Robert is a freelance writer/researcher in the Seattle, WA area. He covers current political, economic, and geopolitical news.
The Choice of a Lifetime
The one thing predictable about this presidential election is its unpredictability. What was once seen as impossible, even laughable, is now reality. Adjusting to this changed circumstance, many are still reeling at the shock of such an unlikely event.
Donald Trump might be elected president.
Though the consensus opinion is that Trump has an uphill battle, this is not because of his general demeanor and disregard for political correctness. In fact, it is actually due to the fact that the electoral map is rigged against Republicans at the moment. All Democrats really need to do to win the presidency in 2017 is win one big battleground state (Florida, Ohio, or Virginia) and keep the other states they have held for multiple elections in a row, and they will likely have it locked up.
But Mr. Trump is no ordinary Republican presidential nominee. So perhaps the regular electoral projections do not apply? He is looking to flip states that have gone Democratic for a few decades, such as Michigan, a very blue state that has not voted for a Republican for president since George H.W. Bush in 1988.
He certainly has much more appeal to more independents and liberals than a regular traditional candidate would give you. Yet, Trump will be looking to peel off some regular Democrat voters by using the “Crooked Hillary” card to highlight his upcoming opponent’s untrustworthiness. In a poll released in March, only 37% found her honest and trustworthy.
It will be interesting to see Trump, the anti-Wall Street, anti-war candidate versus Clinton the pro-Wall Street and pro-war candidate. Trump’s greatest strength in the foreign affairs department is the fact that he does not have a vote or record to defend like Mrs. Clinton. You can essentially say the same thing in domestic policy, he can attack her for defending bank bailouts and big business, while Trump has no political record to defend in either of those areas.
Trump will always be putting her on the defense if he is smart. He has been doing that to everyone he has vanquished so far. If he wins, it will go down as one of the greatest sales pitches of all time. Appealing to emotion over specific policy, Trump could win the day railing against political correctness and collusion simultaneously.
Trump supporters at a rally in New Hampshire in February
Hillary will likely struggle in defending her record on Benghazi, email server, Goldman speeches, and other Wall Street donations. And, it appears we will be in for a treat as Trump is planning on bringing back Bill’s past abuses, going so far as to accuse Hillary of enabling her husband. Trump must be careful to not go too far as this line of attack has backfired on Republicans before, but as stated before, Trump is no ordinary Republican politician and this is no ordinary race.
The Clinton camp has been gearing up for a one-on-one with the Donald for months now. The attack line to the tangerine tornado is obvious enough, but its effectiveness is up for debate. For months, many leaders in the Republican party have attacked the presumptive nominee, yet all have fallen flat. Journalists have criticized him. Celebrities denounced him. Former presidents of Mexico cursed him. Even the pope of the Roman Catholic Church came out and said something stinging toward Trump.
“He’s been called a bigot, a liar, a con artist, a vulgarian, a fascist, a misogynist, the antichrist and Hitler’s love child. People denounce him routinely as a threat to the U.S. Constitution, a terrible role model for children, and a danger to international peace and security.” And yet, they are seemingly tied neck and neck in the key battleground states and within the margin of error nationwide. Trump was recently shown up 5% nationally in the latest Rasmussen poll.
Clinton is the worst candidate to go up against Trump because all of his negatives are matched by hers. Furthermore, Clinton’s negatives are amplified by the fact that she is the epitome of what is wrong with our political system today. People go to Washington, put in their “public service” and come out richer in the end. Clinton left the White House with her husband in 2001 as she says, “dead broke,” but quickly got back her “losses” by making six-figure speeches to big banks and other financial firms up and down Wall Street. Trump will emphasize this gross, yet regular practice of our politicians and, if executed properly, will likely propel him to victory in November.
Clinton’s contributions from Wall Street
Can Trump pull it off?
At the top of Trump’s game, he could contest Clinton in states no one would expect, like New York. With his populist, “Make America Great Again” slogan, he is likely to pull some Bernie supporters and more conservative Democrats under his banner. “All political norms and assumptions go out the window” with Mr. Trump. Clinton can put together all the focus groups and have her consultants analyze and her speechwriters edit until they can’t do anymore, they will not help her in handling the seemingly unstoppable Trump.
The Donald has made his case to the American people and they appear to be on board. As many conservatives shudder to think of a Trump Presidency, they fail to realize that having a real entrepreneur and job creator in the White House can have long lasting benefits to our economy and country overall.
Mr. Trump appears to believe and relish the value of hard work. Sure, he got his start with a generous $1M loan, but, he turned that into over $10B in net worth, so he claims. Yet, critics continue to hammer him on his past “errors.” In this, the #NeverTrump movement fails to see that he does have empathy. Anyone who knows the man denies that he is a racist. His daughter and many others deny that he is a groper or has shown any denigrating attitude toward woman. A womanizer? Maybe. But heck, he was in charge of beauty pageants for a while so you kind of need to judge women their looks in that.
While many are rubbed the wrong way by his brash speaking style, they miss the fact that he is a “pragmatic entrepreneur,” as Anthony Scaramucci recently noted in The Wall Street Journal. “What elitists misinterpret as uneven principles, entrepreneurs understand as adaptability.” This shifting way of convincing Americans of your viability is tough. Many see his changing stances as his inability to comprehend complex political issues. However, he has shown more than enough capability to understand and comprehend these issues, he just does not have deep down convictions or philosophies that underlie his decisionmaking.
So what does Trump believe? That’s anyone’s guess. He only seems to have started thinking about his stance on these political issues since last June, so they are new and evolving beliefs. He has not been a politician in the past so has been focusing on more real life issues, like making money and making a life for himself. There is no telling which way Trump will go in terms of foreign or domestic policy, which is troubling, but also about the same in reality as any other nominee in the past. Politicians time and time again claim one thing as a candidate and do exactly the opposite once in office. Which brings us back to the polling and projections game.
Trump’s Golden Ticket
Trump could get his ticket to the White House if he wins Pennsylvania. FiveThirtyEight recently detailed how the Republicans could win the state. First, economically, Trump could capitalize on the poor economy in Pennsylvania. This state is more fertile ground in that regard compared to other battleground states like Virginia or Colorado. By tapping into the large blue collar manufacturing sector in the state, Trump could play up his America First message to a win in November if he gets out enough of those votes to counteract all the votes Clinton will get from the Philadelphia area.
Demographically, Pennsylvania is the oldest state in the nation. Also, 83% of eligible voters are white. This helps Trump as his base voters seem to be old and white. Though this will be a tough state for Trump to flip, it is very much possible.
Florida and Ohio will still be crucial for Trump if he is to win the amount of Electoral College votes that he needs. However, if Clinton loses in a place like Pennsylvania, that could be a sign that Trump really is expanding the map and bringing more under the Republican tent than ever before.
A new Survey Monkey poll shows the race is much closer nationwide than the mainstream media has been reporting. It also debunks the myth that Trump is the candidate with all of the poorly educated on his side. With voters with a high school education or less, Trump only had a 5% lead on Clinton nationwide, almost within the margin of error.
Clinton also holds onto the votes of the poor as Americans making under $50K supported her overwhelmingly, while Trump had the majority of support from higher earning Americans. The big takeaway from this poll is that the billionaire is growing the party, as shown by his 8-point advantage over Hillary among independents, 44% to 36%. If Trump can hold onto these undecided and less partisan voters, especially in the battleground states, then he could very well be our next President.
Trump v. Clinton/Sanders in New Hampshire
Can the Trump Train be Stopped?
Conor Friedersdorf and others at The Atlantic are doing everything they can to stop a Trump presidency. Friedersdorf talks about the inadequacies of the anti-Trump crowd and how they can change their tactics to have more effect. First of all, he notes, calling Trump supporters appalling, throwing rocks at cars, disrupting rallies, and posting your disgust on social media are ineffective tactics to taking down Trump and make his election more likely. By rejecting these childish ways, you can win them over by persuasion? It’s surely possible.
First of all, respect must be shown. Trump will be the GOP nominee for President and he has millions of votes, AKA real people, behind him. You can call him a pig or whatever you want, but it is time to take him seriously. Having such a militant attitude toward Trump and his supporters also makes matters worse. “Telling someone they’re scum for supporting a cause or a candidate causes most people to stubbornly redouble their position.” Having objective, clear-headed conversations about politics can be tough to have. However, if you can manage it, by delving into the specifics of one’s support for Trump and breaking it down as opposed to dismissing the supporter and Trump outright, as bigots and homophobes, then you are likely to increase that person’s support for him.
I would not hold my breath in waiting for the anti-Trump crowd to come around to reason. The Trump phenomenon is directly attributable to the hyper-partisan politics and lack of unity in DC that has gotten worse under both Bush and Obama. Now, we have Trump. It’s hard to look at him down the middle. You either love him or you hate him it seems. Even the great Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight did not see Trump coming, but hindsight is always 20/20.
The data journalists at the polls-obsessed site had trouble forecasting the impossibly steep rise of Trump in the Republican party, as did just about everyone else in the business. Silver calls Trump “one of the most astonishing stories in American political history.” This is without a doubt. So many dismissed him, due to the fact that it all seemed so unlikely. Such a deep presidential field on the Right, and Donald Trump is the one left standing?
You better believe it.
Unfortunately for Silver, the statistics as applied to Trump’s candidacy were hard to set. So, they applied “subjective odds” on Trump in the beginning of the primary process, or they were essentially acting likely pundits, but attaching numbers to their estimates. Without a reliable model to mark the future trajectory of candidate Trump, they were basically making educated guesses based on what they thought would be the case.
Even without this model, they put up percentage chances of winning. Donald had only a 2% chance in August 2015, quickly rising to 7% in early December, then 12.5% in early January this year. Then, in January, things seemed to change. It was becoming clearer to Silver and others covering the race that the elites would not or could not stop Trump. Marco Rubio proved ineffective, Jeb Bush was laughable, and Ted Cruz was downright creepy. So, by mid-February, after Trump’s big New Hampshire win, his chances of winning jumped to 50%. After winning South Carolina, he was upgraded to “the likely Republican nominee.”
Looking back, candidates like Trump, or those with little party support but high national polls, such as Herman Cain, Rick Perry, and Rudy Giuliani, did not end up becoming the nominee. Therefore, while Trump’s nomination is seen as inevitable now, it did not seem that way back in the summer of 2015. It's easy for us to say now that it is obvious how Trump is gaining so much support, and how did we not see it, but that neglects the hard work of forecasting and projecting.
Will Trump be the new normal or will he be a once in every ten election cycles phenomenon? He could very well be a once in a lifetime occurrence. Either way, it is a healthy reminder that we live in an uncertain world where no one has all the answers.
Except for Trump.