Monday, February 22, 2016

His Own Worst Enemy

I've pointed out in a previous post that Donald Trump was the subject of a poll in which 60% of the respondents said they would not vote for him under any circumstances. Yesterday I pointed out that the numbers from the South Carolina primary bore this out. I didn't say it then, but the New Hampshire poll did too.

You see, both of these races are open Republican primaries. It's very easy for Democrats to simply walk in and vote... and those that can't bring themselves to vote for Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton do. And those that do, vote Trump. So the number should be skewed somewhat in Trump's favor.

In case you missed it, here are the New Hampshire numbers:

Good Lord, that's a lot of candidates! I had to squeeze the screen pretty tight to get all of them in one graphic. Trump wins with 35.3%. Impressive, right? All those faces to choose from, and they're voting for Trump... He's got a big number, they've got little numbers. Landslide, right?

Not so fast. NINE of those faces don't show up in the South Carolina results. OK, so only five of them received enough votes to count. If the Trump supporters are right and there's this upswell of support, we'd expect to see some of their votes move over to Trump in the South Carolina open primary. Those drop-outs got 12.4% of the vote in New Hampshire, and if that kind of support got moved over in total, then you'd expect Trump to pull out as much as 47.7% of the vote. Obviously, every state is different, but we're still making fewer, bigger cuts in the pie.

And remember, he was openly courting Democratic voters. He had "open primary" written all over his trucks and on the name tags of his volunteers. He's also trying to increase the size of the pie to his benefit.

So how did he do?  

Yeah, that's right. With twelve and a half additional percentage points up for grabs, he did worse in in the popular vote in South Carolina than he did in New Hampshire. The votes... all of them and then some... went to the other candidates.

Yes, he did pick up all 50 of South Carolina's delegates, but I can't see that as anything special. This indicates broad geographic support, but not that it's particularly deep. And despite it being touted as "historic" by some pundits, we have to realize that South Carolina only went from winner-take-all to a modified (half-proportional) system in 2000. We have barely enough elections behind us to declare "trends", much less be excited by them.

This is really, really not looking good for the Trump campaign in the general election. In fact, it's making me re-think my previous analysis. This race is going to be a lot tighter than anyone ever guessed. It may actually come down to voters being stuck with what's left after every after all the better choices have annihilated each other. On the one hand you've got large-scale Democratic defection (as much as 20%) countered by sometimes bizarre primary rules; and on the other hand you've got Trump benefiting from split opposition while alienating his base. But it's not just Trump doing the alienating...'s his supporters.

Leadership is done by example, and we're seeing it at work. Trump supporters have shown that they can be as boorish, obnoxious, and distasteful as their leader. Just as he eschews details in favor of platitudes, they reject details and have taken up sloganeering.

Here's one response to yesterday's post (name withheld):
And more than 77+% of those who voted yesterday said they didn't want Rubio. And 77+% of those who voted yesterday said they didn't want little Rafael. And an astonishing 92+% said they didn't want the Jebber. So your point is? I would say your point is, wait for it, pointless!
Now, this dude's not even understanding that I'm looking ahead to the general election and that I'm taking into account a poll that asks who you would never vote for. The general election isn't going to be some big three-way brawl where you can squeak by with 40% of the popular vote. You have to do better. Hell, if it's true that 60% of people won't vote for him at all, then Trump could lose the nomination entirely if as little as one more candidate drops out. The point is, you have to do better than that.

And then there was this brilliant exchange:

Skippy here thinks he's playing a game. Hell, he's perfectly content not to think at all. If you take him at his word, he's ignorant of the point being argued because he doesn't read. He doesn't expend any effort... he just repeats what he was told.

If you want to view it as a game, fine. You have to think strategically and tactically. Those 50 delegates are not a golden ticket that entitles you to the votes of every party member in the general election. Some of them are going to stay home. Some may cast their vote toward Gary Johnson, or even burn their vote on Donald Duck. And you're not going to fix that by standing there spouting non sequiturs and playing stupid.

I hope you're playing. As devotees of Poe's Law understand, it's often impossible to tell a parody from the thing being parodied.


One more bit of math. Although 20% of Democrats may choose not to vote for either Clinton or Sanders, that doesn't mean Trump will benefit from that 20%. Many will stay home. If the Trump poll numbers hold true across this population, the best Trump can optimistically count on is 40% of the 20%, or an 8% boost. In the general election, that eight percent is very tight, and may not be enough to win. Every other vote is one that will have to be fought for, using some skills that we haven't seen from Trump yet.

Ladies and gentlemen, in a race where each party is seemingly intent on throwing away as much support as possible, it is possible for anyone to win. But it is not enough that you are excited about your candidate. You have to make other people excited. Those people are far more issue-oriented and detail-conscious than you are, judging from the evidence. And you are not going to to win them over with jibes and bad behavior. At some point you have to get serious and talk sense.


You may think that all this "anti-Trump" talk has me in the Democratic camp. Maybe you think I'm "feelin' the Bern"... nothing could be further from the truth. But that's a discussion for another time, once the Democrats have had their day at the polls.

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