The case against Trump

When it comes to analyzing polls, I’ll take Nate Silver.  For analyzing elections, I’ll still go with Alan Abramowitz.  That said, Silver make a pretty good case contra Trump:

Quite often, however, the Trump’s-really-got-a-chance! case is rooted almost entirely in polls. If nothing Trump has said so far has harmed his standing with Republicans, the argument goes, why should we expect him to fade later on?

One problem with this is that it’s not enough for Trump to merely avoid fading. Right now, he has 25 to 30 percent of the vote in polls among theroughly 25 percent of Americans who identify as Republican. (That’s something like 6 to 8 percent of the electorate overall, or about the same share of people who think the Apollo moon landings were faked.) As the rest of the field consolidates around him, Trump will need to gain additional support to win the nomination. That might not be easy, since some Trump actions that appeal to a faction of the Republican electorate may alienate the rest of it. Trump’s favorability ratings are middling among Republicans (andawful among the broader electorate).

Trump will also have to get that 25 or 30 percent to go to the polls. For now, most surveys cover Republican-leaning adults or registered voters, rather than likely voters…

But there’s another, more fundamental problem. That 25 or 30 percent of the vote isn’t really Donald Trump’s for the keeping. In fact, it doesn’t belong to any candidate. If past nomination races are any guide, the vast majority of eventual Republican voters haven’t made up their minds yet…

To repeat: This burst of attention occurs quite late — usually when voters are days or weeks away from their primary or caucus. At this point in the 2012 nomination cycle, 10 weeks before the Iowa caucuses, only 16 percent of the eventual total of Google searches had been conducted. At this point in the 2008 cycle, only 8 percent had been. Voters are still in the early stages of their information-gathering process…

So, could Trump win? We confront two stubborn facts: first, that nobody remotely like Trump has won a major-party nomination in the modern era.4And second, as is always a problem in analysis of presidential campaigns, we don’t have all that many data points, so unprecedented events can occur with some regularity. For my money, that adds up to Trump’s chances being higher than 0 but (considerably) less than 20 percent. Your mileage may vary. But you probably shouldn’t rely solely on the polls to make your case; it’s still too soon for that.

Good case.  And a fair one.  I think a bit of a wildcard is where all those Carson supporters go.  Many of them are crazy, far-right Christians who would not seem to cotton to Trump.  On the other hand, they are Republicans who have shown a willingness to support a complete whacko totally in over his head on policy.  So, Trump is a natural on that score.  Whatever happens it sure is fun to watch.

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Poor people aren’t voting against their interests; they’re just not voting

Really great piece from Alec MacGillis this weekend on Kentucky and the larger issues of people seemingly voted against their own economic interests.  But that’s not really what’s going on.  I was going to do a post where I highlighted the key parts, but Drum has already done that, so I’ll borrow his excerpt and emphases:

Using Kentucky as his case study, the question he’s addressing is why so many poor communities vote against the very policies that help them the most:

The people who most rely on the safety-net programs secured by Democrats are, by and large, not voting against their own interests by electing Republicans. Rather, they are not voting, period. They have, as voting data, surveys and my own reporting suggest, become profoundly disconnected from the political process.

The people in these communities who are voting Republican in larger proportions are those who are a notch or two up the economic ladder— the sheriff’s deputy, the teacher, the highway worker, the motel clerk, the gas station owner and the coal miner. And their growing allegiance to the Republicans is, in part, a reaction against what they perceive, among those below them on the economic ladder, as a growing dependency on the safety net, the most visible manifestation of downward mobility in their declining towns.

….These voters are consciously opting against a Democratic economic agenda that they see as bad for them and good for other people — specifically, those undeserving benefit-recipients in their midst. I’ve heard variations on this theme all over the country: people railing against the guy across the street who is collecting disability payments but is well enough to go fishing, the families using their food assistance to indulge in steaks.

….With reliance on government benefits so prevalent, it creates constant moments of friction, on very intimate terms, said Jim Cauley, a Democratic political consultant from Pike County….Where opposition to the social safety net has long been fed by the specter of undeserving inner-city African-Americans — think of Ronald Reagan’s notorious “welfare queen” — in places like Pike County it’s fueled, more and more, by people’s resentment over rising dependency they see among their own neighbors, even their own families. “It’s Cousin Bobby — ‘he’s on Oxy and he’s on the draw and we’re paying for him,’ ” Cauley said. “If you need help, no one begrudgesyou taking the program — they’re good-hearted people. It’s when you’re able-bodied and making choices not to be able-bodied.” The political upshot is plain, Cauley added. “It’s not the people on the draw that’s voting against” the Democrats, he said. “It’s everyone else.”

This helps explain a much-discussed article in the Lexington Herald-Leader a week ago. It concluded that counties with the highest number of Medicaid recipients were also the most reliable voters for Republican Matt Bevin—despite the fact that Bevin had loudly insisted that he would slash Medicaid if he won the election. It’s not that all these Medicaid recipients were voting against their self-interest. They weren’t voting one way or the other—and all the while, their slightly less-poor neighbors were voting to cut them off.

Could it really be Trump?

Paul Krugman had an email exchange on the issue with among the very smartest political scientists on elections, Alan Abramowitz.  And Abramowitz makes a good case for Trump.  I’ve bolded the arguments I find most compelling:

Here’s why I think Trump could very well end up as the nominee:

1. He’s way ahead of every other candidate now and has been in the lead or tied for the lead for a long time.

2. The only one even giving him any competition right now is Carson who is even less plausible and whose support is heavily concentrated among one (large) segment of the base—evangelicals.

3. Rubio, the great establishment hope now, is deep in third place, barely in double digits and nowhere close to Trump or Carson.

4. By far the most important thing GOP voters are looking for in a candidate is someone to “bring needed change to Washington.”

5. He is favored on almost every major issue by Republican voters including immigration and terrorism by wide margins. The current terrorism scare only helps him with Republicans. They want someone who will “bomb the shit” out of the Muslim terrorists.

6. There is clearly strong support among Republicans for deporting 11 million illegal immigrants. They don’t provide party breakdown here, but support for this is at about 40 percent among all voters so it’s got to be a lot higher than that, maybe 60 percent, among Republicans.

7. If none of the totally crazy things he’s said up until now have hurt him among Republican voters, why would any crazy things he says in the next few months hurt him?

8. He’s very strong in several of the early states right now including NH, NV and SC. And he could do very well on “Super Tuesday” with all those southern states voting. I can’t see anyone but Trump or Carson winning in Georgia right now, for example, most likely Trump.

9. And as for the idea of the GOP establishment ganging up on him and/or uniting behind another candidate like Rubio, that’s at least as likely to backfire as to work. And even if it works, what’s to stop Trump from then running as an independent?

I actually find #7 among the most compelling.  Seriously– what could he possible say at this point that would hurt him among those who currently support him despite all the utter craziness from him.

And as for Trump on the issues, Jamelle Bouie makes the case for Trump as the prototypical Republican:

On the surface, Trump is the antithesis of a traditional Republican nominee. It’s why I’ve been deeply skeptical of his chances. But look beyond Trump’s affect—his brash, “carnival barker” approach to politics—and it’s clear that, ideologically, he is the only candidate who fully fits the profile of the typical Republican nominee. Trump stands at the center of the GOP. He is the median Republican…

If Trump were a sideshow like Newt Gingrich or Herman Cain, or a factional candidate like Carson or Mike Huckabee, this wouldn’t be true. But he isn’t. More than any other candidate in this race, Trump holds beliefs and positions that appeal to each part of the Republican Party.

On national security and defense, he’s a measured hawk. He won’t invade for the sake of invading—he opposed the Iraq war, as he’ll remind you—but he’ll take the fight to the enemy, when necessary. “When you’re weak and ineffective, bad stuff does happen. And that’s what we’re seeing,” Trump said in a recent speech. His promise? To “bomb the shit” out of ISIS and capture its oil fields. All of this is in line with Republican voters—in a recent Reuters poll, 36 percent said he was best equipped to handle terrorism.

On taxes, he’s in the Republican mainstream. His tax cuts would slash rates across the board, with the largest gains for the wealthiest Americans. It goes beyond Bush’splan, in particular, to offer a lower rate for individuals and corporations. Rhetoric aside—he routinely hits hedge fund managers for paying low taxes—Trump is in line with supply-side and anti-tax conservatives who want less revenue for government programs. That said, Trump rejects cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Retirement programs—the bulk of the benefits that touch actual Republican voters—are sacrosanct. And this as well puts him in the center of the GOP as it exists…

Trump has the most trouble on social conservatism. He won’t oppose same-sex marriage—he almost certainly supports it—and until his run for president, he was pro-choice. Now, he says he’s “pro-life with exceptions” for rape, incest, and the health of the mother, which puts him out of step with anti-abortion activists but in line with a substantial minority of Republicans.

And then there’s immigration. It cuts across every other issue in the Republican Party, touching national security, the economy, and the fabric of our national culture…

Trump’s core message is on immigration. It’s the reason he’s running. He wants to close the borders to “illegals” and deport most of the 11 million unauthorized migrants to the country. “They have to go,” as he often says. If Republican elites are to the left of their voters on immigration, Trump is simpatico with the base. And it shows in polls—49 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say that Trump can best handle immigration. Fifty-five percent agree with his statement that Mexico sends people that bring “crime” and “rapists,” and 77 percent disagree with Bush’s statement that unauthorized immigration is an “act of love.” …

Yes, Trump is unacceptable to a large share of Republican voters. Yes, he has high unfavorables. But his beliefs—and especially those on immigration—draw Republicans from all sides of the party. Let’s put it this way: If Trump were more polished, if he looked and sounded more like Rubio and Bush, we would see him, correctly, as a mainstream candidate for president. Set aside his affect, and Trump sits at the center of the GOP, and that is why he’s winning. [emphasis mine]

I’m still not about to give up on Rubio (or Cruz for that matter).  And I still would not put much money on Trump, but the longer this lasts with no signs of abating, the more you truly have to take Trump seriously as the possible nominee.  And enough with the ill-fitting historical comparisons– it’s pretty clear Trump is not Herman Cain or some other short term leader who shot to the top of the polls and flamed out.  So far, Trump has shown remarkable staying power.  And we certainly know he won’t have to worry about money.

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