Why Donald Trump Wins — or Already Did

Donald TrumpEzra Klein wrote, Here’s What I Think Donald Trump’s Loss Will Look Like. You don’t need to read the article, here’s the entire argument, “Trump could just… not win. He could lose the Iowa caucuses. He could fall short in New Hampshire. A loss in any early state might lead to a loss in every state.” That could happen. But I think his argument is too dependent on Howard Dean as a model.

I remember the 2004 primary fairly well. I don’t recall Dean simply collapsing on the day of the Iowa caucus. His campaign seemed to be losing steam for months. His one big selling point was that he was against the Iraq War. But it also happened to have been the case that he wasn’t terribly liberal. And as good (Revolutionary!) as his online campaign was, the rest of his organization wasn’t that great. His whole campaign seemed to have lost steam by November. He was coasting. And then there was that bizarre trip to meet with Jimmy Carter. Through all that period, Dean seemed like the dog that caught the car. His campaign seemed rudderless.

I do think it is a mistake to make an analogy between Democratic voters in 2004 who were very angry about a recent event where they thought their party had let them down, and Republicans in 2016 who are very angry about everything and nothing, and always are.

Now you could say the same thing for Donald Trump. But I think Trump’s appeal to the Republicans is far more visceral than Dean’s appeal was to the Democrats. The Democrats liked that one issue, not Dean; Republicans like Trump. What’s more, there were real candidates running against Dean. Kerry might have seemed stilted, but he was a veteran. So was Gephardt. Trump is running against two first term Senators. Rubio actually has some experience, but he is not appealing to Trump voters. Cruz has basically no political experience and doesn’t seem any more electable against Clinton than Trump does. So I just don’t see Donald Trump petering out.

To me, the much more likely way that Trump loses is through the narrowing of the field. His negatives are still very high. After Bush and Carson get clobbered in Iowa, those votes will most likely go to Rubio and Cruz. I don’t see Christie doing anything much past New Hampshire. If Trump loses, it seems most likely that he will do so because there is a ceiling to his appeal. But that ceiling used to be much lower. The better he does, the higher the ceiling gets, because people aren’t against him because of his bigotry or policies or whatever; they are against him (in as much as they are) because they don’t think he can win.

I have no special insight into this. But I do think it is a mistake to make an analogy between Democratic voters in 2004 who were very angry about a recent event where they thought their party had let them down, and Republicans in 2016 who are very angry about everything and nothing, and always are. And I do think he has as good a chance of winning the Republican nomination as anyone else. But let’s not forget: he’s set the timbre of the campaign. If he isn’t the candidate, he’s still more or less the candidate. Again, I don’t think there is anything special about Trump. So who really cares? Donald Trump wins!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

19 thoughts on “Why Donald Trump Wins — or Already Did

  1. Being one of the Deaniacs, I think Dean lost because he peaked too soon, us activists were new, we got tired, and he ticked off the media at the wrong time. I also think he had no interest in being President.

    Trump is very different even though it is pretty clear he is tired too-his base is still pretty whipped up. So who knows what will happen in three weeks?

    • It should be interesting. At this point, he would be my choice of the two three. And that’s not because he would be the easiest to beat. I think his policies would be the best and he would be the least rigid. And he’s horrible. That says a lot about the Republican Party.

      • Last election I wanted a brokered convention because I want people interested in the process of electing a president and that would have really helped. But this time I just want them to pick the least annoying candidate who will get hit by a meteor the second he walks on stage.

        • Most people don’t even know what a brokered convention is. People don’t really understand party politics anymore and would be shocked to see it in action. They seem to think we have some kind of two party direct democracy.

          • Which is why I wanted to have one. But unfortunately the Republicans managed to fall in line. Damn it Janet.

            Thanks to FDR, debacles like the 1924 convention (fun fact: first time a woman was nominated for Veep) have been prevented since no one has gotten less than half at any of the conventions since. This is probably a good thing since the Presidential race already sucks up all of the attention of our very shallow media.

            • Did you just quote Rocky Horror?

              And then with the EC system, anyone could be made president. That’s a much bigger issue.

              • Yeeeeeeeees?

                It is the reason we got Bush instead of Gore, well one of the reasons anyway. I do wish we could at least go to congressional seat division of the EC votes.

                • Well, since Gore actually won the state of Florida, I don’t find that compelling. But I agree with Michelle Goldberg here:

                  And the problem with congressional seat divisions is that it gives Republicans an advantage because the urbane core of the Democratic base and gerrymandering. Let’s just do a popular vote. The EC is a thing of the past. There is no reason to continue using it.

                  • Mea culpa, looks like Bush’s win would have been more if based on electoral votes. My understanding was that Gore won Florida but it would have required a statewide recount and Florida law that the time only allowed for a campaign to demand them by county. He only demanded four to be recounted.
                    http://www.factcheck.org/2008/01/the-florida-recount-of-2000/

                    And that view is surprisingly hopeful. Did you have a good weekend or something?

                    • I think you’ve had an effect on my outlook. I feel a bit more like a fighter these days.

                      Another thing about the districts is that it will only be red states that do that because it is only democrats who actually believe in democracy. Among conservatives, it is amazingly common to hear that they don’t want more people voting because most people are ignorant, etc. (Funny that the people who say that are usually very ignorant themselves; listening to 8 hours of Fox News per day does not a well informed person make.)

                    • Yay! *hands you a sword and faces the oncoming hordes*

                      It is accurate on the conservatives-they make a lot of assumptions about their knowledge base then get mad when you show how they are wrong. But they cannot be wrong because they are right and it becomes a pointless exercise.

  2. Nobody will be happier than the press if Trump wins the nomination. He is their dream come true. Whole careers are being built on Donald Trump’s brand of showmanship. It could be that if his star begins to fade they’ll either do something drastic to keep it going or wholesale wrist-slitting will become the new and strange epidemic.

    But I noticed you didn’t even mention Carly Fiorina. She’s been out there all day talking about what she’ll do when she’s president. Get with the times, Frank! FIORINA!

    • Here’s where I think your sarcastic post about Fiorina has some unintended truth! The only “new” thing about Trump is he’s being managed by people who have discarded the classic campaign “define yourself by an issue” maxim. As in, “find a message, push it until it becomes the core of your public support, build from there.” Trump has no “issue.” His people don’t give a damn if what he says on any given day matches anything he said the day before.

      What this makes me think, and I’m just guessing, is about 2012. Romney was getting slaughtered until his debate with Obama where he stopped playing at being a Serious Leadership Figure and just started lying blindly. Every debate point, he was prepared well, and he lied so boldly Obama didn’t have prepared responses. It make Romney, with all the Leadership charisma of Robert Duvall in “The Godfather,” look Ruff ‘ n ‘ Tuff. It almost bolstered him back into contention (not because most Americans watch debates, as they don’t, but because the media swarmed all over Romney’s “strong performance” and ignored how he broke the rules by going Full Unrepentant Liar.)

      Now GOP politicos always lie; that’s their mission from God. Yet it seems that Lie Of The Week doesn’t suit the average American attention span. This works just fine in feeding the Fox beast to present Democrats as traitors during Democratic administrations; some new bogus issue can always be manufactured.

      It seems to be running low on gas at the primary level. Trump appears to be proving that Romney’s debate handlers were right. There’s no need to have any kind of consistency or any kind of core “values.” Just spark shit as often as you can. Feed the maw of constant “us/them” outrage. There seems to be no end to the dopamine boosts “them Godless cowardly minority-loving Democrats are at it again” give the addicted.

      Poor Fiorina. She had her moment of glory with baby-brain-blender-sales outrage. That’s so 2015! Baby brains? Who cares! The important thing wasn’t baby brains, it was “how liberals pervert all that is good, your daily update.”

      I mean, if I took baby-brain harvesting seriously — and of course I don’t — I’d be appalled when debates shifted onto issues I thought were unimportant, like Hillary’s e-mails. But these things aren’t serious issues to these voters. They DO take abortion seriously, but only as part of a bigger battle being waged on how liberalism took women from being barefoot and pregnant and that made God angry and He reduced fourth-quarter GDP growth. (He works in mysterious ways.)

      • I don’t think the first 2012 debate was quite like that. That’s part of it, certainly. But it is also true that sitting presidents tend to do poorly at the first debate. It’s hard for their handlers to force them to prepare. But the net result was only that people who were eventually going to vote for Romney regardless started telling pollsters that they were. If you look at the numbers, you’ll see that Obama’s numbers didn’t fall. Now, that doesn’t mean that the political campaign “experts” pay attention to the facts. But I don’t think Trump got that from handlers. It was just him not caring and he’s seen how well it worked.

        Don’t count Fiorina out! She was never running for president; she’s been running for VP and she is doing a great job of it.

        If you don’t know of Ramona’s Voices, you should definitely be reading it.

        • Sure. Mostly me ranting. Basically whenever I sit down and watch a GOPer speak for more than 30 seconds the lies start to hit some sort of Critical Mass where I want to physically hurt the TV. And this is foolish, as televisions are expensive. Romney’s debate performance struck me in this way. But so had W’s State Of The Union speeches. I guess this stuff is not so new.

          “Ramona’s Voices” is great. I will definitely keep an eye on the sidebar here for her updates. She nailed the Bundy clowns. And she’s a Yooper! (UP, or “upper peninsula” of Michigan. Referred to hereabouts as “yoopers.”) Well known to be a strange and iconoclastic breed. Full of crazy Christians and beer/cheese artists and historians who remember damn well labor fights from 100 years ago. Not unlike Minnesota’s Iron Range, where Dylan came from (and fled fast as his feet could carry him.)

          (Pretty much anywhere has fascinating traditional/local culture, some good, some bad. It’s why when I lived in Oregon, I preferred the coast and the eastern side to Portland/Eugene. Portland/Eugene are fine, but they try too hard to be Hip and New. The legacy of history is far more interesting.)

          As per Fiorina, yeah, she would fit in the fine tradition of GOP VPs, from Ryan and Palin all the way back to Agnew. I don’t recall when the Prez nominee was so red meat as Trump. Even Reagan had the “goofy grandpa” thing going for him. Maybe Goldwater?

          • As I recall, even the Gore-Bush debates created a lot of commentary about how hung up Gore was on facts and other nerd things. Yeah, we want a president we would want to have a beer with — even if he doesn’t drink.

            Fiorina will be a wonderful choice. Republicans claim to despise identity politics, but it is much of what they do. They assume women don’t have a thought in their heads and will just vote for any woman candidate.

    • Well, being from California, I’m so done with Fiorina. But I did go through a period where I was writing a lot about her. There is something very interesting about her. She’s like Palin in that she says totally false things. But for her it seems to be an act of will. Palin is just an idiot. Fiorina is just playing one because she knows that’s what is required for her role as the future Republican vice-presidential candidate. It’s hard to watch. It’s like how I find actual racists easier to take than non-racists who simply use racism to their advantage. At least if someone really thinks something, they can be reasoned with. The demagogues are basically psychopaths. Which brings us back to Donald Trump!

  3. I think Dean had some credibility because as governor he had already implemented universal health care. But aside from that and the war, I don’t remember any of his specific policies.

    • It seems to me that he had even said that he only planned to be an issue candidate. He wanted to talk about healthcare. And he was shocked when his campaign took off.

      I never thought that Clinton and Kerry actually believed in the Iraq War; they just didn’t want it to be an issue. And we were going to war regardless.

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