How do the Republicans defeat Trump?

Seth Masket with the simple answer– the primaries.  Nice post on the matter:

Trump’s candidacy does not seem to be flaming out as expected. With less than two months until voting and delegate selections begin, what is the party supposed to do?

Now, to be clear, this isn’t a new problem for either party. There have occasionally been candidates with some hold on public opinion and access to money who have nonetheless been unacceptable to party insiders, and those people have gone on to lose the primaries and caucuses. The 2012 cycle was full of such people. But Trump is different, and the lack of party support simply hasn’t hurt him (and may even be helping him)…

The key thing party insiders typically do to maintain control over the party’s nomination is to form a united front behind a broadly acceptable candidate. It wasn’t enough in 2012 for party elites to say, “We don’t like Newt Gingrich.” They had to say, “We like Mitt Romney.” This is all part of what’s broadly known as the invisible primary, an informal process to winnow the field of candidates long before the formal elections start taking place.

Thus far, however, party elites have been unable to coordinate on a candidate. Endorsements have been slowly trickling in and are largely divided among several candidates. An unfortunate consequence of having so many high-quality candidates in the field is that it’s harder for everyone to agree on a favorite…

The party’s inability to coordinate on an alternative to Trump is the reason this race remains so bizarre and volatile. There’s certainly still time to coordinate, but not much. The party seems to have abandoned the idea that it can form a united front prior to the primaries and caucuses, and will instead use those primaries and caucuses to find a champion.

This isn’t without precedent. Indeed, we’ve seen some hints in recent cycles of parties using the early primaries and caucuses to get some evidence about candidate strengths…

Judging from recent history, it seems likely that a number of candidates still in the race will drop out in mid- to late January, as it becomes clear that they have little chance of placing well in either Iowa or New Hampshire…

Let’s say one of the other three candidates (Cruz?) drops out, and Trump goes into New Hampshire again with 30 percent support. But this time, either Bush or Rubio could get more than that. That contest has proportional delegate allocation, so Trump still gets some delegates but is deprived of the victory he expected.

Short version– the “not Trump” vote is still very much divided.  Based on history, we have strong reason to suspect that the “not Trump” will be able to consolidate behind a single candidate after said candidate proves himself in early primaries.  Once that happens, Trump is toast.  Or so we’ll see :-).

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

8 Responses to How do the Republicans defeat Trump?

  1. ohwilleke says:

    The Denver Post ran an analysis from the Washington Post today on its front pages comparing Trump to Wallace.

  2. R, Jenrette says:

    Democrats could informally organize too. Wherever there are open primaries and where the likely Democratic candidate has a wide lead, Democrats could decide who the easiest Republican to defeat is and many could vote for that candidate in the Republican primary.
    To make that easier, the Dems could all agree to support the candidate with the wide lead ahead of the primaries.
    Dirty trick maybe, but it’s legal. Of course it would take super organization so it’s pretty unlikely.
    That possibility is one reason why I don’t like open primaries.

    • Steve Greene says:

      This is not a new idea and it has happened in the past. The truth is the evidence is it is almost never in sufficiently large numbers to affect things. There’s just not enough people who want to vote not just strategically, but for a candidate they really don’t like.

      • Jon K says:

        remember 2008? Operation Chaos?? Rush Limbaugh tried this in 2008. I did a quick google and came up with this:
        “Strategic voting in open primaries: evidence from Rush Limbaugh’s ‘operation chaos’”
        Posted on September 9, 2011 7:43 am by Rick Hasen

        E. Frank Stephenson has written this article for Public Choice. Here is the abstract:

        Open primaries create the possibility of strategic crossover voting. On his March 3, 2008 program and subsequent broadcasts, radio personality Rush Limbaugh called on his listeners to extend the Democratic presidential contest by crossing over to vote for Sen. Hillary Clinton. Using voter registration data from North Carolina and election return data from Indiana, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania (states with open, semi-closed, and closed primaries, respectively), I find no evidence of a Limbaugh-motivated switch in political party registration or of a large or statistically significant Limbaugh-motivated increase in voting for Sen. Clinton.

      • Steve Greene says:

        I’ve done some consulting work for a state political party (not entirely clear what I’m allowed to say about it) where I examined this issue extensively. I should figure out what I’m allowed to say :-).

      • Jon K says:

        if rush couldn’t make it work with his audience of more than 20 million followers then i don’t see anyone else making it happen either…

      • Mika says:

        The French sort of did it today. Socialists and conservatives dislike Front National so much that they sort of united to stop FN gaining any ground in regional elections, for example:

        “The governing Socialists ordered their candidates to withdraw from the regions where Ms Le Pen and Ms Marechal-Le Pen were running and to vote for the right to block their candidacies.”

  3. Jon K says:

    i should probably confess that I personally know at least one narcoleptic, former Limbaugh listener who actually thought this was a reasonable idea back in 2008. he does have the excuse of feeling like he had been awake for 72 hours after being awake for 45 minutes, but he still should have known better….

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