spending – two thirds of the state budget. And these were just the most memorable of her insanities!

    She was wandering around the state gibbering like a crazy person, in a year when the Democrats were favored in any case. And even so, even with all that against her, she got the endorsement of every major Republican-leading organization (including for the example the Chamber Of Commerce, even though no right-thinking business person would want this loon anywhere near the reins of power), and she got 42% of the vote, in an era that largely predated our current harshly defined partisan lines.

    So, the TL;DR version is this: you have to assume that any major-party nominee, no matter how much they appear to be an escaped mental patient, will get no less than 40-45% of the vote no matter what. Critically, that’s close enough for events and regional distribution of electoral votes to sweep them into office.

    • Hogan says:

      bellweather state

      It was a practice among sheep owners and herders to castrate a ram (making him more pliable) and then fasten a bell around his neck so that when you led him, the rest of the flock would follow the sound of the bell (and, of course, their natural leader, the one with the horns). The old word for a castrated ram is “wether.” Hence the word “bellwether.”

      /full metal pedant

      • Warren Terra says:

        I typed “bellwhether”. Google protested with a red squiggle under the word (and again this time), so I changed it to “bellweather”, which Google didn’t then object to, so far as I can recall (though it has this time, so I dunno).

    • sinclairwasright says:

      Great anecdote, and I agree about the 40 to 45% guaranteed vote floor for any major party nominee. But remember that in American presidential politics, 55% of the vote is a landslide.

      • nocutename says:

        It’s not that 40 or 45% is a good showing. It’s that it puts anyone nominated by either party dangerously close to winning. If the economy has a hiccup, or we have another terrorist attack, etc., that can easily spell doom for an incumbent party.

    • mikeSchilling says:

      She said she’d cut taxes by a third but not touch law enforcement or education spending – two thirds of the state budget.

      So tbhe math wasn’t completely crazy. Unless you want something like roads or birth certificates.

    • nocutename says:

      said she wanted to have an administration of “Wise And Godly” people (she later retreated to saying they had to be Wise or Godly)

      Hahaha, the “retreat” sounds even worse.

  20. a_paul_in_mtl says:

    Although I agree that Trump could win the nomination, I think it unlikely that he will win the general. It’s not impossible- some major scandal or downtown could sink the Democratic candidate- but it seems unlikely. But then, I think the Republican floor is closer to 40%- and that’s in a two-way contest. We don’t know how divided the Republican Party will be at the end of the nomination battle. Remember, John McCain got 45.7% of the vote in 2008. Was that really the worst a Republican candidate could have done? So Trump would have to sway a lot more swing voters than the 45% “floor” estimate would suggest. Again, not impossible, but not likely.

    • jim, some guy in iowa says:

      but at this point it looks like Trump could dominate the primaries to the point the party *isn’t* terribly divided

      long time til November tho’

      • Brien Jackson says:

        I don’t know how true that is: Trump’s negatives are pretty high, and there’s a large group within the establishment that is viscerally opposed to to Trump not just because they don’t like him or don’t think he can win, but think nominating him could be a bona fide catastrophe that cripples the entire party electorally for multiple cycles.

        • postmodulator says:

          What exactly would cripple the entire party for multiple cycles? They bogged us down in Iraq, set all our money on fire, and ceded New Orleans to floodwater, and that cost them one election cycle.

          An event that crippled them for multiple cycles would also kill some of the people commenting here.

        • jim, some guy in iowa says:

          it would depend on if Trump starts off winning, and winning big with people who don’t usually show up at republican caucuses/primaries. if (and yeah it is a yooge if at this time) Trump can pull that off without the traditional organization they might look at him differently. on the other hand these are the same people who apparently genuinely thought right up to the last moment Romney was going to win, so maybe none of that would matter

      • a_paul_in_mtl says:

        It doesn’t need to split down the middle. You just need enough people turned off by Trump for there to be a third party spoiler or a significant number of folks simply staying home. Yes, most of the Republicans would support the Republican nominee, but it doesn’t take a huge chunk of the Republican electorate to seriously compromise a candidate’s chances. Remember, even Barry Goldwater got 38% of the vote, but he lost in a landslide. I don’t expect it to be quite so lopsided this time, but there’s nothing that says Trump would get 45% of the vote. There may be some Republicans who figure, well, we’ll give the crazy folks their chance this time, so we lose this election, but we can come back with a more acceptable candidate next time. The Republicans recovered quickly after the Goldwater debacle.

        • Barry_D says:

          “There may be some Republicans who figure, well, we’ll give the crazy folks their chance this time, so we lose this election, but we can come back with a more acceptable candidate next time. The Republicans recovered quickly after the Goldwater debacle.”

          That’s no so insane, either, for the GOP leadership:

          IMHO, Clinton would face an uphill battle in ’20, especially as the MSM middle management is now the people who as junior reporters saw any story about the Clintons published with zero evidence.

          The GOP has shown itself to be quite willing and able to keep the economy strangled. And to receive no blame.

          Dubya’s and Cheney’s Middle East Adventure will prove to be as bad as the original post-WWI partition (IIRC, ‘The Pease to End All Peace’).

          The GOP SCOTUS has shown that it’s 100% on board with voter suppression; a Clinton administration would be fighting against the tide there.

          The GOP can likely keep a lock on the House through 2020, and a GOP presidential victory would keep that, and allow them to use the post-Census redistricting to gerrymander further.

          The joke is that for somebody like Rubio, their best bet would have been to hold firm on immigration pissing off Hispanics, and then run in ’20, after the GOP has hopefully calmed down a bit, and the Hispanic vote is even bigger. He’s young enough that his prime Presidential campaigning years are in the 2020’s – 2030’s.

          The only problem is SCOTUS – even a one-term Clinton presidency would result in 1-2 Democratic Justices, providing the first Democratic majority since early in Reagan’s first term.

          • Humpty-Dumpty says:

            Unless the GOP holds the Senate and simply refuses to confirm anyone. I see no evidence the party would pay any significant price for keeping SCOTUS under strength.

    • Bijan Parsia says:

      One thing about the floor, even putting aside sample size issues, is that as I understand it most understandings of presidential elections presume more or less normal campaigns. Ie, the state parties and campaign offices are fairly reasonable (though perhaps unevenly distributed), that total spend is in the right ballpark, that they all have all the airtime they care for, etc.

      If the party gives Trump enough of such a campaign (and he accepts it), then I’m pretty comfortable anticipating him having a typical Republican vote share.

      If he runs the general like he’s running the primary..then I think it’s plausible that he could tank.

  21. a_paul_in_mtl says:

    A few further points (#1 being based on my observations of online conservative commentators)

    1) Trump does indeed have a substantial and very loyal following, but it is not universal among die-hard conservatives. Indeed, some express considerable suspicion of Trump and his conservative credentials. This is understandable, given his past dalliances with the Democratic Party and his penchant for telling people what they want to hear. Will they all necessarily hold their noses and vote for him just to keep Hilary out? Most probably will, but some won’t- and in the general Trump really would need all the conservative votes he could get

    2) Why? Because, as a polarizing figure, Trump would motivate a lot of people to turn out to vote against him. Republican electoral successes tend to be predicated on low turnout, especially among more Democrat-leaning parts of the electorate.

    3) Trump’s breaks from conservative economic orthodoxy may play well among the white supporters that often vote Republican anyway, but are not really substantial enough- or emphasized enough even by him or by his campaign- to win over any elements of the Democratic coalition that has elected Obama in the last two presidential elections, because of his awfulness on race, immigration, etc. But Trump needs to win some of these people over, or for them to at least stay away from the polls. Yet indications are that they would not stay away from the polls if there was a real prospect of Trump becoming President.

    • Barry_D says:

      “ill they all necessarily hold their noses and vote for him just to keep Hilary out? Most probably will, but some won’t- and in the general Trump really would need all the conservative votes he could get”

      Yes, they would. As has been pointed out, look at 2008. The GOP had f*cked the country up, and the only question was just How Bad things were getting (answer: Very Bad).

      McCain, after pulling a miserable excuse for a campaign, pulled 47% of the vote.

      • a_paul_in_mtl says:

        Well, sure, look at 2008. Imagine if Sarah Palin had been the presidential nominee. Would she have been guaranteed 45.7% of the vote, which is what McCain got, and which is basically the 45% “floor” guaranteed to any Republican candidate? I don’t think so. What about Mike Huckabee? You can’t assume that there’s a rock solid Republican base that guarantees their candidate 45% of the vote. People often assume such things until the election when it turns out that the conventional wisdom is false.

        Now Trump does push a lot of conservative buttons, but his appeal is mainly based on personality and his willingness to say certain types of outrageous things. This creates a large, loyal base for him. It does not convince the entirety of conservative voters that he is actually any “better” from their point of view than Hilary. Yes, there are a lot of mindless partisans out there, but there are others who may be blinded by ideology in some ways but who can actually spot a phony.

        He can compensate for that by bringing in people who like what he says but don’t normally vote. But would it be enough to make up for those who will be mobilized to vote against him- broadly, the same coalition that elected Obama in the last two elections? Not likely unless the Democratic candidate is hobbled by scandal, economic crisis, some other sort of crisis…

        Which is to say it is not impossible. I just don’t assume he starts from a “floor” of 45% of the vote.

        • MDrew says:

          Imagine if Sarah Palin had been the presidential nominee. Would she have been guaranteed 45.7% of the vote, which is what McCain got, and which is basically the 45% “floor” guaranteed to any Republican candidate? I don’t think so.

          It’s bizarre to me that you don’t. She clearly would have. The party rallied to her when she was chosen & stayed rallied thru the election. The whole Game Change narrative was an ex-post phenomenon as a matter of public perception. Only the most inside insiders were voicing the deep doubts we read about a year later; the party at large was on board through the election.

  22. Major Kong says:

    I was certain it would be Jeb or Scott Walker so I’ve got nothing at this point.

    • Murc says:

      Right? Me too.

      This primary season has been batshit and it technically even hasn’t begun yet.

      Sidebar: I don’t think our campaign lengths are healthy anymore. I just looked back over some comments I was making last October about how it was manifestly way to late for Joe Biden to consider getting into the primary race, and while I stand by them, I thought “… voting didn’t even start for three and a half months, and the Presidential election itself was thirteen months away. Other civilized countries manage to not put governance on hold for a year and a half for their elections, what the fuck America.

  23. Sebastian_h says:

    I’m a bit confused about many of the assumptions about Trump’s lack of a traditional campaign structure.

    First, if he becomes the nominee won’t a number of the members of other people’s campaign structures become available to him?

    Second, if he becomes the nominee won’t most of the GOPs ground game structures become available to him?

    Third, can’t he buy some of these things?

    His “lack of ground game” might hurt his ability to be nominated, but doesn’t he get a structural ground game if he is nominated?

    • Bijan Parsia says:

      I think it’s totally possible for him to acquire a traditional campaign structure, should he become the nominee. It won’t be trivial if he doesn’t start building one up now, but it will be possible. Some parts are harder than others, as I understand it, e.g., ground game is pretty hard.

      The real question is whether he’ll go for one. He hasn’t until now. AFAIK, he’s not doing any fundraising nor spending his own money. That’s weird and it’s weird even if he’s doing so well without it. So who know what he’ll do in the general.

      • The Dark God of Time says:

        From my own experiences of involvement in a “ground game” for a local election in Santa Cruz, CA many years ago, he will need people with experience who know what they’re doing before the convention.

  24. DocAmazing says:

    I realize I live in The Bubble, and have no idea what Real Americans think or do, but I know about six Trump supporters, and four of them are just like Libertarians: they talk a great deal about their philosopher-kings, but rarely show up to vote. If my own experience holds true nationally, I expect Trump’s support to be like much of his ostensible supporters’s spiritual homeland: all hollow inside.

    • AMK says:

      Yeah my thinking is along these lines. Until the voting starts, all of this is speculation. I’m not at all surprised Trump is getting the support he’s getting, given how fed up the white nationalist voting base of the GOP is with the no-borders, plutocrat-fellating leadership. But “support” of the kind measured in polls does not neccesarily translate to support in the voting both. Everyone “supports” some people who they would never actually want in charge. 40% of GOP primary voters might “support” Trump on the issues, but pull the lever for Cruz because he seems more professional, or more like a genuine Christian or whatever. After New Years the first contests are a month away, and people who have been casually following the race will pay more attention, undecideds will pick, etc..

      Early on, I honestly thought that Trump’s gambit was to thread the needle by starting out brash, throwing the reddest meat in the field for the early debates, and hoovering up the media oxygen. Then (without changing tone) he would slowly massage his positions on immigration and Muslims toward something more like the GOP “mainstream” (border security, walls, etc.. without mass deportation and fascism) in order to make good with the donor elite and demonstrate “electability” to the party. If you consider (as I do) the establishment GOP to be at its core an elaborate tax evasion scheme, than nothing in the Trump platform is really objectionable. Obviously this hasn’t happened–Trump has done the opposite and doubled down on the crazy at every opportunity.

      • Barry_D says:

        “I’m not at all surprised Trump is getting the support he’s getting, given how fed up the white nationalist voting base of the GOP is with the no-borders, plutocrat-fellating leadership.”

        The only reason that those people resent their political leadership fellating plutocrat is that they want to do it personally.

        The GOP base has proven that it loves a hierarchical order where they get kicked and kicked hard, so long as they get to kick others below them.

  25. MacK says:

    A few points.

    First, as I have pointed out ad nauseum you cannot ignore the impact of the change in primary delegate allocation in the 2016 Republican primaries.

    • Iowa Caucuses (30 delegates): February 1, 2016 — Delegates awarded proportionally, rounded to the nearest whole number. [Percentage of total delegates allocated after Iowa 1.28%]
    • New Hampshire Primary (23 delegates, 20 bound): February 9, 2016 — Delegates awarded proportionally statewide to candidates earning at least 10% of the vote. [Percentage of total delegates allocated after NH 2.13%]
    • South Carolina Primary (50 delegates): February 20, 2016 — Delegates awarded as “winner take all” statewide and by congressional district. [Percentage of total delegates allocated after SC 4.16%]
    • Nevada Caucuses (30 delegates): February 23, 2016 — Delegates awarded proportionally [Percentage of total delegates allocated after NV 5.54%]

    Given that three of the primaries are proportional – and South Carolina can split its delegates – I do not see a clear leader after the 1st four primaries emerging. Between two and four candidates may have a share of the 5.54% of delegates.

    The there will be the early 1 March primary – Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Wyoming after which 33.38% will have been allocated – almost all proportional with a 15-20% floor. I think the delegates from this set will again flow (depending on the state) in 2-3 directions.

    The 5 March, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine which gets the awarded to 39.6% – all proportional with thresholds from 5% to 20% – again the delegates will go in several directions.

    Later you have on Super Tuesday two large primaries with proportional allocation – Missouri 52 delegates – Winner take all above 50%, otherwise winter take all by congressional district and North Carolina Primary 72 delegates – proportional.

    Second I agree with those who say Trump would never accept VP – but Cruz might.

    Third think of the mayhem if there is no candidate with 1,174 delegates by the convention – worse, consider the possibility that Trump has the larges number of delegates but is short of 1,174 – and Cruz the second highest number.

    The Republicans would be in an utter bind – as my late father would put it “with an expression like a fox eating shot off a wire fence” (something observed one harsh winter.) The establishment don’t want Trump, they don’t want Cruz, but if they try to throw it to a second or third place finisher there will be mayhem. But what happens if they end up with the worst case of all – a Trump/Cruz ticket!

    Fourth but remember a Trump/Cruz ticket is just a Clinton banana-skin away from the White House. And one thing – expect efforts at a terrorist spectacular to influence the election – and throw it to the Republicans.

  26. Barry_D says:

    “Third think of the mayhem if there is no candidate with 1,174 delegates by the convention – worse, consider the possibility that Trump has the larges number of delegates but is short of 1,174 – and Cruz the second highest number.”

    As has been pointed out, it’s been a looooooooooooooong time since there’s been a brokered convention. Any leader will have excellent bargaining power with several other factions, each of which could put him over the top, and each of which could be frozen out. I don’t know how split it’d have to be to be brokered, but at a guess it would take the front-runner to have less than 30% of the delagates.

    “Fourth but remember a Trump/Cruz ticket is just a Clinton banana-skin away from the White House. And one thing – expect efforts at a terrorist spectacular to influence the election – and throw it to the Republicans.”

    Whenever I think about Trump being the Return of Goldwater, I remember that the economy isn’t doing so well, and that the Fed’s primary job is to f*ck 80% of the working population. I note that ISIS seems to have some sophisticated leaders, and that they seem to understand Western politics. If I were them, I’d be working very hard to stage a Fall 2016 attack in the US. And it’s been clear that this doesn’t need bombs – just a half-dozen guns with large magazines, and people willing to die.

  27. wengler says:

    I sure am glad the Democrats are hiding their debates so few see them and their presumptive nominee is choosing to appear at small, private functions over anything visible. They sure know what they are doing, because Hillary will just waltz over Trump. Right guys?

    • CrunchyFrog says:

      Actually, although the DWS-led DNC is doing that for the obvious reason of trying to help Clinton (and not really trying to hide that fact either), it probably ends up benefiting the Democratic nominee.

      Keep in mind that in celebrity media there are definite swings in popularity, and it’s common for celebrities to experience a backlash in fan support if the publicity becomes oversaturated. By next summer everyone is going to be Sooooo tired of Trump and Cruz and, wow, here comes the Democratic nominee who we barely even know … let’s shift our focus to this new person.

      Something similar happened in 1992. First, remember the context: GHW Bush had a popularity rating of 90% in mid-1991 after the first Iraq war so everyone assumed he was going to be re-elected, including most of the expected Democratic candidates who sat that cycle out to wait for 1996. Clinton – barely known, and whose only national exposure was a horrible speech at the 1988 convention that got him booed off the stage for taking way too long – surged to an early lead in the polls, which collapses after the Gennifer Flowers story came out. He eventually limped to enough victories over Tsongas and the others to get the nomination, but by that point he was considered Mr Irrelevant. Meanwhile, Ross Perot tosses his hat into the ring and sucks up all of the media attention. All of the media discussion was about Perot and Bush. Oh, yeah, there’s also a Democratic candidate, because of tradition, but nevermind him.

      Then Perot drops out, temporarily, Clinton shakes things up with the Sax playing on Arsenio Hall and the MTV appearance, and suddenly he’s the fresh new face. Perot jumps back in but the focus stays on Clinton.

      We may see the same happen in 2016. I have no idea who wins the GOP party nomination, but it’s good for the Democrats that they are sucking up all of this attention now.

    • random says:

      I sure am glad the Democrats are hiding their debates so few see them and their presumptive nominee is choosing to appear at small, private functions over anything visible.

      I dunno, staying the hell out of the way while the GOP systematically alienated a large swathe of the voting population seemed to turn out okay in 2012.

      because Hillary will just waltz over Trump. Right guys?

      I would bet on it. Just getting to a Hillary-vs-Trump matchup with no major 3rd party alternative on the right is not going to be easy for them. Even if he gets there, he’s probably going to lose, the media environment is not going to be on his side. Also he has no idea what he’s talking about in the first place.

      • Davis X. Machina says:

        I sure am glad the Democrats are hiding their debates so few see them


        Or not…

        The first Democratic debate, hosted by CNN, brought in a record-breaking 15.3 million viewers. The previous record for a Democratic debate was in 2008, which saw 10.7 million viewers for a debate on ABC.

        The second Democratic debate hosted by CBS drew 8.5 million viewers, according to ratings from Nielsen.

        It was the lowest-rated primary debate this campaign season from either party, though it was the most watched show on Saturday night for broadcast television.

  28. actor212 says:

    any GOP candidate is going to start with a floor of perhaps 45% of the popular vote, and somewhere north of 100 electoral votes.

    Except Trump. Your “Donald denialism denialism” ignores the very real ceiling on his popularity. It’s been, what? Six months? How many candidates have dropped out? And yet, Trump has added a few percentage to his polling numbers, while other candidates, most notably Cruz, have seen their numbers expand geometrically.

    http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster/2016-national-gop-primary

    Trump is eating into other candidates lunch nationally, to be sure (look at Rubio. Poor Rubio.) but he’s not getting a distinct leg up on anyone, and is struggling in early primary polling for South Carolina (the real first test of the campaign in my opinion), where he hasn’t cracked 35%. Ever.

    South Carolina, you know, the state that fought the Civil War into 2015. Should be a natural for Trump.

    It seems that as a primary draws closer, Trump loses his luster.

    And then there’s his negative numbers. Trump has consistently polled at a negative 50% or better. Right now, his negatives are almost precisely the opposite of his popularity: 65%. That means, there’s no “mushy middle” when it comes to Trump: you either like him or you hate him.

    And. That’s. Just. Registered. Republicans. He polls worse among independents and Democrats.

    When you ask GOP voters for their back up choice, Ted Cruz wins the nomination hands down. Trump isn’t even on the radar (Rubio, Christie and Paul take the next three places after Cruz)

    It’s possible he could get the nomination, to be sure. Just not in this reality. It would take a massive drop off from Cruz (probably Rubio, too) by Super Tuesday, basically forcing people to hold their noses and vote for him.

    I don’t see it. I don’t see him getting the nomination. What I do see is him running a third party candidacy and basically giving Hillary a 50 state sweep.

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