Photo of the day

From a recent photos of the day gallery from the Telegraph:

The shape of Mount Hood is cast as a shadow as the sun rises through clouds near Portland, Oregon

The shape of Mount Hood is cast as a shadow as the sun rises through clouds near Portland, OregonPicture: Mike Zacchino/The Oregonian via AP

Trump and the GOP

Two really great columns recently on how Trump is the apotheosis of the modern Republican Party.  First, Robert Kagan:

Let’s be clear: Trump is no fluke. Nor is he hijacking the Republican Party or the conservative movement, if there is such a thing. He is, rather, the party’s creation, its Frankenstein’s monster, brought to life by the party, fed by the party and now made strong enough to destroy its maker. Was it not the party’s wild obstructionism — the repeated threats to shut down the government over policy and legislative disagreements, the persistent calls for nullification of Supreme Court decisions, the insistence that compromise was betrayal, the internal coups against party leaders who refused to join the general demolition — that taught Republican voters that government, institutions, political traditions, party leadership and even parties themselves were things to be overthrown, evaded, ignored, insulted, laughed at? [all emphases mine] Was it not Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), among others, who set this tone and thereby cleared the way for someone even more irreverent, so that now, in a most unenjoyable irony, Cruz, along with the rest of the party, must fall to the purer version of himself, a less ideologically encumbered anarcho-revolutionary? This would not be the first revolution that devoured itself…

Then there was the party’s accommodation to and exploitation of the bigotry in its ranks. No, the majority of Republicans are not bigots. But they have certainly been enablers. Who began the attack on immigrants — legal and illegal — long before Trump arrived on the scene and made it his premier issue? Who frightened Mitt Romney into selling his soul in 2012, talking of “self-deportation” to get himself right with the party’s anti-immigrant forces? Who opposed any plausible means of dealing with the genuine problem of illegal immigration, forcing Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to cower, abandon his principles — and his own immigration legislation — lest he be driven from the presidential race before it had even begun? It was not Trump. It was not even party yahoos. It was Republican Party pundits and intellectuals, trying to harness populist passions and perhaps deal a blow to any legislation for which President Obama might possibly claim even partial credit. What did Trump do but pick up where they left off, tapping the well-primed gusher of popular anger, xenophobia and, yes, bigotry that the party had already unleashed?

Oh man, good stuff.  And sadly, very much spot-on.  And a great take from Josh Marshall that hits similar points:

This is a fairly good description of what the media is now wrongly defining as the GOP’s ‘Trump problem’, only in this case the problem isn’t programming debt. It’s a build up of what we might call ‘hate debt’ and ‘nonsense debt’ that has been growing up for years.

This crystallized for me after the last GOP debate when Trump told Chris Cuomo in a post-debate interview that the IRS might be coming after him because he’s a “strong Christian.” Set aside for the moment how this unchurched libertine was able to rebrand himself as a “strong Christian.” What about the preposterous claim that he is being persecuted by the IRS because he is a devout member of the country’s dominant religion? Republicans simply aren’t in any position to criticize this ludicrous claim because they have spent years telling their voters that this sort of thing happens all the time – to Christians, conservatives, everyone the liberals at the IRS hate. And this, of course, is just one example of hate and nonsense debt coming due. Shift gears now and they’re “RINOs.” …

Until now GOP elites have managed to maintain a balance or needle-threading sleight of hand wherein the GOP had become the functional equivalent of a European rightist party (UKIP or French National Front) yet masqueraded as a conventional center-right party (UK Conservatives or French Republicans) – all under the go-along leadership of the people The Washington Posteditorial page imagines run the GOP. But the set up was already under extreme strain, as evidenced by the 2011 debt default drama, the 2013 Cruz shutdown and the end of the Boehner Speakership in 2015. Trump is very little different from the average candidate Republicans elected in 2010 and 2014, in terms of radical views and extreme rhetoric. All he’s done is take the actual GOP issue package, turn it up to eleven and put it on a high speed collision course with RNC headquarters smack in the middle of presidential election year.

Yes!  Trump is not something new and totally different, rather he just far more nakedly represents what the contemporary Republican Party has so sadly devolved into.

What Donald Trump knows about his supporters

They don’t like Black people.  Sure, there’s plenty more to it, but that part is true.  Somehow, I expect his refusal to disavow the support of the KKK of all things will still not hurt him.

Oh, and on a totally related note, check out this graph from a post on the relationship between white ethnocentrism and support for various Republican candidates:


The graph below shows that, among Republicans, ethnocentrism was more strongly related to support for Trump than to support for the other GOP candidates. Republicans with the highest levels of ethnocentrism using this measure were about 15 points more favorable toward Trump, compared with those who had the lowest levels of ethnocentrism.

Are you a racist if you support Trump?  No.  Are racists a lot more likely to support Trump?  Hell yes.

Photo of the day

This gallery of nature photographs from The Scottish Seabird Nature Photography Awards (via the Telegraph, of course) is awesome.  This wasn’t even the winner.

The tenth annual Scottish Seabird Centre Nature Photography Awards

Nature’s Foragers: Kingfisher With Fish by Bob Humphreys Picture: Bob Humphreys

Quick hits (part II)

1) A nice example of how Obamacare is actually keeping people healthier (and saving us all money).

2) Great to see that real progress is being made against the horrible-ness that is shark fin soup.

3) Benjamin Wallace-Wells on the problem with “the lanes” analogy everybody has been using.


[Romney strategist Stuart Stevens’] view is that the political profession became obsessed, in this election cycle, with the theory that there are certain fixed “lanes” in the Republican Party—establishment, conservative, libertarian—and that each candidate’s first task is to win within his lane. (“Our theory was to dominate the establishment lane,” Jeb Bush’s strategist Mike Murphy told the Washington Post, in a postmortem. “The establishment lane turned out to be smaller than we thought it would be.”) So Bush, Cruz, Rubio, and the others have been content to fight for supremacy within smaller and smaller segments of the electorate, while Trump competes for all of the voters. Stevens disdained the lanes theory. “It’s like some mass hysteria—it’s like the tulip mania of politics,” he said. Meanwhile, “Trump is concerned with winning the election.”

4) Google doing some good for the first amendment.

5) Enough with “leadership” already.  Not everybody should be a leader.

6) Can I just say I’m not the least bit surprised that a Texas school dramatically increased recess time and saw great results.  Heck, works for the whole country of Finland.


7) David Frum on the limits of Super Pac’s.

Never has so much bought so little of what it was meant to buy. Obviously the funds expended on behalf of Jeb Bush have bought a great deal for a great many people. Even if the estimate of Mike Murphy’s take is overstated—or possibly confuses gross billings by his firm with net income to himself—the 2016 super PACs have provided princely incomes for their principals and comfortable livelihoods for hundreds more. The question that is bound to occur to super PAC donors is: “Are we being cheated?” Increasingly, super PACs look like the political world’s equivalent of hedge funds: institutions that charge vastly above-market fees to deliver sub-market returns…

But having shoved his or her way forward, how much does the politician truly benefit from the super-PAC system? The politician’s natural interest is to spend as little as possible on consultants’ fees. That’s not in the consultants’ interest, obviously. The effect of the super PAC system is to put the consultants, not the politicians, in charge of the largest pools of political money—and then to wrap those consultants’ takings in layer upon layer of non-transparency and non-accountability.

8) America’s un-American resistance to the Estate Tax.  (Though, it’s no secret; a certain political party has a lot to do with this).

9) Honestly, I’ve got too much torture in my life lately.  I’ve reading a very good novel about Mexican drug cartels.  Knew I’d run into torture there.  Also, reading some really good historical fiction about 17th century Indians and Jesuits in Canada.  Did not realize I’d run into so much torture there.  And while doing some research on Native Americans and torture, covered this gruesome article about Comanche Indians.

10) What is it with Ted Cruz and the gold standard.  Such a dumb idea.

11) Enjoyed this take on Apple vs the FBI.

12) Sandoval has said he doesn’t want the job, but nice Greg Sargent on Obama floating his name:

Only two Republican senators, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Susan Collins of Maine, were brave enough to say that they would vote on President Obama’s nominee. This is what passes for moderation in today’s G.O.P.: simply stating a willingness to do the job you were elected to do.

Unfortunately, for too many Republicans moderation now equals apostasy. These Republicans have stubbornly parked themselves so far to the right for so many years that it is hard to tell whether they can hear how deranged they sound.

The truth is they are afraid — and they should be. They know Mr. Obama has a large pool of extremely smart and thoroughly mainstream candidates from which to choose a nominee. They know that if the American people were allowed to hear such a person answer questions in a Senate hearing, they would wonder what all the fuss was about.

So Mr. McConnell and his colleagues plan to shut their doors, plug their ears and hope the public doesn’t notice. The Republican spin machine is working overtime to rationalize this behavior. Don’t be fooled. It is panic masquerading as strength

13) NYT Editorial laying into Senate Republicans on the issue.

14) Why Indiana Jones never published his research.

15) A former Scalia clerk has some not nice things to say:

Antonin Scalia generally detested science. It threatened everything he believed in. He refused to join a recent Supreme Court opinion about DNA testing because it presented the details of textbook molecular biology as fact. He could not join because he did not know such things to be true, he said. (On the other hand, he knew all about the eighteenth century. History books were trustworthy; science books were not.) Scientists should be listened to only if they supported conservative causes, for example dubious studies purporting to demonstrate that same-sex parenting is harmful to children. Scientists were also good if they helped create technologies he liked, such as oil drills and deadly weapons.

His own weapon was the poison-barbed word, and the battleground was what he once labeled the Kulturkampf, the culture war. The enemy took many forms. Women’s rights. Racial justice. Economic equality. Environmental protection. The “homosexual agenda,” as he called it. Intellectuals and universities. The questioning of authority and privilege. Ambiguity. Foreignness. Social change. Climate research. The modern world, in all its beauty and complexity and fragility.

Most of all, the enemy was to be found in judges who believe decency and compassion are central to their jobs, not weaknesses to be extinguished. Who refuse to dehumanize people and treat them as pawns in some Manichean struggle of good versus evil, us versus them. Who decline to make their intelligence and verbal gifts into instruments of cruelty and persecution and infinite scorn.

16) Nobody ever has really asked my young kids if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend (okay, they ask David now that’s actually a teenager, but that’s okay).  Nice post on how stupid it is to be asking this of the pre-school set.

17) Great Jon CohnStop calling Marco Rubio a moderate!  Simply being to the left of Ted Cruz does not make you moderate.  It just makes you not a complete off-the-deep-end extremist.

18) Really good David Brooks on today’s problem of “antipolitics.”  Really good but for one thing– somehow he writes the whole column without ever mentioning today’s nihilistic Republican party.

19) Is blind hiring the best hiring?


The Bern is over

Results in South Carolina plus current polling make it awfully clear.  Unless there’s some totally unforeseen external shock to the race, the nomination will be Hillary’s.  Credit to Bernie– he’s made far more of a good run then I expect he himself ever believed he would.  He’s kept Hillary honest and forced her to organize and run hard and probably pulled her to the left.  But the revolution will not be happening.  Here’s Nate Cohn on the SC results and what currently polling has to tell us:

She did it the same way that Mr. Obama did: with overwhelming support from black voters, who favored Mrs. Clinton over Bernie Sandersby a stunning margin of 87 to 13, according to updated exit polls — a tally that would be larger than Mr. Obama’s victory among black voters eight years earlier. They represented 62 percent of the electorate, according to exit polls, even higher than in 2008.

The result positions Mrs. Clinton for a sweep of the South in a few days on Super Tuesday and puts the burden on Mr. Sanders to post decisive victories elsewhere. If he does not — and the polls, at least so far, are not encouraging — Mrs. Clinton seems likely to amass a significant and possibly irreversible lead. [emphases mine]

For Mrs. Clinton, the path to the presidential nomination is straightforward: fight Mr. Sanders to a draw among the nonblack voters who dominate the party’s contests in many Northern and Western states, and win by huge margins among black voters, who represent about a quarter of Democratic voters nationally. They represent the majority of Democrats in the South, which will play a crucial role on Super Tuesday…

As a result, the Sanders campaign has effectively conceded the South on Super Tuesday. The campaign is not airing advertisements there, according to NBC News data. It’s instead concentrating resources in five states with far fewer black voters and far fewer delegates: Oklahoma, Minnesota, Colorado, Massachusetts and Vermont. It is a strategy that aims to maximize Mr. Sanders’s chance of winning states, but it doesn’t necessarily prevent Mrs. Clinton from running up huge delegate leads from the South.

The likelihood of a Clinton landslide in the delegate-rich South means that Mr. Sanders can’t compensate with a few narrow, feel-good wins outside the South. The thing to watch on Tuesday night is whether Mr. Sanders can win by big — even double-digit — margins in states like Minnesota or Massachusetts. The margins matter, because delegates are awarded proportionally in the Democratic nomination contest…

The polling, at least for now, says Mr. Sanders is not positioned to win by these sorts of margins. He’s in a tight race in Massachusetts. He’s in a tight race in Oklahoma, a state with a below-average black population and a large number of working-class Democrats. There is not much polling in Colorado or Minnesota, but there isn’t much evidence of a blowout there or in neighboring Wisconsin.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, predictwise agrees, as Hillary has moved from the 80’s to 95% chance of winning, which strikes me as about right for the circumstances.


Photo of the day

From In Focus photos of the week gallery:

A stray dog stands among outboard motors that were used by refugees and migrants to reach the Greek northern island of Lesbos, in Mytilene, Greece, on February 23, 2016.

Aris Messinis / AFP / Getty

There will not be a brokered Republican convention

So, I saw a comment on the blog yesterday about a brokered convention and then a Slate story last night about how this is Rubio’s desperate hope now.  Let’s be clear– not going to happen.  I feel far more sure of that than my certainty that Trump will be the nominee.

When candidates win the states, they win the delegates.  These are their delegates.  Now, there’s lots of additional complications because that’s how parties do things, but, basically, if Trump wins 99 delegates in Florida’s winner-take-all on March 15, that’s 99 (or, at least pretty close to it) people who are going to be at the Republican convention expressly to vote for Trump.  There’s no brokering there.  The only hope is that nobody has a majority of delegates come convention time.  In modern primary times, that pretty much never happens.  And, crazy as this year has been, there’s no good reason to suspect that this year should be different in that regard.

A little cold water from The Fix:

If you get the most votes, you get the most delegates, and if you get more than half the delegates, you get to run against whoever wins the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton.

It goes on with all the complicated rules and permutations.  But that sentence is the key for me.  And with so many winner-take-all delegates at stake after March 15, it’s hard to see how Trump does not take a majority of the delegates so long as he keeps winning primaries (as all the polls suggest he will).

Again, so long as Trump keeps winning primaries, there is no brokered convention.  If Trump gets that majority, there is no mechanism for Republican elites/establishment to undo the will of their primary voters.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Ezra on why Bernie’s campaign makes him worry about what kind of president he would be.

2) Ross Douthat suggests Rubio announce that Kasich would be his running mate.  Interesting, but I don’t think it would help enough.

3) Conor Friedersdorf on Trump and “political correctness.”

Trump has been running against “political correctness.” This has sometimes meant attacking taboos that prevent real discussions, foster social exclusion, and signal snobbery. One key to taking Trump down is pointing out that he is also violating norms that are essential to American democracy. And that is a different offense. Every “crazy” Trump quote may be “politically incorrect,” but those labels conflate all categories of controversial rhetoric as if their substance is equally wrong. Neither impoliteness nor tone-deafness nor crude insults are to his credit. But a pol who seeks to gain power by demonizing ethnic-minority groups and threatening their core rights is engaged in a special category of leadership failure.

Too few Americans see that distinction. And Trump benefits from their dearth of discernment. It frees him from the burden of carefully deciding which taboos ought to be challenged and which safeguard life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Instead of careful critiques, he rants off-the-cuff, knowing that the bad press will look basically the same regardless of whether he attacks Rosie O’Donnell or the taboo against torture. His supporters are as inclined as the press to treat every utterance as an undifferentiated instance of political correctness—as if the appropriate degree of political correctness is all that’s at stake this election cycle.

4) Voter registration in Oregon is now automatic and opt-out, instead of opt-in.  If you believe in a little thing called, voter participation, this is an excellent and obvious idea.

5) Speaking of voting, John Oliver’s excellent take on Voter ID laws.

6) I’m an Iphone guy, but I loved reading that the new Samsung Galaxy phone will have fewer, but larger pixels for it’s camera.  About time!  We are long past the point where the number of megapixels matters for the average photo (really, 4mp is actually great for something on a screen), but the size of those pixels really affects low-light performance.  Would love it if this is the start of a trend.

7) Friedersdorf on how the conservative movement enabled Trump.

8) And why we’re at it, Trump supporters not big fans (relatively speaking, to be fair) of a little executive order known as The Emancipation Proclamation.

9) Really enjoyed John Cassidy on the failure of Jeb!’s campaign:

At the outset, Bush had money (lots of money), name recognition, a reputation for decency, and a gubernatorial record that appealed to conservatives. But he didn’t have much else. He lacked charisma, eloquence, passion, enthusiastic supporters, and a distinctive message. In politics, you can sometimes get by without one of these things. But sallying forth without any of them is a recipe for misery.

10) There are no longer any rules on Supreme Court nominations.

11) The mayor of Ithaca, NY wants to allow heroin users to have a place to safely use heroin.  Actually, a great idea.

12) I so love the 1930’s style government posters.  Here’s some new Department of Energy posters in that style:

wind energy

13) The true meaning of coincidences.

14) On a related note, was recently trying to explain the birthday paradox to my kids and failing.  Found this good explanation.

15) Maybe giving public schools more money will actually help their performance.

16) Good take on how Flint’s water problems are what you end up getting with Republicans’ anti-government philosophy.

17) Ron Fournier on Republicans’ unwillingness to even pretend to govern:

Let’s say you hate your job, but not enough to quit. Let’s say you’re no good at your job, but not bad enough to be fired. Let’s say you’ve decided to go through the motions—punch a clock, dodge the boss, and go home. You’re faking it.

Now let’s say you’re a Republican member Congress and your job is to work with other people, pass laws, and govern. You may hate your job. You certainly aren’t getting anything done; the GOP-led Congress is dysfunctional.

And now you’re not even faking it.

18) Or, as Kristof puts it, “the party of no way.”

19) So, Trump basically called for eliminating first amendment protections for newsmedia today, but the newsmedia were far too interested in Christie to write much about it (though, they sure lit twitter up with it).

20) Say what you will about the transgender bathroom issue, but out-and-out fearmongering from Republicans is disgusting and pathetic:

House Speaker Tim Moore has emailed members asking if they would be willing to return to Raleigh for a special session aimed at overturning Charlotte’s new non-discrimination ordnance.

The Charlotte measure broadly defines how businesses must treat gay, lesbian and transgender customers, but as in other cities recently, the debate has focused on bathrooms. In particular, the ordinance would allow men and women who identify as something other than their birth gender to use the bathroom in which they are most comfortable.

Many conservatives have been outraged by the law. Gov. Pat McCrory has vowed he will seek legislative action to overturn it.

“While special sessions are costly, we cannot put a price tag on the safety of women and children,” Moore wrote to members Wednesday

Shawn Long, director of operations for LGBT advocacy group Equality NC, called Fitzgerald’s statement “fear mongering,” noting 250 cities across the U.S. have similar ordinances, including Columbia and Myrtle Beach in South Carolina.

“There have been zero incidents of any sort of a safety issue,” Long said. “The real issues come into play when you have someone who lives and presents as a female and then they’re told they have to use the men’s restroom. That’s a safety issue.”



Trump and Christie

What’s most interesting to me about Christie’s endorsement of Trump is the reaction from the media and my fellow political scientists.  This Brendan Nyhan tweet captures it (though, not just Political Science):

It is a big deal.  This is the first of (surely many) actually big-name, mainstream Republican figures (Palin is definitely not mainstream) to endorse Trump.  Symbolically, it seems to make his eventual nomination seem far more inevitable.  Some good takes from Nate Silver and Ezra Klein.  Silver:

There’s a lot that ties Christie and Trump together, however. Christie and Trump have a close personal relationship. Trump has long done business in Atlantic City and is quite popular among New Jersey Republicans. Neither Christie nor Trump is especially conservative, and they’re certainly not small-government conservatives. Both can rankle their fellow Republicans, as Christie did with his self-serving convention speech and embrace of President Obama during the 2012 campaign.

Some of this may also be plain old opportunism. Trump is the most likely Republican nominee, after all. (Or at least one of the two most likely if you’re feeling very generous to Marco Rubio.) If nominated, Trump will have to pick a running mate. And if he’s elected president, he’ll have to appoint a Cabinet. Vice President Christie or Attorney General Christie ain’t all that far-fetched…

It probably also won’t be the last major endorsement for Trump. Even if most “party elites” continue to resist Trump, a lot of Republican elected officials will be looking after their own best interests instead of the collective good of the party. Some will back Trump because he’s popular in their states. Some will be looking for opportunities within a Trump administration. Some will agree with Trump’s views on immigration or his critique of the political establishment. So there will be more of these endorsements, probably. But it isn’t surprising that Christie is one of the first.

And Ezra:

The Republican Party is facing a severe collective-action problem. It’s not clear Republicans can stop Trump at this point, but if they have any chance, it will take a tremendous mobilization — a coordinated, all-points assault like nothing a political party has managed in the modern era.

At the same time, though, the overwhelming incentive for any individual Republican power player is to defect to Trump’s side while the defection will still mean something. Endorsing Trump at a moment when Trump still needs endorsements might net you a job, a kickback, a call of appreciation, something. Endorsing Trump once he’s already the nominee is meaningless. Then you’re just a pathetic follower. A weakling. A loser...[emphasis mine]

Christie isn’t an outsider. He’s a member of the Republican establishment in good standing. He gave the keynote speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention. He was chair of the Republican Governor’s Association. He was vetted as Mitt Romney’s vice president. He is tied into the party’s think tanks, its funders, its advocacy organizations, its interest groups. His endorsement of Trump isn’t a sign that he’s changed; it’s a sign that he thinks what being a member of the Republican establishment means is changing. It used to mean endorsing Mitt Romney. Now it means endorsing Donald Trump.

 The Republican establishment is not a secret society in Washington — it’s the people who have power in the Republican Party. If Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination, the Republican establishment will quickly become people Donald Trump likes and entrusts with power. So now all the insiders who’ve fought Trump face a question: Do they hate Trump more than they love being on the inside?


Evangelicals and Trump explained

So, the real reason that Southern Evangelicals support Trump despite his blindingly obvious lack of Christian faith?  They resent Black people more than they care about Trump’s Christianity.  Political Scientist extraordinaire, Marc Hetherington, and Drew Engelhardt:

The reason Trump won South Carolina and is likely to romp to victory in the southern Super Tuesday states is the persistent importance of race in Southern politics.

Conservative racial attitudes are central to why the South went from being a solidly blue region before JFK and LBJ embraced Civil Rights to becoming a solidly red region since. Moreover, racial attitudes differ substantially between Southern evangelicals and evangelicals living elsewhere…

A lot has changed in 30 years. The average white Democrat and Republican have never before provided such divergent responses. Although Democrats have become slightly less racially resentful over time, the real change has occurred among Republicans. They have become far more racially resentful, even as the country has moved away from the worst parts of its troubled racial past. [emphases mine]

In 2016, nearly 38 percent of Republicans fell in the two most racially resentful categories, with nearly a quarter in the very most resentful one. Indeed, the two most common categories for Republicans to fall into were the two most racially resentful ones.

To us, then, it is not surprising that a candidate who is well known for questioning President Obama’s citizenship and suggested that a Black Lives Matter protester at one of his rallies be “roughed up” and said that black youths have “never done more poorly” because “there’s no spirit” would be attractive to a party that these days is dripping with racial resentment…

And evangelical Republicans? Their racial attitudes differ depending on which region they hail from, too…

In fact, among white Southern Republicans, evangelicals exhibit higher levels of racial resentment than do Southern Republicans who are not evangelicals. These results appear in the next figure. Fully 57 percent of Southern evangelicals score in the scale’s most resentful four categories, compared to 44 percent for Southern non-evangelicals…

These numbers matter when considering Super Tuesday’s consequences. Southern states constitute 428 of the 632 delegates at stake next Tuesday. Except for perhaps Texas, the strongly evangelical South is unlikely to be Cruz country, despite his evangelical-friendly message. The reason is because Donald Trump appeals on a different level to Southern evangelicals, a group that possess extraordinarily high levels of racial resentment. The result ought to be a big day for Trump, making his nomination seem even more inevitable.


There’s a 97% chance Trump is our next president

Seriously, that’s the outcome of an election prediction model from Helmut Norpoth.  Norpoth is no johnny-come-lately looking to get some press, he’s a serious political scientist who has been working on these models for decades.  I remember reading his stuff in grad school 20 years ago.  That said, I think he’s wrong.  Here’s the story:

A professor of political science at Stony Brook University has forecasted that Donald Trump has a minimum 97 percent chance of winning the general election as the Republican nominee.

Professor Helmut Norpoth’s forecast presentation took place Monday evening in the SUNY Global Center in Manhattan, which was organized by the Stony Brook Alumni Association.

Norpoth created a statistical model of presidential elections that uses a candidate’s performance in their party’s primary and patterns in the electoral cycle as predictors of the presidential vote in the general election.

Donald Trump has a 97 percent chance of defeating Hillary Clinton and a 99 percent chance of defeating Bernie Sanders in the general election, according to Norpoth’s formula.

“The bottom line is that the primary model, using also the cyclical movement, makes it almost certain that Donald Trump will be the next president,” Norpoth said, “if he’s a nominee of the [Republican] party.”

Norpoth’s primary model works for every presidential election since 1912, with the notable exception of the 1960 election. These results give the model an accuracy of 96.1 percent.

Norpoth began the presentation with an introduction of the potential matchups in the general election, including a hypothetical Sanders vs. Trump general election.

“When I started out with this kind of display a few months ago, I thought it was sort of a joke.” Norpoth said referring to Trump and Sanders, as many alumni in the audience laughed. “Well, I’ll tell you right now, it ain’t a joke anymore.”

As the presentation continued, laughter turned to silence as Norpoth forecasted a 61 percent chance of a Republican win in the general election.

This forecast was made using the electoral cycle model, which studies a pattern of voting in the presidential election that makes it less likely for an incumbent party to hold the presidency after two terms in office. The model does not assume who would be the party nominees or the conditions of the country at the time.

“You think ‘This is crazy. How can anything come up with something like that?’ ” Norpoth said “But that’s exactly the kind of equation I used to predict Bill Clinton winning in ‘96, that I used to predict that George Bush would win in 2004, and, as you remember four years ago, that Obama would win in 2012.” [emphases mine]

Sorry, Helmut, it’s crazy.  “This time is different” is typically a horrible argument.  But, safe to say, with Donald Trump, this time is different.  Here’s more:

“Trump beats Hillary 54.7 percent to 45.3 percent [of the popular vote]. This is almost too much to believe.” Norpoth said, with a few members of the audience laughing nervously. “The probability of that [outcome] is almost complete certainty, 97 percent. It’s almost ‘Take it to the bank.’ ” …

In contrast, Norpoth forecasted that a hypothetical presidential race with Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio on the Republican ticket would be a much closer race. The results showed Clinton with a 55 percent chance of winning the race against Cruz or Rubio with a 0.3 percent lead in the popular vote.

A model which has Trump beating any Democrat with near certainty, but has Hillary the likely winner over Rubio is just not a model that accurately reflects contemporary American politics.  Among other things, I strongly doubt that it properly accounts for our highly polarized age, where swing-voters hardly exist and the overwhelming majority of partisans can be counted on to support their party in the general (even if showing some dissatisfaction with the primary).

I’m anxiously awaiting some of the other election prediction experts to weigh in.  Until then, Jamelle Bouie lays out the simple journalistic, common-sense case (the one I’m going with over the political science model):

Or, as my colleague Josh Voorhees writes in a piece on Trump’s chances, “Trump has been proving politicos, pundits, and political journalists wrong for the better part of a year now. I’m not willing to count him out come fall.”

For all the above reasons, I wouldn’t count him out either. But epistemological caution shouldn’t blind us to the facts on the ground. For as much as he could win, the safe bet is that Trump would probably lose the general election, and then some…

Right now, Trump is driving up turnout in nominating contests without prompting a counter-reaction within the Republican Party. As BuzzFeed’s Adam Serwer argued, this has a lot to do with the GOP’s electorate. Put simply, the vast majority of Republican primary voters are white, and many of them hold views that aren’t far from Trump’s, even if they don’t like him. Revulsion aside, he’s not activating a real oppositon among GOP backers.

But he is activating opposition among voters writ large. Hispanic voters are fiercely anti-Trump (he has a negative 64 percent favorability rating among that group, according to a recent Univision poll), and Trump’s presence may drive millions more Latino voters to the polls to cast a ballot for the Democratic nominee. Indeed, national polling on the question is sparse, but state polling suggests massive unpopularity for Trump among Democratic constituencies…

If these issues are borne out in a general election, then Trump will have an even larger problem than negative attacks. He’ll have a negative electoral map. With abysmal ratings among blacks and Latinos, Trump is uniquely unsuited to this year’s demographics, which—all things equal—has a modest tilt toward Democrats. With Marco Rubio or John Kasich, Republicans might have a chance with minority voters. With Trump, that’s gone. To win, he would need to bring a massive influx of new white voters and create a further swing towards Republicans among existing white voters, all without alienating moderate whites or sparking counter-mobilization from nonwhites… [emphasis mine]

Yes, anything is possible. Trump could ride a reactionary wave to the White House. But not everything is probable, and the obstacles to a Trump victory are yuge. Trump worsens the GOP’s problem with minorities and single women, with no guarantee of a larger electorate to compensate for the loss. And Trump is so alien to parts of the Republican establishment that there’s a chance he could drive down GOP turnout among its most reliable voters.

We shouldn’t underrate Donald Trump, but we shouldn’t overrate him either. All things considered, he’s a loser.

Yep.  I’ve been humbled enough to not say Trump has no chance in November.  Any Republican nominee has a chance– though I’d say Trump’s is pretty much easily the worst.  But the fact is, regardless of his performance in the primaries, Trump has the makings of a historically weak general election candidate.  But, we’ll see come November.


%d bloggers like this: