David Faris | (Informed Comment) |
Over the last few weeks, pundits have written a series of “Trump can actually win” think pieces. Especially in light of Trump’s improving performance in the GOP primaries, no one wants to be the person who declares a Clinton loss unthinkable and then gets linked back to by schadenfreude-seeking Trump voters after an election day upset.
Nevertheless, a Trump victory is indeed unthinkable. While nothing is impossible in human political affairs, Clinton over Trump is the easiest slam dunk in national politics since Reagan-Mondale. There is a reason GOP elites are running scared from their presumptive nominee, and planning to skip the convention in Cleveland: Trump will be the most radioactive major party nominee in modern American history.
You don’t need elaborate theories about turnout to see this. Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has led Trump in 65 of 72 national polls conducted since January 1st as of this writing. In a deeply and almost evenly divided country, this is quite remarkable. The only pollster to show Trump with a lead since February is Rasmussen, an outfit with a consistent GOP bias that doesn’t release public crosstabs and is widely regarded as one of the worst national polling organizations. And those numbers are unlikely to fluctuate wildly, since Trump and Clinton are two of the best known human beings in the country.
To put this in perspective, by this date in the 2008 cycle, John McCain – who would go on to lose the election to Barack Obama by a 7-point blowout – had led in 15 of 59 public polls taken that year. And at this point four years ago, Mitt Romney had a lead in 11 public polls taken in 2012 and would eventually lose the election by 5 million votes. While there will no doubt be a handful of outlier polls showing a Trump lead between now and November, Trump is in worse shape than either McCain or Romney on their worst days. That’s the baseline.
But the national numbers don’t tell the whole story, since the winner is decided by the Electoral College. Trump’s polling in purple states is even more abysmal, as he trails badly in swing states like Florida and Ohio. And the few surveys taken of Republican leaning states like Arizona suggest that Trump will be fortunate just to hold on to the McCain 2008 map. And let’s not forget that Trump is profoundly unpopular in the Mormon West, which will sink him in purple Colorado and perhaps even in Utah, a state McCain carried 62-34.
The national polls only confirm what common sense tells us: Trump is a deeply unqualified and divisive presidential candidate who is unlikely to appeal to anyone beyond his noisy, hardcore base. Not only that, he inadvertently blunders into the GOP’s two biggest demographic problems at once. First, he is toxically unpopular with Latinos, who continue to grow as a slice of the American electorate as whites decline. Mitt Romney was crushed among Latino voters 71-27, a shatteringly needless and self-inflicted loss brought on by capitulation to his party’s nativists and his insistence that undocumented immigrants “self-deport” themselves.
Trumps’s incendiary “rapists and murderers” rhetoric about Latinos is directed mostly at Mexicans, but this distinction is likely to be lost on most voters. Gallup’s most recent data shows that Trump is viewed unfavorably by 77% of Latinos. He would probably be lucky to pull 15%. The presence of a brash and dangerous know-nothing racist at the top of the Republican ticket will bring out these voters in record numbers.
Trump will also worsen the GOP’s longstanding, double-digit deficits with women. Trump’s smoldering misogyny is so incandescent it can be seen from space. Whatever else you want to say about him, Mitt Romney is an anodyne family man with a completely unobjectionable history with women (aside from his boilerplate Republican anti-choice positions). He lost women decisively 56-44, and the election by 5 million votes.
To have a prayer of beating Hillary Clinton, Trump – a man with a Tolstoy-length history of hateful recorded statements about women – would have to substantially narrow that gap. Is there anyone who realistically thinks this is possible? It would be hard to pull off even if Trump started sounding like the president of Planned Parenthood tomorrow morning, but as evidenced by his incoherent victory “speech” after the Acela Primaries, he seems to have no intention of toning down his loathsome anti-women rhetoric.
But Trump’s problems go beyond women. Given how much worse he is likely to lose women and Latinos than McCain or Romney, he must expand the Republican candidate’s appeal to men. Romney won men 54-46. But this isn’t 1952, and many men, thankfully, find Trump’s rampant misogyny as repellant as women do. Trump is under water even with white men, a group any Republican candidate needs to win by double digits to even sniff victory. McCain won them 57-43.
And the worst for Trump is yet to come. His incompetent and impulsive business dealings are well known, such as his venture into real estate at the height of the housing bubble. While his Republican rivals eventually hit him for things like the fraudulent Trump University, there are much more rotten skeletons in his closet, like his extensive ties to organized crime, or the barely-walked-back allegation of marital rape leveled at him by his ex-wife Ivana Trump. Clinton, no stranger to bare-knuckle politics, will hammer Trump on these transgressions, even as the big GOP donors contemplate sitting the contest out.
Even most members in good standing of the GOP intelligentsia recognize Trump’s unique and unparalleled threat to American democracy and to their party’s reputation. From David Brooks to Robert Kagan, Republican thought leaders have publicly declared their intention either to vote for Clinton, to leave the top of the ticket blank, or perhaps like Bill Kristol, to push for a kamikaze run by an establishment figure. In most cycles, this could be considered nothing more than loose talk from sore losers, but Trump is a uniquely polarizing candidate within the GOP, and many movement conservatives are just never going to come around.
Prediction markets currently give Trump a 30% chance. This seems generous. In reality, Trump will be playing defense in states like Arizona, North Carolina and Georgia. A significant slice of the core Republican electorate is likely to skip the election or vote for a spoiler. Women will come out in record numbers, not only to elect the first woman president in history, but also to snub the appallingly misogynist Trump. Latinos will set turnout records, and deliver unprecedented, African-American-like margins to Clinton. Voters may be furious, but they aren’t angry enough to send a man like this to the White House.
This will all disappoint pundits and media elites hoping for a close race. So go ahead and bookmark this page if you think I’m wrong.
But Donald Trump is a goner.
David M. Faris is a professor of Political Science and Public Administration at Roosevelt University in downtown Chicago. He is also the director of Roosevelt’s interdisciplinary International Studies Program. His book Dissent and Revolution in a Digital Age: Social Media, Blogging and Activism in Egypt (2013) focuses on the use of digital media by Egyptian opposition movements.
Related video added by Juan Cole: