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.


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.




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