Sunday, July 24, 2016

Strategic dilemmas for the Democratic convention

As the Democrats gear up for their convention, they face a dilemma.  Do they strike a more optimistic tone than the Republicans, or go full Daisy Girl?

Donald Trump's speech, like the convention, painted a bleak picture of a country in shambles, beset by unchecked enemies, with a Democratic nominee who might as well be setting the charges to blow the whole thing apart.  Conventional wisdom holds that optimism wins elections, and blessed Reagan won through optimism.  Of course, that ignores the fact that he also ran as the guy who could stand up to the existential threat of communism, which is, ya' know, kind of a bleak campaign theme, but conventional wisdom always has a whiff of bullshit to it.

My very, very few regular readers can probably guess where I stand on this.  Also, my Russian botnets.  Oh, Russian botnet!  You're the best bartender ever!  You listen, you never judge, you steal identities!  And when you think about it, that's like peddling mind-altering chemicals anyway.

Sorry, tangent.  Anyway, an optimistic convention yields HRC precisely nothing.  By the fundamentals, HRC should be losing this.  The economy is growing tepidly, Obama's approval rating is only slightly net positive, and the Democrats have won two in a row.  By Alan Abramowitz's "Time for a Change" model, which is my preferred model, the Democrats should be behind.  However, the Republicans nominated by far the most unpopular nominee since polling began.  HRC has maintained a small but consistent polling lead throughout the race.  Right now at RealClearPolitics, her lead is an average of 2 points.  Trump may have gotten a tiny boost from the convention, although it is hard to tell (I speculated earlier that convention bumps would be small to nonexistent this time around).  But, the only advantage HRC has is Donald Trump.  He regularly says racist and misogynist things, and praises people like Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Un.  He knows less than nothing about policy, and is so obviously reckless and impulsive that members of is own party, like Mark Kirk and the guy who ghost wrote The Art of the Deal say he cannot be trusted with nuclear weapons.

Hence the daisy girl ad.  The Democrats have one advantage this year:  Trump.  If they don't play the Trump card, they deserve to lose.  If they delude themselves into this notion that brightness and sunshine and optimism and kumbaya and all that shit will win over voters by contrast of visions, then they aren't paying attention.

Trump is underperforming the political science models because Trump is personally unpopular, and it's as simple as that.  If Republicans had nominated Walker or Rubio or Jeb (sorry, Jeb!), HRC would be toast.  As is, either the Democrats try to exploit that, or they don't.  HRC only wins if the very, very few swing voters walk into the ballot booth and think to themselves, "well, HRC may be Nixon without the charisma, but Trump is Hitler without the 'genius' part of 'evil genius,'" mark D, have a shower and a stiff drink, and then cry themselves to sleep at night for four years.

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