Friday, June 17, 2016

Trump's General Election Campaign: More of the Same, Except For the Free Falling Numbers

Once the nominees are set, Presidential elections are driven by a fairly clear set of defining moments.  There are the natural campaign events and actions: the selections of Vice Presidents, the conventions, the debates.  And then there are the meteors that rock the world, like the economic meltdown of 2008, the ones that stop campaigns and force them to react.  There are also “gaffes” that may occur on the campaign trail, such as the Mitt Romney “47% Video.”  And, occasionally, candidates might actually break through with something good on their own.

The post-primary/pre-convention months are usually fairly quiet, as candidates consolidate their parties, hone their visions for their candidacy, set their general election strategies, try out attack lines and begin to try to define both the race and their opponents on the terms of their choice.  That is happening with the Clinton team, but not on the Trump side.  The Trump approach to the general election has been unconventional as ever, after his brief flirting with respectability.

Trump’s initial moves to consolidate the GOP with his “respectability tour” officially ended with his attack on the Indiana-born judge who is presiding over Trump’s “Trump U” case.  Trump accused the judge of bias in the case based strictly on his Mexican lineage.  These attacks were labeled (correctly) by the de facto head of the Republican Party, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, as the “textbook definition of a racist comment.”  Plain and simple.  This happened just a day after Trump had finally secured Ryan’s endorsement.

With that, and ever since, Trump cast off any notion that he might settle down and play the role of a traditional candidate.  His latest assault on decency was his tone-deaf response to the Orlando tragedy, the season’s first “meteor,” in which he crowed in a tweet that he was “right” in his announced policy of banning Muslims from entering the United States, even though the mass murderer was American.  Once again the GOP establishment was sent scurrying, trying to figure out how to support Trump while denouncing him simultaneously.  GOP senators facing tough re-elections, like John McCain, are pitifully twisting in the gale force winds of Trump’s blather; one of them, Paul Kirk of Illinois, decided to unhitch himself from Trump completely and has been roundly denouncing him ever since.

The latest high level GOP defection came from none other than Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state under George W. Bush who, rather than hiding in the woods or vaguely supporting “the nominee,” said the following:  “If Donald Trump is the nominee, I would vote for Hillary Clinton.  He doesn't appear to be a Republican, he doesn't appear to want to learn about issues. So, I’m going to vote for Mrs. Clinton.”

Apart from not coalescing party support, Trump is not really conducting much of a campaign at all; or if he is running one, it is certainly a radically different “minimalist” one.  He has a far smaller staff than usual.  He is not building a strong ground organization.  He is not giving the normal fight-back responses to frontal assaults from Clinton, Obama, and a Super Pac that is running a campaign denouncing Trump’s various statements about women, presumably due to campaign dysfunction.  He is not spending his time in strategically-designed venues.  He is not raising the kind of money he needs and has abandoned his initial $1 billion target.  He is, in other words, not doing much apart from the Twitter-feed.  And speaking of “gaffes,” you only have to keep an eye on that Twitter-feed to catch the next campaign-rattling, game-changing moment.

All of this is taking a toll on Trump’s prospects.  When Trump was in his “unify” mode in May, he narrowed his gap with Hillary Clinton from roughly the 6-7 range down to the 2-3, even leading in some polls.  But in the month of June, the gap has widened again, back up to 5-6 and, in the most recent four polls, that gap has grown to 8 points.  The whispering about a Clinton landslide has begun again.

Head-to-Head
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun

Jun Last 4 Polls
Clinton
47
49
46
45
43

44
Trump
43
39
40
42
38

36
N/A
11
12
14
14
19

20
Spread
4
10
7
3
6

8

But what is interesting about the “head-to-head” numbers is how the number of “other/don’t/know/won’t vote” responses has grown as the nominees have been anointed.  Trump’s numbers are going down, but Clinton’s are not really going up.  While she has seemingly found her voice in her much-lauded series of speeches over the past several weeks (the foreign policy speech, the post-California/New Jersey speech, and the Planned Parenthood speech), she still has Email-Gate hanging over her and the attendant “trust issues” and remains the GOP’s best unifying point (“anyone is better than Clinton”).  Hillary has far more work to do to seal the deal.

Libertarian Gary Johnson, the former GOP Governor of New Mexico, makes a dent in these polls when included.  (The polls above do not include Johnson specifically but tend to offer the categories of “don’t know,” “won’t vote” or “other.”)  The roughly 10% Johnson garners when he is included is surely overstated versus what a ballot box verdict might show, but nevertheless he is a factor.  Johnson tends to hurt Trump more than Clinton but not by a wide margin. 

The head-to-head polls reflect, not surprisingly, the favorability levels for each candidate.  While Clinton’s favorability level has been extremely constant at an unflattering 40%, Trump’s has bounced in the truly abysmal 29% to 35% range and is heading down again.

Favorability
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Clinton
40
41
39
39
41
Trump
34
31
29
35
33
Spread
6
10
9
4
8

With so many events ahead of us – all of the scheduled ones and who knows how many more meteors and gaffes – it is virtually insane to attempt to chart a course for the remaining 143 days of the campaign.

But I suspect we are heading toward something between a full Clinton blowout (400+ electoral votes out of the total of 538) and the traditional “Blue Wall Plus Swing State Win” for her, much like Obama’s in 2008 (365 electoral votes) and 2012 (332).  There are a smattering of swing state polls out there from April and May, but not enough recent (June) ones to put together a decent 50-state view (I will do that as soon as enough data becomes available), but at this juncture we are headed toward a Clinton win with at least 350 electoral votes and the potential to get to the 400 mark. 

It is hard to imagine the deeply red states voting for her over Trump under any scenario – there are 19 states that have averaged, over the past four presidential elections, a 13-point or greater GOP margin, and they account for 138 electoral college votes.  That leaves 400 for Clinton, including the Blue Wall, the swing states, and some traditional red states such as Georgia, Arizona and Missouri that could be in play.M



2 comments:

  1. While ratings numbers have their own accuracy issues, Trump's 20 millions is not an accurate number. The average Trump supporter is likely following him on at least 2 if not all 3 platforms, as well as following using any company/club/etc. accounts they also have access to. Additionally, it has proven to be extremely easy and relatively inexpensive (when compared to normal campaign costs) to buy hundreds of thousands of followers on all three platforms as well as the presence of "bots" that are programs that follow the most popular accounts. That is not to say there aren't millions of people rabidly following his message, I would be shocked if it was more than 5-6 million. (While not the key point of the article, just wanted to touch on that if it's being 'trump'eted by his campaign)

    Overall, great analysis, makes feel a little better with all the Trump signs and bumper stickers I've been seeing in NJ lately

    -Andrew

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think Trump has a huge campaign and it will help him in his victory. I think all the poticians have to be very educated and skilled, I advise you writing service - the website that will make you a president!

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