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President Trump, President Cruz

[ 166 ] January 9, 2016 |

trump cruz

The GOP race is increasingly likely to come down to a contest between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Marco Rubio has emerged (or perhaps more accurately has not yet submerged) as the only plausible establishment candidate, but Rubio continues to underwhelm, and, unless prospective voters who have shown very little enthusiasm for him over the past eight months change their minds about him over the next eight weeks, his campaign isn’t going anywhere.

The last couple of days have brought forth another rash of “Trump won’t get the nomination” articles. Pieces in the Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard assert this without even bothering to put forth a theory as to why, unless wishing really hard that something doesn’t happen can be considered a theory. This Vox article does have a theory, and it’s an interesting one:

You don’t have to be a psychologist to understand what’s really going on with Trump. His entire career, like his campaign, has been about declaring his awesomeness and forcing others to acknowledge it. He has surrounded himself with trophy wives, sycophants, and his own name, everywhere he looks. He built a whole TV show premised on the idea that he’s a savvy, decisive business executive, harvesting obeisance from the rotating cast of supplicants. It is overcompensation on a world-historical scale.

At the root of this kind of narcissism is always the same thing: a vast, yawning chasm of need, a hunger for approval and validation that is never sated. Down there in the lizard brain, it’s fear: fear of being left out, laughed at, or looked down on, fear of never belonging, never being accepted, no matter how many towers you build.

The fear can only be calmed by validation, by accumulating visible markers of success until no one can laugh at you. There’s a submerged glacier of insecurity beneath every blowhard. (I fear that conservative primary voters, as a class, are insufficiently aware of this important fact.) . . .

The kind of persona-based, expectations-based support Trump is receiving works as long as it’s working. It wins as long as it’s winning.

But “I always win” is a brittle claim. All it takes to disprove it is a single loss.

And eventually, Trump will lose something — maybe Iowa, maybe New Hampshire, maybe just a couple of news cycles. (And make no mistake: To a winner, second place is losing.) When he’s being pressed to explain his loss, what he did wrong, do you suppose he will acknowledge error?

No. What error could there be? He can’t communicate his message any better. The message is Trump. And he’s Trump! If voters aren’t voting for him, they’re stupid.

The reactionaries who are attracted to Trump are, as numerous lines of research have demonstrated, more anxious than liberals and thus more prone to value order, stability, structure, and social hierarchy. They are highly sensitive to the pecking order and in-group/out-group distinctions.

This has served Trump’s nationalist, xenophobic campaign well, but it could come back to bite him if he becomes second man on the totem pole — or, god forbid, third. To the hierarchy-conscious, the way things work is you pay respect to the winners above you. You only punch down at the losers below.

Under attack, or in the face of skepticism or, y’know, losing, Trump’s thin skin will make him defensive and volatile. He can’t modulate, can’t do humility, can’t abide the thought of anyone above him. All his claims, all his stories, all his insults are yuge, the best you’ll find anywhere.

The same belligerence that looked like strength when Trump was on top will look defensive and bitter when he’s not. And the more doubtful or skeptical voters and the media become, the more Trump will escalate, the more his chest will puff. He doesn’t know any other strategy. He’ll enter a negative spiral as self-reinforcing as his rise has been.

Well maybe. Trump certainly seems to be an extreme example of a narcissistic personality, and it’s easy to imagine him failing to handle normal campaign adversity well, by normal evaluative standards. But the key caveat here is “normal.” There’s nothing normal about the Trump campaign, as evidenced by the fact that the sorts of “gaffes” that would normally be considered crippling or fatal for a candidate (Mexican immigrants are mostly rapists, a very popular journalist is asking him tough questions because of her menstrual cycle, almost all white murder victims are killed by the blacks, etc. etc. etc.) have only increased his poll numbers.

Sure, it’s possible that the same bluster that is working so well now will play differently after a couple of primary losses, but this theory, too, appears to feature more than a touch of wishful thinking. Trump is no doubt a raging narcissist, but he’s also a 69-year-old man who has suffered plenty of setbacks at one time or another, including bankrupt companies, failed marriages, and decades of mockery from his social betters, who have never let him forget that, in their eyes, he will always be the impossibly vulgar scion of a parvenu real estate hustler.

In short, the notion that the Trump campaign will blow up because either Trump and/or his fans won’t be able to handle the sight of him losing a couple of early primaries has some surface plausibility, but I wouldn’t want to bet on it.

Which brings us to the remarkable saga of Rafael “Ted” Cruz. Consider who Cruz was, in terms of the conventional wisdom, just a few months ago: a freshman senator, with no experience in elected office prior to 2013, who arrived in Washington and immediately alienated all the most important Republican politicians in town, by combining extreme personal arrogance with total disregard for the social niceties that are supposed to at least superficially rule life in the U.S. Senate.

Cruz is also a strident hard right ideologue, who has the charisma of a bottle of Maalox, a Canadian birth certificate, and a blatantly Spanish first and last name. In some ways, his presidential ambitions seemed, under the circumstances, to be even more unrealistic than Donald Trump’s.

What’s becoming increasingly evident is that he’s also a hell of a politician. Cruz won his Senate seat even though he was outspent by his rival in the GOP primary by nearly three to one. In one sense, he appears to be a much smarter, much soberer version of Joe McCarthy: a completely unscrupulous demagogue, who will toss out an accusation of treason whenever it might gain him a vote or three.

In another, he’s reminiscent of Richard Nixon: another charisma-challenged and widely despised man, whose intelligence, ruthlessness, and boundless ambition took him a lot further than anyone could have imagined he would go.

Right now, I’d put the odds of one of these two men being the next president of the United States at about 35%.

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  1. Morse Code for J says:

    If he wins New Hampshire and/or South Carolina, as almost all of the polls indicate that he will, that supposedly fatal belligerence starts looking like the swagger of the one Republican who can beat Clinton in the general election.

    • apogean says:

      The polling indicates that he has plurality support in the field at the present time. Given that that plurality is only 30% in NH and 40% in SC, this may change when candidates start to drop out (either before NH or after). Whether a polling lead is an indicator depends a great deal on context (for example, Hillary’s formidable majority lead is a much better indicator).

      And that’s if we handwave away questions of how predictive primary polls are, even at this late date.

      • Pat says:

        True, but I think we’ll know by Super Tuesday, when the South votes.

        And I really doubt that they will back an establishment candidate. Paul, your odds are low for one of them being the Republican candidate.

        But President? I don’t know. I can’t imagine the xenophobic right supporting Cruz after he gets hammered on his Canadian birth certificate. And Trump support peters out once you cross the Mississippi. He’s an East Coast phenomenon. His swagger doesn’t play well out West.

      • random says:

        And that’s if we handwave away questions of how predictive primary polls are, even at this late date.

        The poll leader at this point in the GOP race went on to win the nomination in every primary going back to at least Reagan. The people saying to ignore the polls because it’s too early are now the ones who are hand-waiving away historical precedent. Not that this is a normal primary anyway.

        this may change when candidates start to drop out (either before NH or after)

        Trump has been above a margin where any realistic winnowing scenario is likely to stop him from accumulating most of the pre-Super Tuesday delegates for months now. He has to actually drop in the polls to prevent him from dominating the early contests at this point.

        • apogean says:

          The poll leader at this point in the GOP race went on to win the nomination in every primary going back to at least Reagan. The people saying to ignore the polls because it’s too early are now the ones who are hand-waiving away historical precedent.

          Every contested primary back to, and including, Reagan, is a total of six. (Reagan, Bush, Dole, Bush, McCain, Romney). This is not exactly the overwhelming weight of history. And anyway, the “this time it’s different” argument cuts both ways. No Republican universally hated in the party establishment has ever won either; there’s good reason to think an overwhelming majority of non-Trump voters would break for the consensus non-Trump candidate when the others drop out.

          • random says:

            This is not exactly the overwhelming weight of history.

            That only became true when the weight of history didn’t show what these people wanted it to show.

            You’re right that 6 or 7 times in a row isn’t a guarantee it’ll happen the 8th, sure. But that’s not what anyone in the Trump Can’t Win crowd have been saying for months now.

            the “this time it’s different” argument cuts both ways.

            Agreed.

            No Republican universally hated in the party establishment has ever won either

            There is no actual causal connection between ‘liked by the party establishment’ and winning a primary. It’s not quiet rank superstition but it’s not something you want to look at as a measure either.

            Meanwhile there is a very, very, very, very, very clear and very direct causal relationship between ‘primary voters consistently saying they prefer you by a 15-20 point margin’ and winning a primary.

  2. AMK says:

    If Trump loses, it will be because his support will fail to materialize in a big way—because it was never really there in the first place. If he can’t win any of the first three states, he’ll be effectively out long before any self-inflicted “death spiral” aesthetic becomes a factor.

  3. kayden says:

    35% percent is super high. I’m starting to panic. Can’t imagine either Cruz or Trump as the most powerful man in the world.

    • Ormond says:

      Don’t worry. If either of them wins, a big chunk of the power and influence the US wields will evaporate in one way or another. Or, worry. Because the rest of the remaining US power is mostly military and both of them have the emotional intelligence of children.

    • apogean says:

      It’s extremely high and also wrong. Betting markets, which I’d argue are overly bullish, have 20%.

      • RabbitIslandHermit says:

        Yep. Can we please stop the chicken little liberalism already? I’m not saying President Trump or Cruz is impossible, but both are as unlikely as any Republican candidate could be. The former has insulted every group outside of the Republican base repeatedly and offensively, the latter is less charismatic than Nixon, is hated by every insider, and is so far-right that even our awful media will probably let up on the “both sides” bullshit for a bit.

        I don’t think Clinton’s a particularly strong candidate but she has been vetted to hell and back. Only shot either of these clowns have is some kind of economic catastrophe or major terrorist attack.

        • efgoldman says:

          Yep. Can we please stop the chicken little liberalism already? I’m not saying President Trump or Cruz is impossible, but both are as unlikely as any Republican candidate could be.

          We also keep discussing these Republiklowns as if the nominee gets to run in a vacuum, essentially unopposed. You can be damned sure that both Dems, and the party apparatus, are collecting klown klips and kwotations from every one of the klowns in the klown kar, and will use whatever any of them said (Huckabee? Snarly?) against the official klown nominee.

    • Lurker says:

      The interesting question is whether Hillary Clinton can actually ever reach presidency. There is a pretty clear current of right-wing thought that militaries for a coup. The Bundy militia is a visible example but there are other, more refined spokesmen around, too.

      If Trump were to lose to Clinton, it would be rather apparent that Democrats will get a majority in the SCOTUS. The risk of an attempted coup would be high.

      • Mudge says:

        Sure glad we are using Chemtrails to prevent this…

      • apogean says:

        That’s ridiculous. The military, which surely would have to participate in a coup or at least tacitly condone it, has broad bipartisan support and extremely high social prestige, and therefore very strongly committed to the status quo. Leaving aside the decision-making of the people involved, the power of tradition and social norms, etc, even from a completely cynical perspective this is an outlandish claim.

        • Nobdy says:

          There was no hint of a coup under Bill Clinton.

          There was no hint of a coup under Obama, who had Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state.

          The idea that the military would enact a coup under Hillary is insane. In what substantive way that the military cares about is she any different from Bill or Obama?

      • AMK says:

        I would have thought the militia coup was imminent when the Kenyan Muslim Socialist was re-elected by his minions of fraudulent voters….if it didn’t happen then, it’s not going to happen when the rich white grandma and her Bubba husband (re)ascend the office.

      • kayden says:

        Why wasn’t there a huge risk of a military coup when the first Negro won in 2008? I assume that a White woman who is moderately progressive is much less scary to White T’Baggers than a Kenyan, Muslim Communist.

        • NonyNony says:

          Oh please. “Everyone knows” Hillary Clinton is a Ballbreaking, Amazonian Lesbian Communist.

          (Doesn’t mean that there’s more chance of a coup, but let’s not kid ourselves. Within two years Gopers will be whining about how much farther left Clinton is than either Obama or her husband no matter what the reality is.)

  4. Mudge says:

    You say, “Cruz is also a strident hard right ideologue, who has the charisma of a bottle of Maalox,..” yet when I open the comments the ad is for Miralax…you are undercutting your sponsors.

  5. klhoughton says:

    Right now, I’d put the odds of one of these two men being the next president of the United States at about 35%.

    So would you offer 2:1? Because I’m thinking you’re being pessimistic by at least 5-10% here, considering that the two primary candidates on the other side are septuagenarians who carry more baggage than OJ ran past in those old Hertz commercials.

  6. Warren Terra says:

    I’m skeptical of this constant refrain that any loss at the polls will puncture Trump’s balloon and send him spiraling to nothing. His entire campaign is about appealing to the resentments of under-educated White folks who see themselves as the put-upon underdogs robbed of their rightful expectations. It’s possible a loss could help him to connect with them on a more visceral level, appeal to their shared narrative.

    • mijamison says:

      Exactly. Unless the loss is absolutely horrible the guy who spent several years perfecting his birther rant will find a way to argue there was some sort of conspiracy to hold him back. Every time his campaign has looked like it was faltering he’s started up with the “party elites are out to get me”.
      Trump’s supporters are largely angry and prone to a narrative that says they are being prevented from succeeding by either elites or all those crappy foreigners. Easy for Trump to spin a loss, especially if it looks in any way that party elites are ganging up on him into a new reason to keep the crusade going.

    • Morat says:

      Yeah, I buy that Trump is probably toast if he really gets blown out in the first few states. But AFAIK the most likely outcome now is that he finishes second after Cruz in Iowa and wins NH outright. That ain’t a problem to spin.

      I don’t think his fans expect him to win every state.

    • Anon21 says:

      That’s not the plausible mechanism. The plausible mechanism is that he stops dominating the information environment as the winners and high finishers from among the viable nominees get press coverage for finishing high in the primaries.

      Trump’s supposed lead is a mirage, based solely on the extremely disproportionate share of coverage he’s enjoyed. Take that away, and he will deflate very quickly.

  7. apogean says:

    As a liberal, thinking that Trump has high odds at the nomination is pleasing to believe because of how poorly it speaks of the average Republican primary voter. Just because a conclusion is motivated doesn’t mean it’s wrong, but it means we should be very skeptical. I’m still skeptical.

    • weirdnoise says:

      If more of the GOP votes for Cruz it won’t make me feel any better. Trump gives them an emotional high, quite troublesome given the blatant bigotry of what he says. But Cruz clearly believes in a radical right agenda, and is much more focused on it. Somehow, I’m not as worried about a candidate who spouts bullshit that may or may not have a serious agenda under it and someone who clearly does.

      • tsam says:

        Yes–Trump is an old time huckster. Cruz is a true believer, and those fuckers are SCARY. I’ll take a bullshit artist over a profoundly driven psycho any day. (Which is not to say that Trump’s incitements and slanderous bullshit aren’t dangerous as well)

        • Ktotwf says:

          Any sane Dem is cheering for Trump in the primary, tbh. Not just because he can’t win short of Jesus descending bodily from Heaven and ordering all true believers to vote Trump, but because Trump will almost certainly be more moderate in actual practice than Cruz.

    • mijamison says:

      My fear is that with Trump or Cruz as nominee that the sort of scenarios that could swing the election could actually put one of them in the White House.
      Clinton would seem to be the clear favorite but a major terrorist attack or some unforeseen economic meltdown with six or eight weeks of the election could get enough people scared enough to make the election very close. Throw in the paranoia machine on the Right in terms of claiming voting abuse and the results could be very, very ugly.

      • catclub says:

        Has there ever been a scandal or economic collapse within weeks of the election that has (credibly) changed the outcome? I cannot think of any.

        I would have no idea for the 19th century.

        • SatanicPanic says:

          The economic collapse in 2008 was pretty close to the election. I don’t think it changed the outcome at all.

          • GFW says:

            Agreed – I think it solidified the result. The election was starting to break Obama’s way after the (R) convention bump and initial Palin mania turned into a bust. Then the economic collapse hammered a bunch of nails into the McCain campaign’s coffin. It’s *possible* but highly doubtful that the election could have gone the other way if not for the financial crisis.

  8. Brien Jackson says:

    I think the political problem is, if Cruz beats Trump in Iowa, it’s just not at all clear how Trump goes about attacking him from behind. Cruz is every bit as right wig, if not moreso than Trump, and is certainly palatable to the sort of right-wing activists/media figures who Trump ultimatley counts on for a degree of party legitimacy. Couple that with the erosion in support Trump will see simply because he’s not “a winner” (and especially if he has a Dean like debacle and finishes 4th or 5th in Iowa) and I just don’t see how Trump goes about staunching the bleeding of losing supporters to Cruz.

    • AMK says:

      Lots of people expect Cruz to win Iowa, even though the latest polls show him only a few points ahead of Trump. Trump doesn’t have to win there, but he has to get within a margin of bluster, and he has to win New Hampshire or South Carolina. Failure to do that and he’s cooked.

    • Pat says:

      Easy. Trump goes birther on Cruz. He hammers him as an over-educated snob, an arugula eating weenie, a pretender to the right-wing agenda.

      Your mistake is in thinking that Trump has to worry about policy. He doesn’t. He’s a performance artist.

  9. Ktotwf says:

    Am I right in thinking that Trump, being a pandering demagogue, is infinitely less frightening than the intelligent, steely eyed crypto-fascist freak Ted Cruz? I mean, I don’t believe any of them believe in anything, but I am convinced that Cruz would act on what he pretends to believe in while I think Trump would probably spend more time in the oval office engaging in narcissistic posturing than actually enacting anything he has promised during his primary campaign.

    I’m not convinced, despite dire warnings from Serious People that Trump can beat HIllary ever, at all. Cruz, meanwhile may look outmatched now, but he may well have a puncher’s chance.

    • Hercules Mulligan says:

      Agreed. Also, Cruz, far more than Trump, will get a media makeover if he wins the nomination. We’ll see months of “moderate, reasonable Ted” pieces. It’s already happening on a personal level; every story about him includes a reference to his sunny disposition and has at least one joke he’s come up with.

    • AMK says:

      President Trump will take an active interest in policy long enough to make sure his own taxes are cut and his kids are appointed ambassadors, then spend the rest of his time interviewing stewardesses for Air Force One. He’ll have a Cheneyish Prime Minister figure to handle any actual governing work…..scary, but not Ted Cruz declares America for Jesus scary.

    • Gregor Sansa says:

      Depends who you are. As someone with a Guatemalan daughter, I fear Trump more… that is, should he win. But the thing is, there are enough Latinos with similar reasons to go further out of their way to prevent Trump from winning, that he has no chance.

  10. Dennis Orphen says:

    If either Trump or Cruz wins the general, many people will be wearing Maalox mustaches.

  11. slothrop says:

    There is no way that HRC can beat Cruz. Sanders can beat Cruz, though.

    • Hogan says:

      If only we’d had Sanders in 1980, we could have avoided all this unpleasantness.

    • tsam says:

      What? That’s a pretty bizarre claim.

      • slothrop says:

        Look at the RCP numbers. HRC guarantees a low-turnout, while pathetically racing towards Cruz’s position on just about everything other than SoCon issues. I would be shocked if Cruz isn’t the next President.

        • Warren Terra says:

          You being shocked is a very minor bonus, but I’ll take it.

        • MobiusKlein says:

          Such as:
          Health care? Nope.
          Climate Change? Nope.
          Tax policy? Nope.

          Seems you are not thinking straight here.

          • slothrop says:

            Americans don’t really care about climate change, compared to everybody else – so it’s unlikely that this issue will influence the outcome of the election – this is particularly true with respect to the strong possibility of a weak economy heading into the general election.

            I don’t think healthcare reform inspires voters – as far as I can tell, Cruz denounces ACA but has not provided an alternative, because he doesn’t have to.

            Taxes are too wonky from HRC.

            It will be about fear, fear, immigration. And fear.

            • LosGatosCA says:

              Stock up on your Dependz, sounds like you’re going to need it.

              • slothrop says:

                You supply another support for my claim–that people who can vote who also wear diapers, are most likely those people to vote for the person most likely to remove all those diaper subsidies.

                • LosGatosCA says:

                  Another drunk posting event at LGM?

                • efgoldman says:

                  You’re just an ABC (Anybody But Clinton) bot. Just go in the corner over there, suck your thumb, and stew in your own juices while the grownups talk.

            • Murc says:

              Americans don’t really care about climate change, compared to everybody else – so it’s unlikely that this issue will influence the outcome of the election – this is particularly true with respect to the strong possibility of a weak economy heading into the general election.

              This is some powerful goalpost moving. First Hillary Clinton was racing towards Cruz’ position on “everything” except social issues. When presented with a list of issues on which that isn’t true, you claim they’re irrelevant.

              That’s not the sign of an honest interlocutor.

            • MobiusKlein says:

              just a quick 3. I’ll bet we can come up with a few more.

              It’s a bit Naderite to imagine no real difference.

        • LosGatosCA says:

          Shocking if Cruz is not elected? Of course.

          Also shocking if the Washington Racial slurs don’t win the Super Bowl.

          The Vince Foster money is definitely on Cruz. So you have to respect that.

    • Warren Terra says:

      Since you can see the future, got any stock tips?

  12. osceola says:

    Said this before at LGM, gonna say it again — Cruz has a bio that touches a lot of the GOP constituencies. His wife is an officer at Goldman Sachs (the Big Money Boyz), his father’s a crackpot preacher, his Ivy League and successful law career gets him cred with the “conservative intellectual” crowd.

    I’d just add that he was on Tavis Smiley’s PBS show and said that, as much as he opposes Obama, the guy ran a brilliant 2008 campaign and Cruz has studied it as a model for his own. He has ground game in Iowa (and likely other states) that Trump for all his poll numbers may not have.

    Finally, as for the fact that nobody likes him, that won’t matter if he’s the nominee. Republican voters will hold back the vomit rising up through their throats and back him over the Democrat.

    Be worried about this guy. Seriously.

    • tsam says:

      We are–and I’d also bet that when the right wing media blitz falls in behind Cruz (assuming he won the nomination), he’ll be viewed as a conservative messiah by Republican voters.

    • LosGatosCA says:

      All true, but not necessarily relevant.

      The tribal cult is going to back the chief. If Cruz gets the nom he’s got 47% in his pocket – cult members are not going to bolt because …. It’s not viscerally possible. They joined the cult out of irrationality, they aren’t going to leave because of irrationality, or any reason, whatsoever.

      All your points are just the rationale that will be used by the 47% to explain why he was the best guy for the job all along.

    • Murc says:

      Finally, as for the fact that nobody likes him, that won’t matter if he’s the nominee. Republican voters will hold back the vomit rising up through their throats and back him over the Democrat.

      Nobody has ever claimed that “nobody” likes Cruz.

      Comments about Cruz’s unlikability are always in the context of people who either know him personally or have to work with him professionally. Those people loathe him. He seems genuinely unlikable in those capacities.

      But voters don’t have to know him personally. Cruz won a contested primary in which he was massively outspent.

      You can be plenty good at getting people to vote for you while being personally dislikable.

      • LosGatosCA says:

        To be fair the primary was in Texas.

        Just saying.

        • LosGatosCA says:

          Luger lost in Indiana.

          A tea partier won the primary then lost to Reid in Nevada.

          A witch won the primary in Delaware.

          Mr Legitimate Rape won the primary in Missouri

          The difference in those states was that the Democratic Party could compete.

          Texas not so much.

        • random says:

          This can’t be pointed out enough.

          To date there is tons of evidence that Ted Cruz is a complete blithering idiot when it comes to national-level politics and the only evidence to the contrary is one open Senate primary in TX.

      • Jadzia says:

        Interestingly, I have a lifelong friend who knows Cruz well (personally and professionally) and actually DOES like him. Said friend is very conservative, but neither crazy nor unlikable.

    • Manny Kant says:

      But Cruz can’t win with just people who voted for Romney last time.

    • random says:

      OTOH his only real political success consists of him winning a primary for an open Senate seat when he had endorsements from every right-wing radio host in the country.

      Other than that its just a series of him setting dumpsters on fire and then running away and pretending he had nothing to do with them. The man is a delusional political moron and shouldn’t be mistaken for someone who knows what he’s talking about more than half the time.

    • MacK says:

      Absolutely – put an (r) beside the name of an axe murdering pedophile in the General and a most Republicans woukd vote for in – and that includes the independents who are really Republican- for gods sake they reelected Nixon and Dubya. Spread a few bullshit stories about the Democrat (swift boat) and they will think – “but an axe is ok, and the child was sexually precocious – so its not that bad.”

  13. PaulB says:

    Paul’s guesstimate of a 35% chance that Trump or Cruz will win in November sounds about right. All the polls that ask will you vote for R or D, without mentioning a specific candidate consistently come up tied. If you allow for a different Republican nominee and give Hillary a 55% or so chance of defeating these two candidates, you get around 35%. Folks I know that are involved in national politics worry greatly that Hillary is a weaker candidate than people think she should be.

    • Amanda in the South Bay says:

      “Folks I know that are involved in national politics “-WTF does this mean? Are these people too secretive to give their names? Is there something secret you know that we don’t? Citation needed.

    • LosGatosCA says:

      Totally disagree – 80% chance one of these two guys are the nominee, 20% chance (high) that Hillary loses. The math is .8 * .2 = 16%

      The 20% chance of the Republican nominee winning is mainly due to material external events overcoming fundamentals of demographics and electoral college working against them.

      • Anon21 says:

        Totally disagree – 80% chance one of these two guys are the nominee

        No, absolutely not. Trump: still 0%. People here, including Paul, are vastly overrating the influence that GOP primary voters have on the nomination process. If all you are is a voter, you are a follower, and you will be led.

        Cruz: maybe 30 or 40%. It all depends on how soon the bulk of party insiders decide who their candidate is.

        The 20% chance of the Republican nominee winning is mainly due to material external events overcoming fundamentals of demographics and electoral college working against them.
        Reply

        Also wrong. The general election is a tossup. If Cruz is the nominee and other factors remain as they are, it’s slightly Dem-favored–somewhere in the 52 to 55% range, maybe.

        • random says:

          Trump: still 0%. People here, including Paul, are vastly overrating the influence that GOP primary voters have on the nomination process.

          LOL, no. The primary voters in the GOP actually do get to decide who will be the candidate. It’s likely that Establishment backing follows voter support as often as it leads it.

          If all you are is a voter, you are a follower, and you will be led.

          The RWA Theory doesn’t help you here because it predicts that RWA-followers are likely to line up behind Trump. The degree to which Trump fits the profile of an RWA-leader is ludicrous. His picture should be on the wikipedia page for it.

          Cruz: maybe 30 or 40%. It all depends on how soon the bulk of party insiders decide who their candidate is.

          We’re several months (if not years) past the point where serious people are talking about ‘party insiders’ or some kind of virtually non-existent ‘GOP Establishment’ having any real level of control over their own elected officials, much less their voters.

          The general election is a tossup. If Cruz is the nominee and other factors remain as they are, it’s slightly Dem-favored–somewhere in the 52 to 55% range, maybe.

          Even with an Establishment candidate the GOP’s chances in the EC are worse than that. If you have a Cruz or a Trump its basically impossible.

          • weirdnoise says:

            The “GOP Establishment” sure did a bang-up job with JEB!.

          • Anon21 says:

            LOL, no. The primary voters in the GOP actually do get to decide who will be the candidate. It’s likely that Establishment backing follows voter support as often as it leads it.

            Sure. And the way they decide, every cycle, is that they vote for whom they are told to vote. So far, party insiders haven’t yet decided who that is, but once voting starts, they will force the candidates who didn’t finish in the top 3 or 4 to drop out, and then they will have a candidate. At that point, within the right-wing media where these voters get their news, all one will hear is about how Marco Bush is the only true conservative in the race, while Donald Trump is pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, contributed money to Bill Clinton. The consequences are very predictable.

            Trump will not be the nominee under any circumstance. If he skips the next debate and the roof falls in, wiping out the rest of the field, back comes Scott Walker, or Mitch Daniels, or whoever, and the exact same process will be implemented. You cannot win a nomination when the people who constitute the entire apparatus and activist core of the party oppose you.

        • LosGatosCA says:

          The % of the vote a party will get in the election is not = to the probability that they will win.

          If it’s an 80% probability that a party will get 50.1% of the electoral college then the probability that they will win the election is 80%, not 50.1%.

          It does not even matter if they get 50.1% of the popular vote or not.

          • Anon21 says:

            True. But given the considerable uncertainty surrounding the 2016 fundamentals and the magnitude of any penalty for perceived ideological extremism, I still don’t think you can make Clinton more than a 55%-ish favorite in a hypothetical matchup with Cruz. At least not this many months before the election.

  14. Nutella says:

    Ridiculously minor point, I know, but isn’t it weird that a very rich guy who gets in front of cameras and audiences all the time doesn’t wear suits that fit? I don’t expect fashion sense from Cruz, but going out in public in a suit coat that looks like he borrowed it from a much larger and taller man is odd.

    • Ktotwf says:

      He probably figured that with the turkey neck Grandpa Munster look things couldn’t get any worse regardless of what he wore.

    • Just_Dropping_By says:

      Trump reportedly buys suits one size larger than his actual size to make him look bigger and more intimidating. Basically it’s a threat display.

    • DAS says:

      Republicans tend not to wear well-fitting suits. For instance, even though he wore suits that were the correct size, GW Bush’s suits were never particularly well tailored; compare, for example, how his suits fit with how well tailored Obama’s suits are. I guess Nixon’s sense of fashion continues to influence the GOP: but while Nixon was the world’s poorest corporate attorney, most other Republicans in high office have enough money to dress better … they simply don’t. It’s part of the image, just like Woody Allen spends $$$$$ for designer rumpled clothes or Televangelists dress like used car salesmen.

  15. Ktotwf says:

    Very few people seem to be commenting on the fact that Trump has made his cred as a nominee by being basically a soft white nationalist. Cruz is Hispanic.

    How long before Trump starts calling him Rafael at debates? He is already playing the BIrther card.

    I can’t see Cruz really winning over a lot of the disgruntled racist whites who have powered Trump thus far.

    • MacK says:

      I think you need to realise that hispanics do not regard Cubans as hispanic. The Cubans for the most part do not see themselves as hispanic and happily discriminate against south of the border, non-peninsular hispanics, while most non-cuban hispanics don’t see the Cubans as hispanic.

      There is a lot of ressons for this. The Cubans have had a special status in immigration, have received special federal loans, been welcomed with open arms and have rarely faced discrimination. Part of that may be because the vast majority of the Cuban refugees present themselves as peninsular, i.e., descendants of European and Spanish colonists – and indeed they are. Very few cuban migrants to the US are black, metizo or anything other than initially Spanish speaking whites.

      By contrast the vast majority of hispanics in the US are to a lesser or greater degree of partially native american descent – they are not just Spanish speaking, they are brown. They face racial descrimination and explotation, including in Florida from the Cubans. They do not get immigration rights automatically – they are treated as unwelcome interlopers.

      To put it simply, other than on the census, federal contracting and a college application Cuban does not equal hispanic.

  16. Yankee says:

    35% for 2016, you mean? What odds for 2020?

    • John Revolta says:

      For the love of GOD, let’s at least wait until November before we start worrying about 2020.

      • Gregor Sansa says:

        I think 2020 is a good reason to support Sanders in the primary. Hillary will likely win, and by 2020 people will be tired of 12 years of continuity… of a kind that Sanders, if he could win, would break.

        • efgoldman says:

          of a kind that Sanders, if he could win, would break.

          Unlikely. He’ll be 78 by then.

        • John Revolta says:

          What have I ever done to you?

          Also, in 2020 Sanders will be 79 years old. Get a goddamn grip.

        • Warren Terra says:

          I’m all for supporting Sanders in the primary, in the expectation Clinton will win the nomination and the Presidency, because we need more progressive momentum and any promising Sanders results or even just enthusiasm can only encourage this.

          On the other hand: the notion that after 12 years of Democratic Presidents the Democratic primary electorate will get dyspeptic and overthrow the incumbent President in favor of the 80 year old dude she beat four years before – that’s just nuts. It’s never happened.

          • MacK says:

            Sanders making a serious run for the nomination makes Hillary work for it – which is a good thing – in 2008 she did a Martha Coakly and there were/are worrying signs she’s doing it again.

          • Ronan says:

            Why do you want Hillary to win the nomination? Because she’d be a more effective President? Have more chance of beating the Republican nominee? Or just because she will?

            • Warren Terra says:

              I’m not in love with the idea of a Clinton Presidency, or for that matter a Clinton Candidacy. But I don’t dread the prospects, either. I may not greatly admire her as a progressive, but I respect her and I think she’d do OK.

              More to the point, I don’t take Sanders seriously in the primaries, as a general-election candidate, nor particularly as a President.

  17. keta says:

    I’m disappointed that the Michael Gerson piece wasn’t cited here. Gerson contends that if Trump wins the nomination it would “rip the heart out of the Republican party.”

    Trump would deface the GOP beyond recognition…
    Trump is disqualified for the presidency by his erratic temperament, his ignorance about public affairs and his scary sympathy for authoritarianism. But for me, and I suspect for many, the largest problem is that Trump would make the GOP the party of racial and religious exclusion.

    Of course, a Cruz nomination would just mean (yet more) rejigging of the Republican brand:

    Cruz’s nomination would represent the victory of the hard right — religious right and tea party factions — within the Republican coalition. After he loses, the ideological struggles within the GOP would go on.

    It continually amazes me that clueless half-wits with proven track records of half-wit cluelessness are given pulpits from which to pump out their not-a-clue halfwittedness. Seriously, I dare you to read Gerson and wonder what fucking world he lives in.

    • LosGatosCA says:

      make the GOP the party of racial and religious exclusion.

      Cult member has no idea what the goals of the cult are. I think that’s usually the case.

      I guess Gerson left out exclusion based on sexual orientation, monetary advantages at birth, and proponents of womens’ reproductive freedom, because he just didn’t think of it at the column deadline.

      • DAS says:

        I think that Gerson knows exactly what the goals of the GOP are: maintain the plutocracy via policies that benefit the American aristocracy. Exclusionary and divisive ideology is a way to reach the GOP’s goals. The problem with Trump is that his support indicates that the GOP’s actual goals are not as popular as “even the liberal” media tries to get us to believe; what’s popular is the divisiveness and proto-fascism.

    • efgoldman says:

      It continually amazes me that clueless half-wits with proven track records of half-wit cluelessness are given pulpits from which to pump out their not-a-clue halfwittedness.

      Shorter Gerson: “But he’s not one of us!

      • tuffsnotenuff says:

        Trump is mimicking Rush Limbaugh. Phrase for phrase, slogan for slogan. How is his success with Limbaugh’s audience a surprise?

        Hole is a hole is a hole.

        Not exactly
        Night town.
        Night town a glass.
        Color mahogany.
        Color mahogany center.
        Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.
        Loveliness extreme.
        Extra gaiters.
        Loveliness extreme.
        Sweetest ice-cream.

  18. mojrim says:

    Nicely done, Paul. Seriously.

  19. efgoldman says:

    In another, he’s reminiscent of Richard Nixon: another charisma-challenged and widely despised man

    Ah, but by ’68, when he actually got nominated and elected, Tricksie Dicksie Nixie had spent years traveling the GOP rubber chicken circuit, speaking, campagning, and fund raising for pretty much anyone who asked. He brought in a lot of political IOUs which came due at nomination time. People might not have liked him personally, but he was a powerhouse politically, unlike Tailgunner Teddy, who alienates everyone he comes within a Texas mile of.

  20. Nick056 says:

    The Vox logic baffles me. All Trump as to say is: we had a lot of support in Iowa, they’re great people, Ted Cruz won. Well, Iowa picked Rick Santorum in 2012 and Mike Huckabee in 2008. We’re gonna win in NH. We’re gonna win in SC. This race — I was supposed to be long gone by now, almost won a contest I want even supposed to be in, but I had great results in Iowa and I’m going to win in NH, where I lead in every poll.

    That’s it. Done. The idea that, by being second in a state that doesn’t pick GOP winners, he dooms his campaign, is wish fulfillment. It’s basically saying: the scales will fall from their eyes.

    • random says:

      Agreed, the Vox piece is incredibly bad and requires you to ignore almost every component of Trump’s appeal as well as most of his personal biography. (Trump is unlikely to be the type of narcissist who deep down is actually really insecure because his ‘lizard brain’ somehow didn’t have its basic needs assured since birth. He’s the other, worse kind of narcissist).

    • RabbitIslandHermit says:

      Sure, but who knows if Trump is capable of such grace. He’s already insulted Iowa voters (despite that clearly having no political upside), doesn’t seem unlikely that he’ll pitch a fit if he loses.

  21. AuRevoirGopher says:

    Count me out of all the hand-wringing and worrying on this thread. The only thing that makes American politics enjoyable is the outbursts of carnival barker madness, and the Republican battle of 2016 promises to be the greatest, looniest contest of all time. How can you not look forward to this? Would you rather have boring old Mitt Romney back? I will be glued to the TV every primary night and praying for Cruz/Trump victories and the subsequent Schadenfreude as the GOP spirals down.

  22. tuffsnotenuff says:

    True, Trump got his campaign manager from the Koch brothers’ machine. But that doesn’t mean that he is acceptable to the other long-term interests inside the Republican Party.

    What happens when they wake up to the levels of narcissism and Palinesque ignorance that Trump presents ???

    First, will they have him assassinated? As a last resort? Second, apart from the DuPont PFOA dumpers and such as the Dalkon Corp IUD makers, what part of the GOP is crazy enough to stick with this creep over Granny Clinton ???

  23. Dr. Acula says:

    I see that Alan Grayson is now engaging in Cruz birtherism. I really wish that guy would shut the fuck up and go away.

  24. MacK says:

    I think Paul is overestimating the likelihood of either Trump or Cruz winning the general election. However the primary is more complicated animal animal. You have to take into account the effect of so many state primaries being required to have proportional primaries before March 15. This means that the likelihood of a contested convention – that is to say what some people call a brokered convention is a lot higher than it has been for many decades.

    That said Hillary Clinton, the presumptive nominee, is a weak candidate with some real deficits. Just to list a few:

    1. She is simply not good at campaigning – she was the presumptive nominee in 2008 and lost to an obscure first term senator. Cruz is a creep, but he is good at campaigning – face it.

    2. She performs especially poorly when she is the presumptive nominee – taking her win for granted – it’s what she did in 2008 and you have to be afraid she’ll do it today – especially if faced with a “can’t win” Republican nominee – what if she does “forget to run” like she did in 2008?

    3. Her choice of advisors is driven by credentialism – and is uniformly awful. That killed her too in 2008.

    4. She has a “tin ear” for public perceptions (cf “Bill and I were dead broke leaving the White House.”)

    5. She deals with personal controversy (including the fake ones) badly – e.g., the bullshit e-mail controversy.

    6. She is 69 (which is not ancient) which actuarily raises the risk of something happening to her healthwise between now and November.

    7. She’s a woman – yep I said it. I have no objection to a woman president, it’s about time. But a lot of Americans will object (just as they have not got over a black president.) Being a woman may help Hillary, but it will also hurt Hillary as a condidate – the question is, for those to whom her gender matters, will it help more than it hurts? Does crossing that rubicon matter more than the risk of a President Trump or Cruz, who would be awful for women (though that may be a big factor in this election.)

    I think at this point the most likely Republican is Trump or Cruz; the only other possibility is that both are well short of 1/2 the delegates at the convention and a third candidate, Rubio or Bush has enough to be credible and the establishment brokers that candidate. Any Republican would be a weak candidate – but don’t discount Hillary’s weaknesses, we are already seeing 2-5.

    • MacK says:

      Oh and on my question “Does crossing that rubicon matter more than the risk of a President Trump or Cruz, who would be awful for women (though that may be a big factor in this election.)”

      There is a ready answer – what non-woman Democratlooks like a convincing candidate (and no I do’t think Bernie Sanders is more electable.) That’s it right now for the Democrats, Hillary and Sanders. They are not the greatest candidates (in electoral terms) but they are way better than Trump and Cruz – unless Hillary does a Martha Coakley – which to be brutally honest, is pretty well what she did in 2008 (and what !Jeb! did in these primaries.)

    • an obscure first term senator

      Who gave the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic convention, and from that point on was considered a potential future president by party insiders and the rank and file. And who had written a bestselling book in 2006 based on that address.

      For that matter, Clinton was favored to be a frontrunner, but she was not the presumptive nominee. You can tell this because there were a lot of candidates in the primary. She’s the presumptive nominee this time, and the field is almost empty.

      Obama was an extremely appealing candidate with an unmatched campaign apparatus, and Clinton ended up going a lot of rounds with him. I cannot comprehend how you can square that with her not being a good campaigner.

      • MacK says:

        I’m going to say this in very simple terms (for simpletons) I want to see Hillary win the election! Got that….

        But only simpletons deny that she is a flawed candidate. In 2008 she ran against Obama-who? He gave a speech at a convention 4 years earlier – wow, Mr. High Profile. Any sensible handicapper would have made, and indeed did make Hillary the prohibitive favorite and the black first time Senator an also-ran,

        Hillary was not as appealing as Obama – the first woman…the wife of a president who had seen a long economic expansion, are you kidding…

        She made a mess of her primary run in 2008 – for reasons that have not gone away. Deluding yourself does not change or remove Hillary’s weaknesses as a candidate – recognizing them and getting ahead of them does, maybe, on a good day, with a following wind and a crap Republican nominee.

  25. ep11 says:

    The single most frightening remark on this thread is that Ted Cruz is studying the Obama 2008 campaign.

    But so has Hillary.

    In my recollection, when I made phone calls for Obama in early Sept 2008, there were a number of largely Republican voters who had picked up the media narrative John McCain Is Erratic. This was prior to the Lehman Bros fail, so the erratic John McCain story, brought on by the Palin pick, only intensified after that. These voters were considering voting for Obama as a more steady bet in helming the ship of state. I’m not claiming there were a lot of these voters, only that the Obama campaign had identified them for me to talk to. And only in the purplist of states.

    There must be a much larger contingent of folks who would prefer to not have to vote for Hillary, but would do so to prevent Donald Trump from steering the ship of state. We won’t hear about them until later on, if Trump gets the nom.

    But Ted Cruz, he’s gonna polish himself up so that he’s not all that scary.

    This is scary.

  26. […] only thing I would quibble over in this rundown of the state of play in the GOP primary is that to my jaded cynical eyes no matter who wins the Republican primary their odds of winning […]

  27. anon1 says:

    Another Robert Penn Warren novel, only better. It still has a ways to go, however, to be as good as the live Watergate hearings with Sen Baker being interviewed with a Le Carre book in hand. No one can top that image.
    The best part now is that they shoot it live and there are no retakes. It’s all good I tell ya.

    Ten more months….ten….not nine….or two….but ten.

  28. […] the risk of eventually looking deeply ridiculous, I’m going to have to depart from Paul (and to some extent from Scott) regarding Trump’s candidacy. At this point, I’d rate the […]

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