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Trump's November Triumph
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The trickle of attention we observed from New Hampshire has turned into a torrent, as established voices on the right are taking notice of how Trump is turning out YUGE numbers of primary voters. And not just registered Republicans, either–unaffiliated voters who have their choice of primary are far more likely to choose the Republican side than they were in 2016. Given Trump’s strong performance among self-identified independents, Scott Adams’ prediction of an electoral landslide may really be coming into sharp focus.

Iowa and Nevada are closed caucuses and Democrat numbers are not recorded precisely, so let’s consider the increases in Republican turnout in each of these states from 2008 to 2016:

State ’08 ’16 Increase
Iowa 104,696 186,743 78.4%
Nevada 44,315 75,216 69.7%

The total US population grew 6% over that same period of time.

Even more suggestive of a Trumpian November triumph are the non-closed contests in New Hampshire and South Carolina, where unaffiliated voters may participate in either party’s primary (but not both of them). The following table shows total votes cast in each primary and the percentages of each year’s voters who participated in the Democrat and Republican primaries (D%-R%):

State Dem ’08 GOP ’08 Dem-Rep Dem ’16 GOP ’16 Dem-Rep
New Hampshire 287,542 234,125 54.6%-45.4% 247,479 281,400 46.8%-53.2%
South Carolina 532,227 431,196 55.2%-44.8% 315,526 737,917 30.0%-70.0%

The contrast in South Carolina between ’08 and ’16 is astounding. In ’08, more people voted in the Democrat primary than in the Republican one. Eight years later, there were more than twice as many participants on the Republican side as there were on the Democrat side.

Helmut Norpoth’s model that got attention last week for audaciously putting the odds of a Trump presidency between 97%-99% was reverse-engineered to fit the data, a sort of complicated linear regression equation.

That’s a reasonable approach, but it’s not fool-proof. In fact, it’s a big reason Nate Silver has so much egg on his face from his terrible predictions about the race so far. The problem with reverse-engineering formulas like this is that it doesn’t take account of sui generis phenomena, and Trump is just that.

Specifically, Trump’s self-funding (he’s a real boy in a Republican field of pinnocchios); his pugnacious refusal to back down to anyone–the guy is getting nuked from outer space, attacked by his own party, by the president, by the pope–no one in the history of American politics has been able to withstand this kind of relentless onslaught and yet Trump isn’t just withstanding it, he’s thriving from it; and his strategic leveraging of social media (I tend to hear about the latest ‘controversy’ surrounding Trump from Trump himself before I see it in the major media) means that he can effectively fight the entire world on his own and come out on top. His position as king of social media gives him a wider effective reach than Fox News, the New York Times, and the WSJ combined.

The question still remains why this theoretical landslide isn’t being detected in the polling data. I put little stock in hypothetical general election match-ups when both fields still have multiple candidates. The explanation as to why is tricky, but let’s give it a shot.

When pollsters contact people, they filter out everyone who isn’t a “likely voter” (in most polls anyway–some just ask about registered voters. LV is superior to RV). They then proceed to ask who these “likely voter” respondents would vote for if it were Hillary v Trump, Hillary v Cruz, Hillary v Rubio, Hillary v Kasich, Bernie v Trump, Bernie v Cruz, etc. Well, these respondents are now tagged as “likely voters” and so will usually answer even if the candidates in question won’t motivate them to actually get out and vote a year later. These respondents weren’t really lying when they identified as a “likely voter”, but that likeliness may well be contingent on who the nominee is. In a race like this, that benefits Trump enormously.

An example of how this works in practice is you get a Trump supporter who is dead set on backing his, so when the pollster asks if he’s a likely voter, he says he is. But if Trump’s not the nominee, he’s not actually going to go out and vote on election day. Theoretically this can go in any direction (Trump keeping Rubio supporters home), but given how the huge Republican surge thus far is overwhelmingly a consequence of Trump, it’s far more likely that people will sit the election out if he’s not the nominee than if he is.

The upshot of polls being conducted in this manner is that we get absurd results such as Kasich showing up as the best matchup for the GOP against Hillary in the general, while Cruz and Trump often appear to be the worst. But Kasich doesn’t have any enthusiastic supporters, while Cruz and Trump do. Those Trump and Cruz supporters are still telling these pollsters that in Hillary v Kasich, they’ll vote for Kasich, but in reality a lot of them won’t.

(Republished from The Audacious Epigone by permission of author or representative)
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  1. Awesome post, but let me think out loud on one point. If it is true that Trump has a lot of support and enthusiasm out there when you sample likely voters of all political stripes (likely to vote for one person, anyway), shouldn't he be doing better in the head-to-head match ups with a Democrat? I haven't followed this super closely, but isn't he usually a bit behind Hillary or Bernie? It seems right that the numbers are misleading for the other Republicans in head-to-heads with a Democrat, but aren't the numbers accurate when Trump is in the head-to-head? Unless you're getting the same kind of dynamic with Sanders–lots of enthusiasm that gets people selected into the sample, the number of left voters gets pumped up, and then when Hillary is in a head-to-head with a Republican, Bernie voters are saying Hillary, but some won't show up to vote.

  2. , shouldn't he be doing better in the head-to-head match ups with a Democrat?

    Trump is being bloodied daily. Hillary is being given a pass by both Bernie and the media.

    The immediacy of Trump's negatives is on the top of people's minds while Clinton's corruption and ineptness and failure are, not forgotten really, but not the first thing that comes to mind. Think of a forward digit span test on a phone number (trump) and a reverse digit span test (same phone number) (clinton) – you hear the number and you can immediately recite it back but your recall gets taxed when you have to recite it backwards. This all changes when Clinton is getting pulverized by Trump in the general and on a daily basis and in ways that only Trump will engage, so no slimy talking point will extract Clinton from the fire zone.

    I like to think of Trump's "low energy" definition of Bush. It stuck. Same with "Liar" against Cruz. Same with "Choke Artist" against Rubio. Clinton isn't defined yet so people don't get an immediate reaction against her, they have to pause and then her corruption issues might come up.

  3. The stupid party is really going full retard now.

    KKK, really? I must have overlooked the Manhattan chapter, riding on horseback through the subway system.

  4. Big state guys tend to win elections.

    Nixon had California. Both Bush's had Texas.

    The key thing for Trump in the general election is that he is a big state guy.

    Trump will have NY State.

    Hillary is a carpet bagging footloose cosmopolitan, as well as a nasty piece of work and an out and out crook. Trump's family history in NY City predates both the American Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, AKA the founding of America.

    Reagan has nothing on Trump's current celebrity status. It's not just the Apprentice show. Trump was parodied in Gremlins 2 (Clump vice Trump) and had a bit part in Home Alone 2 over 25-years ago. Trump is literally part of NY city's pop culture self-image, as well as its skyline.

    This is what blow out elections look like — There is no Democratic Party path to winning the electoral college that excludes New York or New Jersey, let alone both.

    And Trump will win both.

    Sitting Governors of big states tend to deliver them to Presidential nominees.

    Trump getting endorsed by Gov. Chris Christie was the opening shot of the General Election campaign.

    This is why the general political class panic and desperate KKK attacks on Trump.

    Now consider that Trump's son-in-law is Jewish, his daughter converted and he has Jewish grandchildren.

    Hillary may not be able to take NY City, let alone NY state.

    That is Scott Adam's 40(+) state blow out right there.

  5. Ron,

    Good question, one for which I don't have a good answer (although Bernie negating the Trump effect seems as good as any). My instinct is to say that GOP voters are being systematically under polled in general election match ups. Reuters-Ipsos does a daily tracking poll and both Bernie and Hillary comfortably beat the entire Republican field. So shift the Rep positions up 5 points and the Dems down 5 points and maybe you have something closer to what will actually transpire.


    Right. It drives the punditry class crazy, but every time Trump turns his guns on someone, they take a hit in the polls. Cruz climbed to the top of the second-tier by keeping his mouth shut for a long time, but as soon as he drew the knife, he got kicked back down, too. Rubio, despite all the hype about him being the most viable GOPe alternative, may not, during the course of the entire nominating process, win a single state or ever register above 25% in the national polls. The only two who have seriously challenged Trump at all during the course of the campaign have been Carson and then Cruz. That's it. The others have never even come close. We hear about how they're going to get there, but it never happens, and the hour's getting very late for it to happen now.


    Yes, that, even more than the Pope attack, will probably work in Trump's favor. It plays perfectly into his personification as the anti-PC battle champion. Ditto the Mussolini quote. The typical middle class guy, working in contemporary American corporate culture, is going to sympathize with the person who is having the PC trap laid for him. It's easy for him to see himself making some innocuous off-hand comment or not hating the official objects of hate hard enough and being humiliated, demoted, or even fired for it.


    Compelling, as always. I'm waiting for PredictIt to create shares for who will win the state of New York in the general election.

  6. Epigone, I don't know. The republican hot shots really are trying to un-person their own leading candidate.

    PC-based character destruction is the favorite tool of the left because it works.

  7. The presidential primary sitting big state governor rule was on display in Texas and Ok, AKA big state governors can deliver their states to serious candidates of their choice in a presidential primary.

    The key for Cruz on Super Tuesday was Gov Abbot's endorsement in Texas.

    Cruz had the discretionary manpower to pivot his North Texas GOTV people to Oklahoma, because of Gov. Abbot's endorsement.

    The Bush/Barbour machine behind Rubio cannot do a GOTV surprise in Florida with Gov Scott backing Trump.

    Winning Ohio is going to be a lot of work for Trump.

  8. Inductivist,

    Another explanation (see Agnostic here) could be polling to fit presumed turnout. If there is a surge among blue collar whites in the general, that isn't going to be picked up in a phone poll that is going for, among other things, X% college grad respondents and Y% non-college grad respondents.


    It's a change in degree but not in direction. Rubio is really going over the top. Regarding character destruction, Richard Spencer put it perfectly when he wrote that if Trump holds on to win the nomination, the world will have changed.

    Mil-Tech Bard,

    Yes, Trump underperformed his poll numbers severely in both Oklahoma and Texas. Across the South, however, the polls just about nailed it.

    Regarding Florida, Rubio doesn't really even have home field advantage. Trump has a big presence in Florida. With Mar-a-Lago and the golf courses and the time he spends there, it's his second home state.

    Cruz winning Alaska is a bit unsettling since it could conceivably represent the first time he has won among anything other than self-identified "very conservative evangelicals" (basically all of Texas' Republican electorate). On the other hand, it was a caucus and so not representative of general sentiment, and it's an outlier anyway since it's Alaska.

  9. Dan says:

    Damnit, the GOPe really will destroy the party over this. Mitt Romney supposedly will issue a big speech against Trump tomorrow.

    The KKK bullshit is nuts. WTF to do now? They will not let him have the nomination under any circumstances, that's my feeling.

    It makes me feel like everything is a gaslighting operation. At least it has been exposed. Romney will go 100% against Trump and call him Hitler tomorrow I imagine.

    Donald Trump, now would be the time to make some deals. Trump would have every right to go third party after this.


    I think you and I may have been the only people talking about the broad based support for Trump. Looks like the "smart" people are catching on now.

    The interesting to start looking at is the how the missing whites Sean Trende tried to pin down are now showing up in droves. I've seen a few stories here and there about massive turnout in rural areas. It's not inconceivable that the "missing whites" were a lot bigger than Trende speculated.

  11. Donald Trump, now would be the time to make some deals. Trump would have every right to go third party after this.

    No, no, no, no. What is best in life? To crush your enemies—see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women. This is a hostile take-over of the GOP. A third party run has too high a risk of not winning the WH. Far better to take-over the GOP and then isolate all those who came at the king. What is crucial in DC? Access, that's what. Access gives influence. Who is going to pay these guys anything when they are frozen out of the halls of power? They'll have to go and get jobs as janitors somewhere.

    Finally, the country is better off having these guys driven off the political scene. Once Trump is in then he's got years to put his stamp on the party. A victory in Nov. signals a transition to a new phase of this war.

  12. Dan,

    Bribing opposition commanders to defect, yes. He's probably done some of that (Christie). But not with the GOPe as a whole. Neutralize its leadership in the field and then put their heads on gibbets when he busts into the throne room.


    Even as it's noted in the body of the article that the Super Tuesday trends were mostly a continuation of what had transpired in the first four states. It was hidden right in front of their faces.


    Thulsa Doom will finally call Trump his son right before Trump delivers the coup de grace. When the GOPe starts bargaining, the time for clemency will have already come and gone.

  13. AE,

    See this Michael Barone piece:

    Why did Michigan blacks vote differently from Southern blacks?
    By Michael Barone (@michaelbarone) • 3/10/16 1:41 PM

    Hillary got only 65% of Black votes in Michigan compared to 88% in Mississippi.

    That is the reason for her surprise lost in Michigan to Bernie Sanders.

    The Barone piece at the link makes the point that Northern Blacks often vote differently than Southern Blacks for reasons of cultural and local politics.

    And what is true for the Primaries will be true when Hillary faces Trump.

    I don't expect Blacks who voted for Bernie to vote Trump in very large numbers…but I do expect large numbers of those Northern Black voters will stay home with Hillary as the Democratic nominee.

    NB: This is a potential factor for an electoral collage wipe out for Democrats in the North East & Mid-West in the General Election, as well as some huge surprises down ballot.

    Now read this —

    Mook warns of defeat in Ohio, Illinois, Mo., 'outspent, outraised' by Sanders
    By Paul Bedard (@SecretsBedard) • 3/11/16 8:40 AM

    When you read that story, you have to come to the conclusion that Hillary is in trouble with Bernie in states where she isn't going to get 85%(+) of the Northern black vote. AKA Ohio (Demographically like Michigan) and Missouri lean Hillary and Illinois now looks problematic.

    This means Bernie Saners is going to be able take his fight all the way to the Democratic convention, hoping for an incitement of Hillary, if nothing else.

    It is now more likely Trump will have the GOP nomination wrapped up before Hillary.

    As continued Bernie primary victories means he will have the money to force Hillary to spend against Bernie all through the Democratic primaries, AKA Hillary is going to be in the Romney 2012 bind of lacking money for dealing with unanswered Trump campaign attacks.

    The implications for Democrats of that fact, added to possibly lower Northern Black voter turn out for Hillary in the General election, is horrendous.

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