NRO: The Real Reason Trump Won: Part 4 of 4, looking at where Trump underperformed other Republican candidates.
NRO: The Real Reason Trump Won: Part 3 of 4, looking at each side’s state-by-state turnout as a percentage of the Voting-Eligible Population.
NRO: The Real Reason Trump Won: Part 2 of 4, looking at how Trump performed in the battleground states by historical standards for post-incumbent challengers.
NRO: The Real Reason Trump Won: Part 1 of 4, looking at how Trump performed nationally by historical standards for post-incumbent challengers.
There’s been a lot of attention paid to Donald Trump’s appeal to a particular type of voter: white working class, no college degree, not that religious or socially conservative but anti-immigration. Let’s look at a few exit poll numbers to contemplate how a Trump coalition might be shaped very differently from Mitt Romney’s coalition, which drew together a respectable but insufficient 47% of the general electorate.
I did some simple algebra combining the share of each group in the electorate and the share won by each candidate, to consider what chunk of their voters fell in each group. For example, college graduates were 45% of the 2012 general electorate and Romney won 48% of them, so whereas non-college-grads were 53% and Romney won 47% of them – thus college-educated Romney voters were 23% of all voters, non-college-educated Romney voters were 25% of all voters, and accordingly college-educated voters made up 48% of the Romney vote. For purposes of this exercise I looked back at the Trump coalition in three states that were decisive (Indiana, Florida and South Carolina). While primary and general election coalitions are different animals, this is the data we have to work with so far, and it gives us a clue as to some of Trump’s challenges ahead, as well as how a candidate with Trump’s appeal to such groups could be an electoral force if that candidate wasn’t also as off-putting as Trump is to other core elements of the Romney coalition.
RS: Trump’s Next Victim: Pollsters
Donald Trump has proven adept at corrupting everyone and everything that comes into his orbit. He has constructed a kind of cargo-cult imitation of a real political campaign, with press flacks and pundits and elected officials and “policy advisors” and even now speechwriters all acting as if Trump was a real candidate rather than a bad joke told too long. But the one thing Trump has not really needed so far was thoroughly bogus general election polls. Oh, his strength has been overstated in some national primary polls, and the online Reuters poll has been a particular favorite. But Trump in the primaries has mostly been content to tell bald-face lies about his polling against Hillary Clinton, content that any rebuttal could be shouted down with “BUT I AM BEATING YOU IN THE PRIMARY SO YOU MUST BE WORSE.”
The stakes are high for Donald Trump tonight in his home state of New York. Ted Cruz and John Kasich would probably be out of the race now without big wins in their home states (Cruz beat Trump by 17 in Texas, Kasich swept all 66 delegates in Ohio; Marco Rubio dropped out after losing Florida). Trump needs a lot of delegates from the Northeastern primaries between today and next Tuesday if he is to have any hope of getting to the 1,237 pledged delegates he needs to avoid a contested convention fight he is likely to lose. 95 delegates are at stake in New York; Trump is unlikely to get a complete clean sweep of them, but he needs to clear 50% of the statewide popular vote and 80 or so delegates to retain any chance of reaching 1,237. Here’s what to watch for tonight:
When will results be reported? In general elections, New York is usually called by the networks the instant the polls close, but that’s because the major statewide races are lopsided. But this is – as discussed below – a statewide race plus 27 local races, and some of those may vary widely in how quickly they report results. Past experience is hard to generalize from, because (1) New York’s optical-scanner machines are relatively new, New York having stuck for many years with the old fashioned lever-pull machines that people in other states have only seen in movies; (2) vote-counting was really slow in 2012’s general election due to Hurricane Sandy. Early reports have lots of SNAFUs. So, stay tuned, we could be here a while. But don’t touch that dial – RedState will have coverage throughout the evening.
How are delegates awarded? New York’s method of awarding its 95 delegates is neither a purely proportional nor purely winner-take-all system, and is somewhat similar to what we’ve seen previously in Illinois and will see later on in California, Connecticut, and Washington. 14 bound delegates are awarded on the basis of statewide results; the other 81 are awarded on the basis of the voting in each of the state’s 27 districts, 3 per district.
Will Trump win? Yes, barring a truly improbable polling miss. As Leon noted earlier, the pollsters have struggled this year, but they are pretty unanimous that Trump is way ahead and very likely to break 50% statewide, which means he would also break 50% in at least 10-12 districts, probably more. The polling also has Cruz finishing third behind Kasich and probably struggling a bit to break 20% statewide. New York is just a bad state for Cruz, compounded by his slam on Trump’s “New York values” during the Iowa race (which amazingly was only three months ago). Long Island Republican Pete King, who previously endorsed Rubio and is the only elected pro-lifer anywhere near New York City, hates Cruz so much he says he would take cyanide if Cruz was the nominee.
We can, however, generalize about a few things. Trump is likely to utterly dominate the Buffalo area districts like NY-23 through NY-27 (a stronghold for Carl Paladino, the proto-Trump who was our disastrous gubernatorial nominee in 2010), Staten Island (NY-11), and probably several other districts in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island like NY-1 through NY-6, NY-8. He also looks to be very strong in NY-17 and NY-18, the districts just north of Westchester and Rockland. Endorsement-wise, New York is Trump’s best state: among others, he has Paladino, Rudy Giuliani, and a couple of Congressmen around Buffalo.
His main competition downstate (from Westchester on down) will be Kasich, who some polls have shown to be surging; Kasich is the kind of candidate that Republicans in places like Manhattan and Westchester are likely to warm to. I live in NY-6 in Queens (a district that is heavily Democratic and 40% Asian, one of the most Asian districts in the country), and I’ve seen nothing of the Cruz campaign while being bombarded with robo-calls for Kasich, who also has signs up around the highways. Kasich’s endorsers include George Pataki (who previously backed himself and then Rubio), 2013 Mayoral candidate Joe Llhota, and possible 2017 Mayoral candidate Eric Ulrich. Cruz has…don’t ask.
But the real Cruz-Trump battleground will be the heart of upstate, the mostly Republican districts around Albany, Syracuse, and the Adirondacks, NY-20 through NY-24, maybe NY-25. Those are the places that will really decide how strong Trump is tonight.
Who can vote? Well, it’s a little late to ask that now, eh? It’s a closed primary, and New York has the earliest deadline in the country to change your party registration – you had to do it before last Election Day in November. Worse yet, the Board of Election website simply tells voters:
How to Make Changes to Your Registration
Change of Name and/or Address
The voter registration form should be used as a change of address form. Notices of change of address from registered voters received at least 20 days before a special, primary or general election by a county board of elections must be processed and entered in the records in time for that election.
Change of Party Enrollment
The voter registration form should be used to change your party enrollment from one party to another or to enroll for the first time in a party. A change of enrollment received no later than 25 days before the general election shall be deposited in a sealed enrollment box and opened the first Tuesday following that general election and entered in the voter’s registration record.
How do I change my enrollment?
If you wish to change your enrollment from one party to another or from not-enrolled to a party, send a Voter Registration Form with your new choice to your county board of elections. The board will notify you when the change takes place, by Law, after the next general election.
You gotta read those real carefully to notice that this means 25 days before the last general election for this primary; the website nowhere mentions the deadline explicitly. That’s bad for Trump, and polling places are apparently collecting plenty of provisional ballots from people who don’t qualify, which presumably will never be counted. Two of Trump’s children and his own lawyer are among those who won’t be able to vote for him. If Trump underachieves tonight, expect that to be a major reason why.
What does Trump need? This is where the context gets important. Look at the calendar ahead:
Trump is widely expected to dominate the Northeast, but after that, only West Virginia and New Jersey are really likely Trump country rather than contested turf. And Trump at this writing has – the count varies by source – 44.5% of the delegates awarded so far. If he isn’t sitting on 50% or more at the end of this month, it seems pretty hard to see him getting there by June 7. But how dominant does Trump need to be in order to get to 50% before Indiana, so that he can just split the rest of the way and win 1,237 delegates?
So, expect good news for Donald Trump tonight, on its face – but news that may actually be very bad for him if he’s bringing home 70 or 75 delegates.
RS: This Is Not 1980, And Donald Trump Is Not Ronald Reagan
Every piece of evidence we have about the 2016 general election and the world around us points in the same direction: if nominated, Donald Trump would lose, and likely lose badly. The fact that Trump has defied expectations in the primary and survived numerous incidents (seemingly almost daily) that would end any other political career has given pundits and analysts an almost superstitious, gunshy awe of predicting failure for him – thus the “lol nothing matters” response you often get when you discuss both Trump’s obvious, glaring weaknesses and his pitiably weak standing in the polls. But the one straw commonly grasped by Trump supporters when confronted by the evidence is Gallup’s polling from early 1980 showing that Ronald Reagan was some 30 points behind Jimmy Carter, who of course he went on to demolish in the fall.
The Gallup 1980 polls are a weak analogy, for several reasons.
One of the important tests of character in politics is the willingness to stay and fight when the going gets tough, to stand your ground and be loyal to your supporters and your cause, even when the odds are against you, even when people are telling you to cut bait and go home. We know Marco Rubio has that fight in him; we’ve seen it before, from his underdog challenge to Charlie Crist to his comeback from the disappointment of New Hampshire to his upbeat push to continue fighting Donald Trump in Florida right now. But when people have invested their trust and their efforts in you, character and judgment also call for knowing when to stop fighting and cut a deal. The time for Rubio to do that is now – if not today, then no later than after Thursday’s debate. You have undoubtedly read many efforts in the past week by Cruz supporters, Trump supporters, Kasich supporter(s), liberals or anti-Trump party-unity Republicans to convince Rubio to get out of the race. But let me focus mainly on why striking a deal now to be Ted Cruz’s running mate would be in Rubio’s best interests, and is therefore something Rubio’s supporters should now actively desire.
Let’s start by taking stock of where Rubio’s career stands right now. His political talents are undimmed: his speaking skills, charisma, aspirational biography and message, and one of the most important attributes in politics, flexibility as a communicator to different audiences and in different settings. His favorable ratings remain sky-high with Republican voters, consistently the highest of anybody who ran in the 2016 field besides Ben Carson, and despite all the brickbats thrown at him on immigration, most polls until yesterday were still showing more Republican voters would be satisfied with a Rubio nomination than with any other candidate. His talents as a “closer” have been on constant display – through Super Tuesday, he was the best in the field at winning over late deciding voters. All of these things should continue to be true of Rubio in years to come, regardless of how the past week has gone. To the extent that Rubio is looking – as all politicians do, at least at his age – at his future, he should avoid throwing away the value of those assets.
The Next Campaign
On the other hand, Rubio has chosen not to run again for the Senate, so he will be out of work in January and out of elected office for the next two years unless he ends up as the Vice President. He could run for Governor or for another Senate term in 2018, but a Senate race would mean facing entrenched incumbent Bill Nelson, and if his eyes are on another national run in 2020, he’d be peppered with questions about whether he’s actually going to stick around and do the job. And if Rubio stays in this race just to focus on Florida and then loses Florida to Donald Trump – a very significant risk – he will find his standing in Florida politics significantly diminished, and face the possibility that his political career could be over at age 44.
Could Rubio run for national office again in the future? Republicans have a pretty long history of nominating candidates on their second or sometimes third try – Romney, McCain, Dole, H.W. Bush, Reagan. One of those candidates (Bush) did so from the springboard of being Vice President, and two others (Romney and Reagan) did so from outside public office, having spent four years planning their next run with no other real responsibilities to distract them. Romney in 2008 ran a campaign with some broad similarities to Rubio’s (despite their very different records), and dropped out immediately after Super Tuesday, resulting in Mike Huckabee passing him for formal “runner-up” status to John McCain. But with both McCain and Huckabee out of the running, Romney was able to consolidate his status as the frontrunner and get an earlier start raising money and endorsements four years later. If the GOP is out of power again after this election, Rubio could position himself to do that – but the longer he stays in this race bleeding support and potentially losing his home state, the more he will look diminished and overshadow some of the successes he’s had in this race.
But my argument here is not that Rubio should just slink away, but that he should use the leverage he has right now to cut a deal to be Ted Cruz’s running mate. Why should Rubio want to do this?
First, a VP deal keeps him on the trail and in the public eye in a way that an endorsement or quietly dropping out would not – while most of the other dropped-out candidates have vanished from sight, Rubio’s status as VP-nominee-in-waiting would ensure him more press coverage (especially for a role as attack dog against Trump) than the usual campaign surrogate. If Cruz is the nominee, it keeps Rubio on the national stage for the rest of 2016. That alone not only keeps him visible, but keeps him plugged in to a national network of donors, and allows him to build ties to Cruz’s superior campaign organization – all assets he could use in a future campaign even if 2016 ends badly. Sure, losing VP candidates have had a rough go in the past (aside from people like Mondale who had actually been VP, since 1900 only FDR became president after being the VP on a losing national ticket, although Bob Dole would come back to become Senate Majority Leader and a presidential nominee and Paul Ryan would become Speaker of the House), but Rubio is young and gifted and likely to avoid some of the differing pitfalls that did in figures as diverse as Sarah Palin, John Edwards, and Joe Lieberman.
Second, he could actually become the Vice President. That’s its own spot in the history books, and even if Cruz’s youth and clean ethical record mean there would be low odds of taking office mid-term, the VP job is not a bad one for guy with small children and a future. Cruz’s toxic relationships with Capitol Hill Republicans mean that a Cruz Administration would have great need for a good-cop ambassador to build bridges with Congress, a task Rubio is well-suited to, and unlike, say, John Kasich, he’s close enough philosophically to Cruz that he could expect to have a real role in the Administration and not just be the guy who goes to funerals. And Al Gore in 2000, Bush in 1988, Mondale in 1984, and Nixon in 1960 and 1968 all demonstrated the power that a sitting or former VP has in securing the nomination later on.
Could a Cruz-Rubio ticket win? I have argued throughout this campaign, and continue to believe, that Rubio would be the best general election candidate for the GOP, giving us the best shot to win the White House and defeat Hillary Clinton. As far as polling is concerned, that’s true even in the latest general election polls taken after Super Tuesday. I won’t belabor that point here, as it is no longer relevant to consider Rubio as having a shot at the nomination. But Trump is a truly terrible general election candidate, whereas Cruz at least polls mostly around even with Hillary, is a disciplined, energetic candidate with a good organization, and could keep the party together and have a puncher’s chance. Adding Rubio to the ticket could only help drive home the contrasts between the GOP and Hillary Clinton. Certainly, you couldn’t count them out.
Fourth, cutting a deal now squeezes out Kasich. Kasich appears to be running for the Vice Presidential job; his whole strategy is a brokered-convention strategy, but since he can’t possibly believe that a compromise between Cruz and Trump supporters would result in a Kasich nomination, the logical play would be to use his delegates as a bargaining chip to get a spot on the ticket. If Cruz announces that he’s chosen Rubio as his Vice Presidential nominee, it cuts the legs out of Kasich’s rationale for staying in the race (except to cut a similar deal with Trump), which in turn helps ratchet up the pressure on Kasich to quit, leaving Cruz the only anti-Trump game in town.
Rubio Can Get Better
What were Rubio’s weaknesses in 2016, that have led him to collapse after Super Tuesday? Let’s examine the list and consider which of them can be fixed in time to run again in the future. It turns out most of them can.
One, momentum. Through Super Tuesday, Rubio had won more votes than Ted Cruz outside of Cruz’s home state of Texas (24% to 22%), and more than three times as many votes nationally as John Kasich. But in the post-Super Tuesday states, Rubio’s support abruptly collapsed – aside from a landslide win in Puerto Rico, Rubio has dropped below 17% in the other eight post-Super Tuesday contests, falling to single digits and below even Kasich in Maine, Michigan and Mississippi (a geographically disparate enough group of states that it can’t be written off as just a bad local problem). He got just 10% of late deciders in Michigan, 4% in Mississippi.
But momentum by its nature is specific to a particular campaign; four or eight years later, all anybody will remember is that Rubio ran in a crowded field and was in the race pretty far.
Two, structure and timing. Rubio was never quite able to either get rid of Cruz and consolidate the conservative “lane” nor shake Kasich and consolidate the moderate/establishment voters, and before that he took too long shaking Jeb and Christie, which in turn delayed him in raising money and attacking Trump earlier. What if, what if, what if: the lament of many a losing campaign. But again, these are problems particular to 2016.
Three, a poorly run campaign. A variety of recent reports have illustrated what many of us suspected for a while: unlike Cruz, Rubio’s campaign was never as good as the candidate. He simply hired too many backward-looking veterans of the Romney campaign rather than innovators, and yet lacked the commanding financial advantages and consolidated “lane” to run a Romney-style primary campaign. But campaign teams can be replaced, and candidates can learn from the mistakes of past losses (even Ronald Reagan sacked his campaign manager on the day of the New Hampshire primary in 1980).
Four, youth and gravitas. Rubio had to work hard to overcome establishment-y voters’ preference for gray-headed proven executives like Jeb Bush, and his late flurry of sometimes very personal attacks against Donald Trump, while successful in getting inside Trump’s head, seem to have driven a faction of his supporters to Kasich, a Governor 20 years Rubio’s senior who talks about the 1980s and 1990s, high-mindedly refuses to criticize Trump, and styles himself as “the only adult in the room.” Polls have showed that one of the youthful-looking Rubio’s weak spots – even compared to Cruz, who’s the same age and a lot less experienced in office – is experience. Even if he doesn’t hold any more offices, the passage of some more time and the general sense that “this guy has waited his turn” can fix a lot of that.
Cruz Still Needs Rubio
The other factor for Rubio to consider is timing. I believe that – whatever the egos on all sides may say – if Rubio offered a deal today, Cruz would know he needs to take it. That may not be true forever, especially if Kasich wins Ohio, Rubio loses Florida, and Kasich wants to bargain.
Why I think Cruz still needs help is similar to why I argued all along that Rubio would run stronger one-on-one against Trump than Cruz would: because Cruz’s support is so heavily concentrated with Evangelical Christians and “Very Conservative” voters. We don’t have exit polls for March 5 or for Idaho or Hawaii (based on the map of Idaho, Cruz undoubtedly cleaned up with conservative Mormons last night, previously a likely Rubio stronghold), but let’s update the charts I’ve been using of each candidate’s strength across these groups:
As you can see, Cruz improved a bit last night, but he remains very, very dependent on his two overlapping core groups, both of which are likely to get a lot scarcer as we run out of Southern and other deep-red states as the calendar moves forward. (Also, Cruz doing well with Mississippi “moderates” is a bit like when Kasich did well with “Very Conservative” Vermonters – it may just be a regional difference in defining the spectrum). His biggest risk if Rubio gets out is that the more moderate Rubio supporters will drift off in increasing numbers to Kasich, and the exit polls from Michigan in particular suggest that is a threat Cruz can’t lightly ignore. Having Rubio out on the trail making an explicit stop-Trump party-unity pitch can make a big difference in finishing off Kasich and keeping wavering Rubio supporters dedicated to the unity ticket. The announcement of such a ticket – highly unusual in a primary campaign – would itself be a major news event that would dominate discussion for days, and would have a galvanizing effect on the morale of anti-Trump Republicans who are now so consumed with fighting each other over who should and shouldn’t drop out.
In short, there is every reason – looking strictly from the perspective of the self-interests of all the players – why it would make sense by the end of this week for Rubio to cut a deal to become Cruz’s running mate, and for Cruz to make that deal.