By Noah Rothman
April 27, 2016
Some will say that, like the results of New York’s primary, Trump’s victories across the mid-Atlantic and New England states were expected and priced into predictions about how this race will shape up. While those victories were expected, their scale was not. Trump won every county that voted on Tuesday. He beat expectations by winning more bound and unbound delegates than many prognosticators foresaw. Exit polls suggest that Trump won demographic groups with whom he has previously had a hard time pitching: notably, college educated voters and those with post-graduate degrees. “I don’t think you can chalk up Trump’s excellent performances solely to demographics,” wrote FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver. “Something has changed.”
Silver recently wrote that he thinks Trump’s contention, that the system is rigged against him, resonated with Republican primary voters. Some who were previously cold toward the reality television star’s hostile takeover of the GOP began to sympathize with their captor. That’s possible, but it is a fundamentally negative reason to vote for Trump. Surely, there are many Republicans who see Trump as the avatar of their frustrations with the GOP, Washington, and those who are perceived as “elites.” Their support for the celebrity candidate is less about him and more about the vote of no confidence that they believe he represents. But the impulse to bring the bad boy home only to give daddy indigestion is a fleeting and adolescent urge, and it doesn’t explain why so many educated Americans with no interest in point-proving self-mutilation back Trump.
These are not Kamikaze voters, nor are they cleverly disguised Democrats who have stealthily infiltrated conservative ranks only to sabotage the movement’s structural supports. They back Trump, not only because they think he alone has the best chance to shake up a series of institutions they think have grown sclerotic, but because they think he can win in November.
That would seem a counterintuitive notion to those of us who pay attention to the polls for a living. One does, however, have to give the credulous Trump voter some credit. Those of us who pay attention to polls for a living have not exactly performed as the Oracle of Delphi this cycle. These voters might say to themselves that virtually every prediction from the so-called knowledgeable pundit class was wrong, so what do they know about Trump’s chances against Hillary Clinton? This is a forgivable fallacy. Trump has demonstrated that so many of the rules that political professionals spent their careers studying were not predictive this year. But because “everything we knew about politics was wrong” does not yield to “we know nothing about politics.”
Many of these voters know that Donald Trump is unpopular, and perhaps a few have internalized just how unpopular – that is to say, the most unfavorably viewed potential major party presidential nominee in modern times. But that’s a bit abstract. Few have internalized the depths of Trump’s unpopularity. For example, nearly six in ten men and seven in ten women have an unfavorable view of Trump, according to monthly surveys conducted by Gallup in all 50 states over the course of nearly a year. Just 23 percent of women, who are expected to make up between 52 and 54 percent of the 2016 electorate view him positively. A recent Latino Decisions survey found Trump is viewed favorably by just 9 percent and unfavorably by 87 percent of Hispanics. 46 percent of Latinos surveyed said they were excited to turn out in November with another 41 percent saying that their enthusiasm was driven by a desire to stop the celebrity candidate.
That enthusiasm to vote against Trump might have produced a surge in interest in the vote across the country. New voter registration numbers are only just trickling in, but in California alone, Democratic registration is up 185 percent from 2012. The number of registered Hispanic voters has nearly doubled, and the number of voters ages 18 – 24 is up by 70 percent. These are not Trump voters. “Pish,” the Trump backer says. “Who needs California to win the presidency?” True, but Republicans do need states like Arizona, Georgia, Utah, and even Mississippi. Polls of all of these traditionally GOP states on a presidential level are either competitive or favoring Clinton.
“Pish posh,” my effete, high-income, educated, hypothetical Trump supporter from New Milford, Connecticut, tells me. “These are meaningless poll results from the spring of 2016. Trump can turn this thing around by November.” This presumption is, one assumes, based on the belief that no one can “take it” to Clinton like Trump. This presumption merits dissection.
Maybe these voters know that polls conducted immediately after the conventions are generally predictive of November’s results. Maybe they know deep down that the debates generally do not matter, as evidenced by Barack Obama’s dismal performance in the ultimately inconsequential first contest between himself and Mitt Romney, among many other historical examples. Maybe a few think that Trump bleating about Whitewater or Benghazi or Cattle Futures will convert the millions of voters who are literally afraid of his candidacy. Most probably know, however, that this assumption is about as reasonable as that of the too precious college student who is pretty sure communism works but just hasn’t been implemented right – not like he knows he could. But these voters reassure themselves that Trump is a competent and capable opponent for Clinton based on statements like the one he made last night.
Amid a typically rambling victory-speech-cum-press-conference on Tuesday evening, Trump landed a sound blow to Clinton’s remarkably gender-centric campaign when he noted that she isn’t even all that popular among women. That’s something many Republicans have not said for fear that it might backfire. Trump backers adore that kind of brazenness in their candidate. It’s not entirely untrue either; that same Gallup survey which found Trump a whopping 47 points underwater among women also found Clinton 3 points behind the eight ball with this demographic. Trump supporters tune him out, though, when he says in the next breath that, if Clinton “were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote.” That’s what generated the headlines on Wednesday, and not Trump’s accurate take on the polls. Rather than reveal Clinton to be a wounded animal, this reckless and undisciplined candidate made her into a victim. And there is nothing that animates Clinton more than being able to portray herself as a victim.
These assumptions among the rank and file may be misguided, but they’re forgivable. There are, however, Trump apologists who know precisely the scale of the disaster they are courting for the GOP in November. MSNBC host and Washington Post columnist Joe Scarborough spent the morning reveling in the humiliation Trump has brought down upon the shoulders of an ill-defined class of elites who haunt the imaginations of the envious. To the extent that he even bothered to discuss the general election campaign, Scarborough conceded that “the odds [for Trump] may be long” but “no longer than the ones he faced last June when he first sought the GOP nomination.” Even a casual review of the data above renders this declaration hollow, if not willfully misleading. The conservative radio host Laura Ingraham took to Twitter on Tuesday to castigate Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey for casting a ballot for Senator Ted Cruz. “Who does @SenToomey represent? Not Pennsylvania Republicans,” she chided. Attacking a vulnerable purple state GOP senator who is running for reelection in November for taking an unpopular and principled stand in defense of a fellow conservative is not the act of someone who wants to see GOP majorities in Congress next January. Rather, minority status for the movement she professes to support seems the more likely objective.
“If a mainstream Republican candidate were the presumptive nominee, the GOP would likely be in a strong position for a lot of wins, top to bottom, in November,” said pollster Ed Goeas this week following the release of yet another crushing survey for a Trump-led GOP. Paradigm-shifting exogenous events, cataclysms, and sea changes in the national mood can occur, but that is what it would take to get Trump elected in November. It’s not impossible, but quite unlikely. Many Trump supporters have suspended their disbelief or have placed their trust in the dishonest. The Obama years have not been kind, and a sense of hopelessness and frustration can drive anyone to extreme measures. Just because the instinct among Trump supporters to believe that he can win in November is understandable, that doesn’t render it justifiable.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com