The “Hillary Would Be Losing…” Myth

Hillary Would Be LosingI’ve been hearing for months that the Republicans would win this presidential election if only they hadn’t nominated Donald Trump. I’m not completely against this line of reasoning. I had hoped from last summer that that GOP base really had no ideological bearings and so would nominate him because I thought he would be a weak candidate. But I think this idea that “Hillary would be losing to any other candidate” is just a myth. I wrote about this back in May, John Kasich Would Not Beat Hillary Clinton. Remember: Kasich is about the most “reasonable” candidate the Republicans have.

One thing that bugs me about the whole “Hillary would be losing” game is that it is just that: a game. Although I think it is based on bad reporting over decades, Hillary Clinton has very low approval numbers. So what does it even say that if the Republicans had nominated someone more popular than she that they would win this election? It’s almost a tautology: Hillary would be losing if Hillary were losing. I think what we are really supposed to take away from this is that the country is really in a Republican mood. It’s a way for conservatives and (even more) moderates to whistle past the left turn the country is taking.

The Trump Tax

What most brought this all back up for me was Vox‘s Trump Tax. This is a very silly exercise where they look at six political science models, take a weighted average, and then decide where the race should be right now. Based upon this, they think it should be Generic Republican +1.8 percentage points. Also note: the range of the models is 8 percentage points (Generic Democrat +4.0 to Generic Republican +12.0).

Will Donald Trump Win?Now, being as I’m a “fundamentals guy,” you might think I would like this approach. I do, after all, have my very own election model. Now my model is very simple. But there’s a reason for that. I’ve always thought that election models were mostly nonsense. The only thing you can really depend upon is the economic trend. The rest, I believe, is noise. It’s based upon the fact that these models are really nothing but correlations. And they are based on a very small sample size — in general, no one looks at elections before Eisenhower.

Professional “Hillary Would Be Losing”

If you really want to play the “Hillary would be losing” game, you can take it to the professional level. You can say, “If Trump weren’t so bad a candidate, the press would have spent more time picking over the Republican candidate instead of just shrugging and saying, ‘You know Trump!'” Or you can go back further and say, “If Democrats didn’t see the mess that was the Republican primary, they might have nominated someone other than Hillary.” You can play the “Hillary would be losing” game to the end of time. It means nothing.

Another thing that bugs me about all of this is exactly what a Generic Republican is. The models are based on elections when Republicans had better candidates. If it wasn’t Trump, it was going to be Ted Cruz — a man so vile even Republicans hate him. Or what about the much more likable Marco Rubio? I always thought that Hillary would have eaten him for lunch. So I’m not sure what Generic Republican tells us anymore. What my model tells us is that this election should give the Democrats a slight advantage.

So if conservatives and moderates want to make themselves feel better by playing the “Hillary would be losing” game, fine. But all it really says is that in a different universe, things would be different. And I think we can all agree on that.

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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.

7 thoughts on “The “Hillary Would Be Losing…” Myth

  1. >> Also note: the range of the models is 8 percentage points (Generic Democrat +4.0 to Generic Republican +12.0).

    Shouldn’t that range be 16 percentage points? Or did I miss something?

    • Ha! I just figured no one would notice and so I needn’t explain the apparent error. Here’s what’s going on: the Democratic range is 44 percent to 52 percent. So that’s an 8 percentage point range for the Democrat. (The same for the Republican: 56 to 48.) But in the 44 percent case, the Republican would have 56 percent; that’s a +12 percentage point advantage. In the 52 percent case, the Republican would have 48 percent; that’s a -4 percentage point advantage. In other words: when a candidate gains a point, it has double the effect on the difference. I certainly could have been more clear. I actually think I might have left it that way just to see if anyone noticed. I certainly remember thinking that it might confuse people. Anyway: I’m pleased as punch that you noticed!

  2. The wildest (although most completely predictable) thing I read today? Even after that vile video, top evangelical leaders all stuck with Trump. But these are the same slime who supported Reagan over the far more devout Carter. American Christianity has been poisoned by these hacks. They’re on the moral level of Borgia popes. Martin Luther would condemn them all, and Luther was a crazy anti-Semite. I am shocked that more people haven’t turned to progressive evangelicalism. Maybe it will take some kind of huge scandal, like the Catholic abuse revelations, to force reform in American Protestantism. There has to be a point when churchgoers realize how corrupt these leaders are. Doesn’t there?

    • You really should join Facebook, it would be a lot more fun. Anyway, Friday night I wrote, “Showing just what his Christianity means to him, the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins said this regarding the new Trump revelations, ‘My personal support for Donald Trump has never been based upon shared values.’ It’s all about power.”

      Just the same, as I wrote here recently, I think that calling oneself a Christian doesn’t really define anything. There are people with vastly different ideas of what it is to be a Christian. There are people who imagine Jesus as a non-violent proto-hippy. And there are people who imagine him as Rambo. Now personally, I think it’s crazy. If I were a Christian, I would grab the Gospels, because that is (apparently) the closest you get to Jesus. I’d also grab Paul’s work. I wouldn’t grab onto Badass Jesus from Revelation. But that’s the thing about religion: it ain’t what it brings to you; it’s what you bring to it.

    • It’s a fantasy at this point to think “the generic” could be nominated. It has to be a hateful human stain like Trump. I don’t know if it has to be as dumb as Trump, but no remotely non-bigoted candidate could win that nomination at this time. The party shat on Bob Dole asking for support of international treaties benefiting the disabled. Bob Dole, the guy who picked right-wing super-dingbat Jack Kemp for VP. Nowadays, Dole wouldn’t have a chance — maybe not Kemp or Quayle, even. The GOP’s that far down the rabbit hole.

      I noticed an Arizona newspaper that never endorsed any Democrat before came out for Clinton. Congrats!

      I love that anger translator bit. He’s also in the fine Joss Whedon ad about Mark Ruffalo’s wiener. Although Don Cheadle and the short Hispanic lady walk away with the thing.

    • What do you mean by that? Because, for example, all the models predicted Obama in 2008 and most did so in 2012. I think that the models aren’t doing a good job of dealing with the demographic changes and the fact that the Republican Party has gone off the deep end. So I tend to think that now even a modestly declining economy still favors the Democrat. Although I will admit: that’s what I want to believe and that may be affecting my analysis.

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