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.


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