Trump may shred the Obama map

In case you haven’t felt it, the political axis that defines the two-party American system lurched with the likely nomination of Donald Trump. There has been considerable discussion about why those who have closely watched American politics for years were blind-sided by Trump’s primary election successes. The short answer is, the polls did not match historical trends or the recent political alignment, specifically of the Reagan-era conservative coalition. We ignored the polls showing a wave for Trump for the same reasons we ignored them for Herman Cain, and we failed to believe what a plurality of Republican voters were saying, both in surveys and in primary voting booths.

When both parties are stable, with nearly identical platforms as the cycle before, the election results are extremely predicable. Mitt Romney was trying to retain the 60 million McCain voters and steal a mere 4 or 5 million voters from Obama. He didn’t, and so he’s not our president. Trump, alternatively, is reshuffling the entire political deck by rejecting several central tenets of the Romney campaign, conservative foundations like free trade, interventionist foreign policy, and flatter taxes. Trump and Clinton are in the unusual position of defining not just their candidacies, but also the very identity of their parties.

Lets face it, a shake up has been needed for awhile. Union members in the Rust Belt have never been the natural allies of environmentalists, and the white south was only going to let Wall Street control the GOP for so long. However, Trump’s candidacy has divided his own house, and while Trump’s familiarity with Republican history or the Bible is questionable, most of us know what happens to a house divided. So, how does Trump plan to compete in the fall election when there are so many life-long Republicans staunchly against him? In short, he has to break Democratic Party, as well.

Trump’s electoral strategy is simple. Why do white voters without college degrees only vote 66% Republican? And why do they have such low turnout (55%)? Why don’t they turnout at 67% (equivalent to black voter turnout) and vote 75% Republican? If they did, Trump would win in a blowout. More importantly, it would turn the electoral map from one that favors Democrats to one that favors Trump.

Even if Clinton split the white college vote, which typically favors Republicans, maintained black voter turnout and support at Obama levels, and boosted the Hispanic vote from 71% to 85% Democratic, Trump still wins the election. And he does it in a very strange way, by winning Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and even flipping Minnesota and Oregon. That’s right, Trump might be competitive in Oregon under this northern strategy that forfeits Virginia, Florida, New Mexico, and even endangers Texas. Yeah, Trump’s messing with Texas. All of this without winning more votes than Hillary Clinton, and while losing millions of college educated Romney voters.

May 2016

Of course, Trump’s gambit comes with major issues. What if the entirety of rural Pennsylvania overdoes on fentanyl before the election? Or more likely, what if his central assumption is wrong? What if there isn’t much elasticity in the non-college white vote and Trump only marginally increases their Republican support, but manages to drive away the college vote in droves and rally Hispanic voters against him in record numbers? Clinton immediately becomes competitive across the Deep South, through Texas, and all the way to Utah, where Mitt Romney will all but beg his fellow Mormons to vote against Trump. In essence, if Trump’s northern strategy fails, his southern underbelly is totally exposed.

In both scenarios the total number of contested electoral votes is about half of the Electoral College, meaning a Clinton versus Trump election has the potential of expanding the map from the 11 battleground states in 2012 to twice that number. This puts Clinton in an awkward position. Anyone who has seen college debates will be familiar with the practice of spreading, or firing so many arguments in succession that it’s difficult to even understand your opponent, let alone respond to them. Trump spreads on policy issues, and when you hit him on one topic he accuses you of ignoring his real argument, which he, in that very moment, decided was the thing you didn’t mention. All while picking on you like a schoolyard bully. (As an aside, Trump dominates the schoolyard bully demographic. 100% of the vote.) The only non-moving target is Trump himself and his businesses. The whole campaign is going to be a personally offensive policy-free infomercial against democracy.

This is what we know: Trump will have to retain his positions of deporting millions of Hispanics, banning Muslims until “we figure out what the hell is going on,” and undoing America’s free trade agreements. He will add to that the very un-Republican perception of taxing the wealthy to balance the budget and a promise to increase the minimum wage. His gut will be xenophobic and nationalist (Tea Party), his words will be pro-labor (almost Sanders-like), and his persona will be a Viagra commercial on a TV station that only broadcasts golf tournaments and NASCAR races. Really, Trump’s gambit has a sublime majesty to its simplicity, in a Catilinarian kind of way.

If the election were held today, Clinton would probably win convincingly. National polls suggest the former Secretary holds a 6 percent lead, with some old and new battleground states on the map. Virginia might be the strangest state (excuse me, commonwealth) over the past 20 years. Steadily transitioning from reliably Republican to a swing state. Going back to the days of TJ and Madison, Virginia politics has been known for its polite idealists, and the Virginia gentry probably can’t stomach the Donald and will be correspondingly blue. Nevada and New Mexico with their large Hispanic populations may also be out of reach for Trump to even be competitive. But familiar battlegrounds from the Obama years like Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, and North Carolina will likely still be in play. Joining them might be some new faces, such as Texas, Pennsylvania, Maine, Arizona, Wisconsin (for real this time), and Georgia. The first thing you may notice is that Trump will need to expand his map, and it will be interesting to see if he looks toward the familiar Florida or less conventional paths like Michigan and Minnesota. As some Republicans fall in line after the convention, Trump may start to consolidate traditionally Republican states. Doubtless, it will be a fascinating election.

May 12th

Political realignments are turbulent affairs (just cycle through the electoral maps between 1960 and 1980), and they tend to yield broad but short-lived landslides. The Democratic platform is almost out of gas and the GOP is committing malpractice as an opposition party. No matter who wins in 2016 or by how much, one gets the feeling that the next president will fail legislatively in such a toxic era, be met with resounding disapproval, and have a hard time holding his or her coalition together for even a few months, let alone reelection.

New Hampshire Preview

The Wigwam

For all the poetry and prose devoted to the retail nature, measured thoughtfulness, and quant New England intellectualism of the New Hampshire Primary, the subconscious drivers of the Granite State’s behavior are blind contrarianism and regional favoritism. New Hampshire voters simply hate the idea of echoing Iowa’s results. They would rather demonstrate just how much more they know about politics than the rest of the country. They want to show that they cannot be bought by a marketing campaign or told how to vote by the political elite. New Hampshire, simply put, is the Hipster Primary.

The Country: You were right New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton really should be President.

New Hampshire: I like Hillary, totes, but in a nostalgic way. Like the first Arcade Fire album. Ever since she went on her world tour as Secretary of State, I can’t even.

The Country: What?

New Hampshire: Yeah man, I like Bernie now. Have you heard of Bernie Sanders? Probably not. He’s like that crazed unpasteurized goat cheese guy at your local farmers market that thinks everything is a conspiracy. Did you know he released a socialist spoken-word folk album in the 80’s? He also just kind of hates large complicated amorphous or integrated anything, which is why I opened my nanobrewery and ride a bicycle that shuns even moderate innovations in technology, like gears.

Bernie is going to blow the socks off Hillary in the Granite State, but it matters by how much. If Senator Sanders can win by 20%, he will drive Secretary Clinton’s total down into the 30’s (First Objective). A few percent more and Bernie will break into the 60’s (Second Objective). A 57 to 41 victory has the appearance of a solid win for Sanders, but a 60 to 38 spread looks like a bloodbath. The optics of the latter is that of a 2/3 to 1/3 advantage, and could build the perception of momentum for Sanders going into Nevada, South Carolina, and Super Tuesday. If Bernie edges into the 60’s early in the evening, expect CNN’s Wolf Blitzer to say, “Look at this, Sanders is almost doubling Clinton’s totals.” Because wolves can’t do math.

Strafford County on the border with Maine will be our bellwether. Comprising 9% of the New Hampshire electorate, Strafford reliably matches the 1st and 2nd place finishers statewide for both Democratic and Republican presidential primaries.

Strafford CountyDonald Trump will have his second shot at actually winning something and he’ll have better demographics on his side than Iowa. Incredibly, despite leading nationally and in New Hampshire among registered Republicans, Trump is not absorbing an all out assault from every other GOP candidate. Rather, the remaining field is mobbing Marco Rubio, who received the biggest Iowa bump and is trying to consolidate the GOP center. More concerning than anything, Rubio’s poor debate performance in New Hampshire showed the potency of a Bush / Christie alliance.

Bush, witty but weak wristed, and Christie, as deferential and majestic as a drunk driving a snowplow to Van Halen on high volume, easily undid Rubio’s strength of staying on message when pressed. Rubio appeared inanimate and unoriginal, unsure how to deflect the fire and ice combination of attacks. New Hampshire distributes delegates proportionally, but only to candidates that receive at least 10% of the vote. Trump will clear that bar with ease, but Rubio, Cruz, Bush, and Kasich are each capable of landing 10%, or not. Cruz is a demagogue that won’t play very well in New England and Kasich is too moderate to compete on Super Tuesday, but Bush is a real contender to unseat Rubio as the establishment candidate. Rubio almost needs to finish at least second in New Hampshire, but losing to Bush would be a mortal wound.

Can Iowa Predict the GOP Nominee?

The Wigwam

This is not one of those articles about how the winner of Iowa almost never goes on to win the GOP nomination, or how New Hampshire tends to be more predictive. The saying goes, “Iowa picks corn and New Hampshire picks the President.” Rather, we’re asking if we can build a state-by-state electorate model based on the demographic data and voting patterns in Iowa. I know what you’re thinking, “Is Iowa white enough to accurately represent the GOP electorate?” It’s hard to say. According to the Iowa entrance polls all the non-white GOP voters caucused for some candidate with the initials N.A. (whom I’ve never even heard of). .

How to Follow the Iowa Caucuses

The Wigwam

Iowa CountiesIowa sits between reliably blue states to the east and solid red states to the west. Accordingly, Iowa is divided east and west, Democratic and Republican. This makes turnout for liberal Democrats (Sanders) and moderate Republicans (Rubio and Bush) important in the city centers and eastern counties, while conservatives (Clinton, Trump, and Cruz) will generally pull in votes from the central and western rural areas of the state. In 2008, Obama swamped Clinton in eastern Iowa. Expect Sanders to similarly perform well there; however, Clinton lost many votes in central Iowa to dreamy-eyed John Edwards, a set back she does not face this time around.

The Bellwethers

Cedar and Boone counties are rural counties located next to major urban areas (major by Iowa standards), each has a population with fewer than 25% college graduates, and both had close to 50/50 Obama/Romney vote totals in 2012. Cedar registered a total of 712 votes in 2008 in the GOP caucus, a typical sample size of a public opinion poll, and Boone hauled in a whopping 1282 ballots cast. But their size means they report quickly, and their early vote totals will tell us for whom evangelical and Tea Party voters are caucusing across the state. .

What to watch in Iowa: GOP

Trump

Donald Trump needs to win or finish within 2-3% in a close second. His whole philosophy and appeal is that he is a winner:

“We’re going to win so much — win after win after win — that you’re going to be begging me: ‘Please, Mr. President, let us lose once or twice. We can’t stand it any more.’ And I’m going to say: ‘No way. We’re going to keep winning. We’re never going to lose. We’re never, ever going to lose.”

-Trump, quoted by the Washington Post

If Trump is not one of the winners Monday, well that makes him a loser, and his binary brain will explode.

Ted Cruz has the easiest night. He’ll finish first or second and be a major force with no one on his right flank. He just needs to break 20%. If he fails to do that, the establishment attacks of the past two weeks will have worked to eat away his support, and they will crescendo going into New Hampshire.

Marco Rubio needs to finish third. The third place finisher will likely absorb the “Stop Cruz and Trump” momentum going forward. Everyone knows Marco’s thirsty, but can he win states?

Rand Paul needs a haircut.

Jeb Bush needs his exclamation point more than ever. If he finishes third, he’ll grab the “Big Mo” in the words of his father. At minimum, he needs to look like he tied Rubio.

Is Ben Carson still in the race? Anyone who loses to Dr. Carson in Iowa is, officially or unofficially, finished. I’m looking at you Jeb!

Chris Christie needs to stay alive with >5% so that he can withdraw after New Hampshire and save face.

John Kasich only cares about New Hampshire. He’s played the expectation game well.

Carly Fiorina.

Mike Huckabee will be there.

“Santorum” describes Rich Santorum’s campaign pretty well. It seems like it’s been 60 years since Rick was dueling for the nomination, probably because he still lives in the 1950’s. Zing. Let the fight for Rick Santorum’s supporter begin.

Could Mitt Romney really be renominated?

The Wigwam

FootnoteWhat’s left of the battered politician inside Mitt Romney shook suddenly and unpredictably into action this past weekend and upended the fledgling field of GOP Presidential hopefuls.  Mitt Romney, in a meeting with his former donors, stated that he is considering another run for the Presidency.  Monday morning brought the aftershock as Romney began working the phones, rounding up former staff and supporters, making it clear he is leaning towards entering the campaign.  The following questions stream through one’s mind at such news:  Is he serious? Has he lost it? Does he just like torturing his family? Is he just trying to get me to watch his Netflix documentary again?  Is he still anti-moonbase? Is he that guy that asks you to the prom three times until his mother talks to your mother, who think’s he’s “a fine boy”, and then he makes you take pictures with his whole family in front of their fireplace and his grandmother sighs watery-eyed when he puts on your corsage, which you explicitly said you didn’t want to begin with? .