Friday, July 3, 2015

Trump Bump Stumps Chumps

A couple of days ago, Trump was polling second-place in the GOP primary. Today? Number One! What does that mean?

Vox Says: He Won't Win

Vox describes the 'stages of voter affection' in K├╝bler-Rossian terms: discover, scrutiny, and decline. They point to the 2012 cycle where EVERYONE was ahead of Romney at some point. They peg his coming decline to the fact that he's just up-there for saying crazy things and that once his weaknesses come out he'll be dropped like Michelle Bachmann. They also note, more credibly The Omnivore thinks, that his biggest real disadvantage is that he lacks establishment support.
Vox is wrong. How come? The Omnivore will tell you in a second!

PowerLine Asks: Why The Trump Bump?

Steven Hayward over at Powerline notes that Trump is surging in the polls despite being hated by, well, everyone. He decides that the real surprise would be if he hadn't surged:
Americans of all parties, but especially conservatives and populists of what is sometimes called the “angry middle,” almost invariably take for the outspoken outsider—not just a governor or some non-Washington person running as an “outsider,” which almost all successful presidential candidates have done now for nearly 50 years. (Which is another reason why Hillary can’t win—she’s too much of a Washington/Establishment insider.) We like their candor, flamboyance, and the novelty of a non-politician running for office. It’s one of the time-honored tropes of modern American politics.
In other words, he puts on a good show! But they never win.

PowerLine is wrong--in a moment The Omnivore will tell you why!

National Journal: Why Is Donald Trump Polling So Well?

Lauren Fox at National Journal asks why he's doing so well? She points to a the president of a Democratic polling firm with this answer:
"He obviously benefits from his celebrity, but I think more to the point, there is no question that there is a segment of the Republican electorate that is strongly anti-immigrant and there is an overlapping piece of the Republican electorate that is anti-politician," says Geoff Garin, the president of the Democratic polling firm Hart Research. "Donald Trump appeals to those voters, and not in the most sophisticated way possible, but in the loudest way possible."
He notes that with a large field the voting bloc behind the more serious candidates is fractured so Trump's core of support rockets him to the top. This is, in fact, a pretty good answer.

But it's not entirely correct. The Omnivore will tell you where it's wrong. Stay tuned!

The Truth About The Trump

 Observers have noted that, erm, might Donald Trump be hurting the Republican party's brand? This comes after Trump said that a lot of Mexican illegal immigrants were rapist--and, when challenged on that, doubled down:
Well, He's Right: Somebody Is . . .
This has cost him a bunch of relationships--Univison, Macy's, etc. Trump, though? He doesn't care. He's not backing down (like Tom Petty--but giving even far fewer fucks). For a party that, you know, would maybe like to win some Latino votes this calling-Mexicans-rapists (however nuanced--and it wasn't all that elegant to begin with) is not a move the high command approves of.

The GOP fears that Donald Trump is hurting the brand:
We're now trying to grow the numbers of votes in the Hispanic, African-American communities and work on growing the amount of female voters,” said GOP strategist Ron Bonjean, who suggested Trump is kneecapping those efforts. 
“He's not hurting other candidates. He is risking the Republican brand,” added fellow Republican strategist David Payne.
Uh-huh. Well, he might be--kinda. But even that's not right..

Firstly, FiveThirtyEight's numbers-don't lie (same with 'hips' The Omnivore is assured) approach gives us the brutal truth: Donald Trump's immigration statements aren't far off his party's voter base!
Trump’s populist grandstanding, in fact, lines up with the views of a high percentage of Republicans. A majority of Republicans think immigrants — regardless of how they entered the U.S. — “burden” the country rather than make it stronger. In the May 2015 Pew survey, 63 percent of Republicans felt this way compared with 32 percent of Democrats. Just 27 percent of Republicans said immigrants made the country stronger, which was the lowest percentage recorded since 2004.
Indeed, Rich Lowery Editor of the NRO writes: Sorry, But Donald Trump Has A Point!
As for his instantly notorious Mexico comments, they did more to insult than to illuminate, yet there was a kernel in them that hit on an important truth that typical politicians either don’t know or simply fear to speak. “When Mexico sends its people,” Trump said, “they’re not sending their best.” 
This is obviously correct. We aren’t raiding the top 1 percent of Mexicans and importing them to this country. Instead, we are getting representative Mexicans, who — through no fault of their own, of course — come from a poorly educated country at a time when education is essential to success in an advanced economy.
What Lowery knows--and what FiveThirtyEight points out--is that the GOP really does pretty much think America is under invasion by Mexicans and that Obama is intentionally complicit in this state of affairs. Donald Trump isn't damaging the GOP Brand: He is the GOP Brand.

What The Others Get Wrong

What we see above, therefore, are several misconceptions about what is going on with the Trump-Bump. These are:
  1. He's just like [ Cain ]--he'll rise and fall and go away (Vox).
  2. It's his lovable flamboyant attitude that's elevating him--attaboy, Trump! You shine on, you crazy diamond! 'Course the lad hasn't a chance. (PowerLine)
  3. He's appealing to a tiny, rabid base who are the only ones consolidated (National Journal and others)
He's Like [ Cain ]
To understand why this is wrong, you have to understand (a) what was going on in 2012 and (b) what happened to Cain, Santorum, Gingrich, and so on. In terms of raw material, Trump is most like Cain: a rich guy with business experience but zero political background who says some outrageous things. In terms of appeal, though, he's more like Gingrich: elevated for his willingness and ability in a fight. What was happening when these guys crested the polling in 2012 was that The Base was desperately searching for a Not-Romney who could fight-and-win. 

Today the closest analogy is that everyone wants a Not-Bush which, while true, is nowhere near the depths of despair that the party was in as the actual primaries ground on. In this case they haven't started yet: although smart people should be worried about Bush winning, the Base isn't yet. 

Secondly, what killed Cain was a for-real scandal. What got Gingrich was the eventual running out of money. Neither of these will apply to Trump. He has all their strengths--and none of their weaknesses (he's the DayWalker of presidential candidates!).

He's a Lovable Scamp, That Trump!
The idea that Trump is stratospheric because of either name-recognition or just because he puts on a good show doesn't hold up either: the polling also says that no one likes him. He's regarded almost universally as an asshole. Secondly, several other candidates--like Chris Christie--have high negatives and good name recognition: Christie is on life-support. Trump is number 1. Explain that.

While it does seem hard to project him winning states, he's not just polling at the top nationally--he's also doing well in New Hampshire (known for being, erm, sober) and he's scoring well on specific questions like "Good at handling the economy." These are signs-of-life of an actual candidate--not a bomb-thrower.

Of course, he is a bomb-thrower: but he's an incredibly rich one. That buys credibility.

It's A Tiny Core of Assholes
The idea that the Republican primary voters--which comprise more than just The Base--haven't settled on someone is true. As such, the people to whom Trump appeals do constitute a voting bloc. Yes--that much is right--but a pie only slices to 100% no matter how thin the slices are. As Trump moves up someone has to move down. Who is getting hardest hit? Marco Rubio.
My guess was that the Trump boom would come mainly at the expense of grassroots conservative favorites like Cruz, not because Trump is any way a serious conservative alternative but because his whole shtick is that he’s waging war on the Beltway establishment generally and the GOP establishment in particular. And it’s true, Cruz’s numbers have sunk since Trump jumped in. (Cruz is hoping to win back those voters eventually by playing nice with Trump in the media.) He’s not the biggest loser here, though: That would be Marco Rubio, who’s down eight points in less than a month. 
Trump's strength has come from voters 50 or older--a demographic that had, previously, strongly backed Marco Rubio:
No Republican has been as consistently strong among older voters in the early primary polls as Rubio. His favorable rating across the party is excellent but his favorables among senior citizens have been stratospheric. They were the one group more than any other who were carrying him towards the top of the field. Now that support has receded, apparently thanks to Trump. The same thing is happening to Walker, but to a lesser degree.
The takeaway here is that Trump isn't just costing other Crazy-Eyes candidates the vote--he's siphoning support from Marco Rubio--a more moderate and highly credible candidate . . . and also one who is very well liked. Walker is also a first-tier candidate--to lose support to Trump is telling.

What's Going On?

As The Omnivore pointed out, Trump is the candidate of an angry base who want an unlikable asshole to go and be their weapon. He's the message they're sending--and he'll continue to be that message until he goes broke or backs down: which do you think is likely to happen first. The fact is that he is the evolutionary pinnacle of the GOP base: A wealthy outsider who says things no one else is willing to say and will fight like a veteran prize fighter against any target--the GOP Establishment, Hillary Clinton, or ISIS--who gets in his way. He is everything the Base wanted in Romney--and nothing that Romney delivered. Donald Trump is the perfect candidate--he has created his brand . . . by matching it to the GOP--and now guess what?

It's selling.

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