Friday, July 15, 2016

Will/Would Pence help Trump?

To borrow from The Donald, thanks for congratulating me for being right about Pence.

Yup, it looks like I called it, way back on April 10.  Of course, the circumstances under which Trump used that phrasing are eerily similar to those that have delayed the formal announcement, hence my poor taste, but the very, very few readers of The Unmutual Political Blog have come to expect poor taste and pretentiousness.  And jazz, which will go up later today, of course, but that's just more pretentiousness.

Anyway, once the formal announcement is made, I should have a piece up at The Conversation about why Trump was constrained to choose Pence by disunity within the party.  The gist is that for all Trump's bluster, he doesn't have much agency.  I'll link to it when it goes up.  Unless Trump picks someone else, in which case I will dine on braised crow, perhaps with some asparagus in garlic olive oil.  What kind of wine goes with crow?  Maybe I'll ask the guys who wrote The Party Decides...

What the piece doesn't cover is whether or not Pence will matter.

He won't.  As I have written before here when focusing on HRC and her considerations, vice presidential nominees don't matter very much, according to the political science research.  Nominees can add a few points at most in their home states, but that's about it, and a Republican who can't win Indiana is toast anyway.  Whatever problems Trump is really having, Pence won't help.

Let's go through this in more careful, social science-y terms.  That is, after all, supposedly what I do.  The basic problem is a disconnect between where Trump is in the polls and where he should be.  As I keep writing, my reference model for presidential elections is Alan Abramowitz's "Time for a Change" model, based on GDP growth, presidential approval, and whether or not one party has won two in a row.  The Democrats have won two in a row, the economy is growing tepidly, and Obama is slightly net-positive.  According to Abramowitz, that puts Republicans at a slight favorite to win, although Alan himself thinks HRC will win.  The polls back Alan's guess rather than his model.

And the polls do too. Over at RealClearPolitics, HRC's lead in the polling average is down to 2.7 points on average, which is down noticeably from the 4 to 5 point range I have been seeing for a while, but still a lead.  So, Trump is under-performing.

The trouble is, why?  The Pence pick is based on the premise that he needs to shore up his base, but that probably isn't actually true.  As you will see when my piece in The Conversation goes up, the disunity I see in the Republican Party is mostly at the elite level, among people like George Will.

Do I have any evidence that Republican voters will abandon Trump?  Nope.  I got nothin'.  Because I think they will mostly stick with him.  Voters are partisans, and they vote their party.  The piece over at The Conversation is about how Trump and his advisors think about the process, not about how the process actually works.  I think that they have convinced themselves that Republican voters are more prone to abandon the party than they really are, and that they have done so based on disunity at the elite level (e.g. George Will).  As a result, they have made a decision that seems rational, but overstates the problem of disunity at the mass level.

Republican voters will stick with Trump, for the most part.  I suspect that Trump's bigger problems will be with that thin sliver of true independents, and high levels of mobilization of Latinos based on his immigration-based campaign.  Those will be HRC's bigger assets, and Trump's bigger liabilities.  A vice presidential pick couldn't help that anyway because, as I said, vice presidential picks just don't matter very much.

I couldn't fit all that in my piece at The Conversation.  They wanted it within 800 words.  Here, I have no one to edit me, so I can say whatever the hell I want.  Also, I can say "hell."

And I really tried not to say, "pick a peck of pickled Pence," but I just couldn't resist any longer...

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