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Donald Trump has won the battle: will he win the war?

May 9, 2016

Donald Trump has been declared the Republican Party’s nominee for the presidency of the United States – and for once, not only by himself. This victory defies all the laws of political gravity.

The traditional Republican way is to elect the establishment’s chosen candidate, generally someone who has served the party faithfully and well – and preferably someone plausibly electable against the Democrats’ standard bearer. The nominee is expected to stick to mainstream conservative principles and to be broadly acceptable to those pulling the strings at Fox News.

Trump fails all these tests. And with his signature blend of populism, provocation and spectacle, he has driven the party into a schism, pitting conservative against conservative.

In the immediate wake of the Indiana result the audience of Fox news was treated to a downcast debate between the network’s two principal conservative voices, Bill O’Reilly and Charles Krauthammer. While O’Reilly tried to defend Trump as a misunderstood populist hero, Krauthammer declared himself implacably opposed to a man he declared was not a true conservative and who could not be trusted to defend conservative values, far less be entrusted with the nuclear codes.
The party shows no sign of being ready to unite behind Trump. The Hill, an influential political newspaper published in Washington DC, has even provided a list of Republicans who have declared on the record that they simply will not back him. The list is long, and includes some very influential conservative names.

These horrified “NeverTrumpers”, who’ve been pushing their own #NeverTrump hashtag, are all too aware that nominating “The Donald” would not only betray the party’s core principles, but possibly doom the GOP to electoral catastrophe. Disgusted conservatives might well decline to vote at all. That would contaminate Republican candidates across the country; the party would probably lose control of the Senate, and perhaps even of the House of Representatives.

So what exactly are Trump’s chances against Hillary Clinton? The Real Clear Politics average of the most recent half dozen polls has Clinton leading Trump by an average of 6.5% in a hypothetical (and now very likely) match-up.

Take out the poll by the Rasmussen firm, which has a very chequered history – not least projecting a Mitt Romney victory on the eve of the 2012 election – and Clinton leads by 8.2%.

The respected Sabato Crystal Ball project at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics offers another perspective. This uses expert judgement on a state-by-state level to assess the likely number of electoral votes that would be won in a match-up between Clinton and Trump.

The best estimate offered, as of today, is a projected 347 votes for Hillary Clinton in the electoral college, with 191 going to Donald Trump. A total of 270 votes is required to win the presidency. By way of comparison, Barack Obama won 332 electoral votes in 2012 to 206 for Mitt Romney.

The betting and prediction markets tell a broadly similar tale.

Finally, let’s look to the PollyVote project, which combines evidence derived from polls, expert judgement and prediction markets, plus a few other indicators, to provide an overall forecast of the likely outcome in November. As of today, the PollyVote predicts the Democrats to obtain 53.3% of the two-party popular vote, compared to 46.7% for the Republicans.

Trump stands today at the top of the Republican tree. He has won the battle. He will find it much harder to win the war.

One Comment
  1. Solomon permalink

    Fantastic summary on the chances of Trump. always a pleasure reading your work, keep sharing the wisdom.

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