Wednesday, October 7, 2015

This Time Is Different

In the "real world" here is what we ought to see: 15 candidates enter--but quickly a few flare and fade. Bush starts out with a deficit due to the family name--but due to his fundraising prowess (his family--his father, mother, and brother--can all raise big numbers)--and his record as a successful swing-state conservative governor win out.

Around Thanksgiving, he takes off, gaining most of the Republican endorsements. He and Rubio battle it out--but Bush wins New Hampshire. Ted Cruz wins Iowa and South Carolina. At that point it's a 3-way race. When Jeb pulls it out in Florida on March 15th, it's over. Winner Takes All.

Game Change 3 by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann has a chapter on "The Summer of Trump" where they reminisce about the crazy, quixotic run of outsiders who briefly shot up in the polls before fading.

In the real world we see this:
Looking at this cut, Trump is going back up--he's supposed to fade. Carly's arc, however, looks familiar and Carson is going up and down--even more iffy than Trump. Is Trump over? It doesn't quite seem so--does it?

It Wasn't Supposed To Be This Way

Now, as Nate Silver will tell you, it isn't that way yet. Trump could still fade out by Thanksgiving, leaving Bush and Rubio to fight it out until Florida. They think Ted Cruz has about a 5% chance to win the nomination--but that's enough to take Iowa and North Carolina on a good day.

Assuming, say, Ben Carson isn't in the race.

Much less Donald Trump.

The question, though, is that if things are different this time, why are they different? The Omnivore thinks that everyone gets a sense that things are weird. The question is why--how? Well, let's look.

1. Trump is an Anomaly

The Omnivore asserts there has never been a candidate like Trump. For sure, there have been businessmen who won the presidency--but most people who were businessmen moreso than politicians or generals were bad presidents--but even more important--in modern history there just hasn't been one . . . the best fit is Herbert Hoover in 1929.

Whatever you may think of Herbert Hoover, he was not a TV star.

That may have something to do with this:

This is only for the first 30 or so days--but Trump has consistently gotten more time and attention from the media than anyone else. In many cases, more than everyone combined. He also spoke for the longest time in the two debates.

That translates to this:

Hillary, Cruz, and Carson--not to mention Jeb who has just started running ads--pay for their media. Trump . . . doesn't. Oh, he's about to--he just hired a media firm--but that's because he wants to crush this thing.

There has never been a candidate--not in modern times--who was self-funded and got so much free media attention--nor has had the experience of being on camera as much as Trump has.

2. The Right Wing Is Different

We're not just talking about "crazier"--although the guard being called out by the Texas governor to monitor Jade Helm might qualify here. No--the right wing, as organized in Congress is significantly more organized in Congress than ever before. Fiscal Note does some hard-core analysis and shows that the degree to which the Freedom Caucus has organized is new.

The article shows how the Congress has become more and more split--and the Freedom Caucus faction has become much "tighter" in behavior. They have a visual representation.

While the workings of the Freedom Caucus do not, themselves, bear directly on the campaign, the "shadow" they cast does. Firstly, the strong front is indicative of a position by conservative voters that the establishment is out and outsiders are in. This seems to bear out in the polling as well. Secondly the issues that the Freedom Caucus is championing are necessarily mirrored by the candidates. The Freedom Caucus represents a substantial primary-audience voting bloc: if you ignore them you have a lot of catching up to do (ask Jeb!).

So guys like Walker were forced into positions they were ill-able to support.

This is new.

3. The Polling Is Broken (Maybe)

Gallup, a firm that made its name in predicting presidential elections, came in poorly for 2012 and is now bowing out of the 2016 primary--and hasn't made a decision about the 2016 general. While Gallup doesn't come out and say it, the theory is that they looked at horse-race polling and concluded that it's broken. People don't answer phones. Certain demographics are hard to reach--others aren't--land lines are disappearing.

Could it be that polling--as a science--is broken? (this says nothing of things like herding where a legitimate poll is altered to look more mainstream out of fear of looking bad). The implications for bad polling are pretty serious. Firstly campaigns themselves use a lot of internal polling to drive behavior: if that's not working right it could steer an otherwise reasonable campaign "into a wall."

Secondly, donors--especially big money donors--see things like Jeb tanking in the polls and get scared. This is a personal human reaction--and in a (new) environment where one person can give 20 million dollars to a superPAC--or not--that's important. If they give the 20MM to Rubio--instead of Jeb--based on faulty polling? That's leaving a mark right there.

Gallup sitting out is new.


The presence of Donald Trump, the rise and solidification of the far right, and questions about polling make this environment unique. That has to have some bearing on the error-factor you assign to the "conventional wisdom." This isn't a conventional campaign. Now, that doesn't mean pre-existing power structures aren't in place--they are. But they're not as all powerful as they once were (donors would likely have fled Trump after his Mexican statements--the same way his business partners did--forcing a walk back and collapse).

The Omnivore thinks the "establishment" (both GOP and Democrats) is in for a rocky ride.

1 comment:

  1. I'm running out of popcorn. Though the latest "victory" for the Tea Party may actually be a setback, with an unencumbered Boehner sticking around until the fighting stops.