Photo of the day

Snowy owl caught on a traffic camera in Montreal.  So cool.

This curious snow owl looks straight at Transport Quebec's traffic camera along Highway 40 at Sources Boulevard.

This curious snow owl looks straight at Transport Quebec’s traffic camera along Highway 40 at Sources Boulevard. (Transport Quebec)

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How Trump ultimately fails

I had a conversation with a semi-random stranger in the gym yesterday and he wanted my take on Trump.  Today I read Ross Douthat’s column and it’s pretty much the same argument I made yesterday.  So, now I can just paste from Douthat.  Short version, first– Trump is near his ceiling (I really do believe that) and once there are far fewer competitors that ceiling becomes a major handicap.  30% is great with 7 other contenders, not so great with 1 or 2.

Trump leads all the national polls, and he keeps busting through what look like ceilings. But (unlike Dean) he doesn’t lead in Iowa, and his ceiling there looks very stable: He’s been hovering around 25 percent since September, and he’s never broken 30 percent.

He does lead in New Hampshire, but there, too, his poll numbers have been relatively flat since August, and he tops out around 30 percent. Likewise South Carolina, where his polling has hovered in the 30 percent to 35 percent range since he grabbed the spotlight last summer.

There is no credible scenario in which a consistent 30 percent of the vote will deliver the delegates required to be the Republican nominee. So for Trump to lose, he doesn’t actually have to collapse; he just has to fail to expand his support. [emphasis mine] And in the states where candidates are actually campaigning, voters are paying the most attention, and the polling screens for likely voters are tightening, he hasn’t expanded his support meaningfully since he first climbed into the lead…

But if we treat New Hampshire as a plausible template for outcomes in those states, then Trump needs Rubio and Chris Christie and Jeb Bush to all stay in the race and for all of them to keep winning exactly 15 percent of the vote; then and only then would his 30 percent be sufficient to prevail.

That seems less than unlikely, indeed nearly impossible. At best, two of those three men will be left as viable candidates after New Hampshire, and the Republican establishment (such as it is) will simply have to pick one to rally behind by the end of March.

Now, I’m not going to argue with any certainty that this is going to happen.  But I do think that based on what we know– 1) polls show Trump is quite unliked, even among Republicans, among those not currently supporting him; and 2) history shows that serious candidates under-performing drop off rapidly after New Hampshire– Trump will likely be little more than a great anecdote I tell my classes for years and years.  Now, I’ve been humbled enough by Trump that I’m still quite willing to entertain the notion of him winning the nomination, but I do think it is unlikely.

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