How does Trump lose?

Okay, nobody is giving Cruz much of a chance now.  And I think that’s mostly right, as he’s proving to be barely any more the Evangelical favorite that Huckabee and Santorum were.  Andrew Prokop with the latest polling data that is, honestly, pretty devastating for Rubio.  There’s still the March 1 Super Tuesday primaries before Florida votes on March 15, but if the results are anywhere near this, it’s sure hard to see Rubio emerging with much of any chance.  Prokop:

A lot can go wrong for Republican elites in the next few weeks of the primary. But the absolute worst-case scenario for them is if Donald Trump racks up a winning streak that culminates with him beating Marco Rubio in Florida.

Well, that’s exactly what’s on track to happen, according to a newly released poll by Quinnipiac — and it’s not even close.

This result would be utterly devastating both to Rubio’s campaign and to the Republican Party’s chances of stopping Trump. Not only would Rubio be symbolically humiliated by losing his home state, but Trump would pick up a massive delegate haul, since Florida allots all its 99 delegates to whoever comes in first place.

Overall, it’s very difficult to see how Rubio can win the nomination if he loses Florida. And it’s very difficult to see how Cruz wins if Trump beats him in the South (as Super Tuesday polls currently predict). So even though Trump likely won’t technically have clinched a majority by the time Florida votes on March 15, a Trump win there would likely mean that’s the day the nomination is all but settled.

Yep.  Honestly, if it was almost anybody but Donald Trump, we’d almost be saying, “yep, he’s almost got this thing locked up.”  I think the fact that it is Trump is the only thing keeping conventional wisdom from confirming otherwise.  As for me, no, not locked up.  Yet, based on current results and polling evidence, it’s hard to see the path where Trump doesn’t do this.  Any ordinary candidate we could even imagine them saying something totally crazy and being punished by voters.  But we know from experience that Trump is near bullet-proof in that regard.  Honestly, at this point, I think a rational analysis has to suggest Trump is a heavy, heavy favorite.  Yet, somehow, I still have a hard time believing that.

Trump after Nevada

I enjoyed this piece from James Hohmann post-Nevada looking at how Trump may be defying the conventional wisdom that has developed on him.

As someone who long-believed in “Trump’s ceiling” (though I was converted by polling data a while back), I especially liked this part:

The first is that Trump has a relatively low ceiling of support. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Trump won the Silver State with 46 percent. He beat Marco Rubio by 22 points. Ted Cruz finished a close third with 21.4 percent. As the Washington Examiner’s Byron York writes, “If he has a ceiling, at least in Nevada, it is higher than earlier thought.”

I kind of love what Seth Masket wrote on FB the other day:

Trump has a ceiling of 2̶5̶ 3̶0̶ 4̶5̶ okay 80. No way he gets above 80.

I’m also now far from convinced that whomever the top alternative may be (presumably Rubio) that this person beats Trump.  I think Trump may very well take out all comers, even if in a head-to-head matchup:

The third is that, as the field of candidates condenses, every voter who is not currently for Trump will fall in line behind whoever emerges as his alternative. Many of Cruz’s voters actually look a lot like Trump voters demographically and ideologically. It should not be treated as a given that Cruz supporters would automatically move to Rubio if it becomes a two-man race. It stands to reason that many backing the Texan might prefer Trump over the other Cuban American senator, who continues to be dogged by his role in the Gang of Eight immigration bill.

Predictwise has Trump at 72% right now.  That strikes me as not unreasonable.

Of course, one of the notable features of the race (and presumably a contributing factor to Trump’s success) is the failure of his Republican opponents to come after him hard.  The Post’s Jim Tankersley has an interesting theory on why neither Rubio or Cruz will be willing to drop out:

You can make a case that  Cruz should prefer the GOP nominate Trump instead of Rubio, or that Rubio should prefer Trump over Cruz. Cruz and Rubio are both young and both want to be president. Assuming they don’t run on the same ticket, the chances would appear low that both men will reach the White House someday. If Cruz wins the nomination and the general election, Rubio has to wait eight more years for another shot, and he probably starts that election an underdog to Cruz’s vice president. The same is true in reverse.

A Trump win very possibly shortens that wait. General election polls are notoriously unreliable at this stage in the election, but they suggest he is more likely to lose in November than Rubio or Cruz would be, creating another open primary in 2020. Even if Trump beats the Democratic nominee, he could prove ripe for a primary challenge in four years if he, say, pushed a single-payer health care plan through Congress.

In those scenarios, either Cruz or Rubio would prefer to be the second-place finisher in a three-man race that ends with Trump being nominated. It would position the runner-up well for the next contested primary, whenever that might be. It would blunt the incentives for either man to drop out.

There’s also a nice “shoot the moon” in Hearts analogy (something I never successfully pulled off).  I think there may be something to this, but I think more than anything each is convinced that somehow he is going to be the person the party unites behind to stop Trump.  Despite ever-increasing evidence to the contrary.




Trump is my fault

Okay, not me.  But people like me– political scientists who study American political parties and elections.  Really interesting theory on this from Dan Drezner, nicely summarized by Yglesias:

Especially the ones who specialize in American politics. And especially the group of political scientists who study American political parties and came to the constellation of views associated on the internet with the book The Party Decides.

Many people who’ve looked at how close Trump seems to be to capturing the nomination have concluded that the book, which argued that party elites play an incredibly important role in determining presidential nominations, is simply mistaken.

But Drezner’s hypothesis is that something more insidious happened — the book undermined itself. As he puts it, elite actors in Republican Party politics became so convinced by this line of analysis that they “concluded that they did not need to do anything to stop Trump.” And that led to the theory’s prediction — that elite actors would in fact stop Trump — being proven false…

Here’s how I would think about it: One advantage people working in physical sciences like chemistry have is that the molecules chemists study don’t read cutting-edge chemistry research and change their behavior accordingly.

Social scientists, by contrast, have to study human beings who are capable of learning from social science research and behaving in new ways in response to old research. [emphasis mine] Even worse, human beings are capable of learning from secondhand, somewhat oversimplified popularizations of social science research and behaving in new ways in response to subtle misunderstandings of that research.

Nobody ever said that the lack of establishment enthusiasm for Trump would cause him to vaporize for no reason. What the research said was that based on previous nomination battles, party leaders would settle on a broadly acceptable candidate and then equip him with the resources necessary to win. But for this to work, party leaders have to actually do things to make it happen, not just blithely assume that it will happen.

Is this what happened?  Who knows, but an interesting hypothesis.  That said, what is kind of awesome is to see just how much impact smart, thoughtful, political science can have.


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