Thursday, March 17, 2016

Can Trump defeat Hillary?

As promised, it is now time to start thinking about November.  My standard 2016 disclaimer applies:  anything can happen this year because rules no longer exist, but scenarios in which Trump loses the nomination now exist only in 2016 disclaimer territory.  Barring photographic evidence of dalliances with his daughter, or something similar, Trump is the nominee.  And things get weird.  Can Trump win?  Here are the considerations.

1)  The economy.  Journalists like to cover every twist and turn of a campaign as though such minor events matter.  They don't.  When the economy grows, the party in control of the White House has a very strong tendency to keep it.  In a weak economy, the party in control loses.  Fourth quarter GDP grown in 2015 was 1%.  That's borderline territory.  It wouldn't take much for the economy to gain steam, in which case Trump is toast, and it wouldn't take much to push the economy into recession, in which case the Republican Party could nominate an indicted ham sandwich and still win.  Oh, and the legal case against Trump University is a civil case, not a criminal case, so technically, Trump isn't even indicted.

Effect:  To make everything close.  Weird stuff can happen.

2)  Ideology.  Moderates do better than extremists.  Hillary is roughly in the middle of her party.  When she was in the Senate, her voting record was roughly as liberal as her co-Senator, Chuck Schumer.  On the "NOMINATE" scale, ranging from -1 to +1, both were around -.4.  For comparison purposes, Bernie is around -.7.  Yes, he is an extremist.

This is the part where whiny Bernie Sanders worshippers insist that in their favorite European country, Bernie wouldn't be considered an extremist.  Which might be relevant if this weren't the United States of America.  David Duke wouldn't be considered an extremist in 1850 Mississippi.  Nobody cares how extreme Bernie would be in another country.  Get over it, Bernie fans.  But I digress.

So, no big extremism penalty for Hillary.  What about Trump?  This is where his ideological incoherence might work for him.  He isn't a moderate.  He changes his positions at the drop of a dime.  Based on that, "independent" voters (who are, by the way, the least informed voters) might think of him as a moderate.

Effect:  potentially a Trump benefit.

3)  Race.  Latinos and African Americans don't like Trump.  They really, really don't like Trump.  Turnout among minorities will probably go way up, and those are going to be Hillary voters.  The reference point is California in the 1990's.  In 1994, California Governor Pete Wilson was facing a tough campaign.  He built his reelection campaign around a state ballot proposition-- Prop. 187-- which centered on blocking services to illegal immigrants.  He won his reelection, but had the effect of mobilizing Latinos to a previously-unseen level.  And it made Latinos very solidly Democratic in California.  California has been reliably Democratic since, with only Arnie being able to win as a Republican.

The catch is that delay.  Wilson won in 1994.  The effect of heavy Latino mobilization didn't materialize until 1996.

So, how fast can the mobilization efforts work?  We'll see.

Effect:  probably against Trump, depending on how quickly minority mobilization efforts get going.

4)  Trump supporters' enthusiasm(s).

Trump supporters like him.  They really, really like him.  They'll turn out.  This is the inverse of (3).  Basic math:  number of votes = number of supporters * turnout rate.  Minorities are, by definition, less than 50%.  So, will Trump's supporters be more enthusiastic in favor of him than non-whites will be about defeating him?  We'll see.

Effect:  for Trump, but take in context of (3).

5)  Money

Trump has money.  A lot.  Did you know that?  Probably not.  It isn't something he likes to brag about.  He isn't one for bragging.

Money doesn't matter in presidential elections.  Quit whining about.

In 2008, McCain took matching funds, Obama didn't.  Obama outspent McCain by somewhere around 4 to 1 in the general election.  And he got right about what we would expect given a tanking economy and a Republican president.

Money will be irrelevant.  Stop this nonsensical, uninformed, "Citizens United" bullshit.  Money won't matter.  And by the way, even in a pre-Citizens United world, rich idiots could spend as much of their own money on their campaigns as they wanted.  Buckley v. Valeo.  1976.  Learn it.  Know it.

Effect:  none.

How does all this add up?  I have no clue.  We should all spend some time thinking about it.

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