Tag Archives: donald

Could Trump Actually Win?

One of the enduring critiques of Donald Trump from conservative Republicans throughout the primary process has been that the businessman’s cocksure temperament and draconian immigration policy proposals, though popular among certain segments of the Republican primary electorate, will all but ensure his defeat in a general election campaign against Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic Party nominee. I have levied this criticism against Mr. Trump in the past; after all, his approval ratings among women and Hispanics are awful and are unlikely to improve dramatically before voters cast their ballots in November, even if the businessman makes a concerted effort to soften his image within these critical demographic groups.

But since Donald Trump took his place as the presumptive Republican nominee, the long succession of general election polls which showed the real estate mogul trailing both of his potential rivals by a wide margin has been completely overturned. Before Mr. Trump’s decisive victory in Indiana’s primary on May 3rd forced Ted Cruz and John Kasich out of the Republican nomination fight, the GOP frontrunner was polling badly against both potential Democratic opponents. General election polls taken in the month of April showed Mr. Trump trailing Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders by an average of just about 10 and 12 percentage points, respectively. By contrast, in April 2012, Mitt Romney, who ultimately became the Republican nominee for that year’s presidential election, only lagged President Obama by an average of five points across seventeen general election polls.

But in the polls taken after his ascendance to the status of presumptive nominee, Donald Trump has gained ground rapidly. Though Bernie Sanders still trounces him by an average of 9.4 percent, Mr. Trump has closed what was a double-digit gap between him and Mrs. Clinton to a mere 1.2 point margin. Taking only the polls conducted in the last week, the businessman pulls ahead of Mrs. Clinton, albeit by less than one percent on average. Yet remarkably, these same polls show Mr. Trump to suffer still from the same likability problems which his critics and opponents have identified. According to a Fox News poll conducted this week, Mr. Trump is disliked by nearly three-fifths of the national electorate, yet he still manages to defeat Mrs. Clinton by three points. What gives?

First, though voters still dislike Mr. Trump immensely, they like him more now than they have in the past. Two months ago, the percentage of voters which view him negatively reached 65 percent, a record high for the duration of Fox News’s general election polling so far in this election. In the most recent survey, this number declined to 56 percent. This change could be reflecting a number of factors, including Mr. Trump’s move toward more moderate policy stances and less strident rhetoric as he shifts toward a general election strategy.

Second, Republicans are beginning to dutifully unite behind Mr. Trump as their party’s nominee. According to Gallup, which has tracked the businessman’s favorability among registered Republicans and Republican-leaning independents since July 2015, conservative voters are now more united behind him than ever, with two-thirds viewing him favorably now. Though many Republicans remain dissatisfied with Mr. Trump as their party’s nominee, they still largely plan to support him, and the once powerful #NeverTrump movement is now greatly diminished in strength and resolve.

Third, voters view Hillary Clinton as a poor alternative to Mr. Trump. According to this week’s Fox News poll, over three-fifths of the electorate—61 percent—view her unfavorably, while only 56 percent view Donald Trump in this way. Among independents, which have been a decisive force in the past several presidential contests, Mrs. Clinton’s favorability rating is atrocious, with a whopping 51-point gap between voters who view her favorably (23 percent) and those who do not (74 percent). Independents also dislike Mr. Trump, but his net favorability (-17 percent) is much better than Clinton’s. The former secretary of state also fares poorly on questions of trustworthiness, as many voters view her as the epitome of a slick career politician. Nearly half of voters view her as more corrupt than Mr. Trump, including nearly a fifth of Democrats.

Fourth, it is becoming increasingly unclear whether Mrs. Clinton will manage to unite the Democratic Party behind her candidacy. Though she has received strong support from registered Democrats in several recent surveys, what really matters is whether she will be able to woo Bernie Sanders’s supporters—best characterized as liberals who do not identify as Democrats—to her cause. But as relations between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders have soured, her favorability rating among the Vermont senator’s following has cratered. According to a YouGov poll conducted early this month, 61 percent of Mr. Sanders’s supporters view Mrs. Clinton unfavorably, and only 55 percent said that they would vote for Clinton over Trump in November. Of course, much can change between now and the November election, and we will undoubtedly see Sanders’s supporters shift at least slightly toward Hillary Clinton once she clinches the nomination. But unlike Mr. Trump, whose base of support largely consists of disaffected working-class people of independent political persuasions, Mrs. Clinton draws most of her support from older voters who identify themselves with the Democratic Party.

This difference could ultimately prove fatal for Clinton’s campaign. It has long been the case that party identification is one of the best predictors of how people will vote. As one study of voting behavior in the 2008 election explains, “party identification is a perceptual screen: a pair of partisan-tinted eyeglasses through which the voter views the political world.” As such, it goes without saying that Mrs. Clinton will command most of the vote from Democratic Party-affiliated voters in November. But this portion of the general electorate is one which virtually any Democratic nominee would win anyway simply by virtue of his/her party affiliation. The real battle is for moderates and independent voters, who are agents of transformation in an otherwise static political arena, yet these voters do not like Mrs. Clinton at all.

Donald Trump is much better positioned in this respect. Though many Republicans are uneasy about his candidacy, their loyalty toward GOP-affiliated candidates will pull them inexorably toward their party’s nominee. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump will hold onto his core group of supporters—the powerful bloc of independent blue-collar voters which his candidacy has energized—for the November election.

For months, I and many political pundits believed that Donald Trump would be a weak general election candidate. But as the general election matchup between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump has solidified, it is becoming increasingly uncertain just who exactly is the underdog in this year’s fight for the highest office in the land.

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Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Was Colorado Rigged?

In an opinion editorial published in this morning’s edition of The Wall Street Journal, Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump unleashes a blistering critique of the presidential nomination process, excoriating the party establishment for “defending a system that for decades has served the interest of political parties at the expense of the people.” The editorial embodies the anti-establishment flavor of Mr. Trump’s campaign as it rails against a “rigged delegate-selection process” while pledging to seek future reforms which maximize “transparency,” “representation,” and “voter participation” in the GOP’s nomination procedures.

Mr. Trump’s words come on the heels of a major setback for him in Colorado’s caucuses last weekend, where Senator Ted Cruz swept every delegate and affirmed the superiority of his well-organized national campaign. The massive loss was full of blunders for the Trump campaign, which printed a delegate slate full of errors and misdirected the votes of many Trump supporters at the state convention. But for Mr. Trump, poor preparation had little to do with his loss. On Monday, the New York businessman took to Twitter to air his grievances, calling the Colorado caucus process “totally unfair” and accusing Ted Cruz of bribing delegates with “all sorts of goodies” in order to gain an advantage.1 In Mr. Trump’s estimation, the corrupt election system dominated by party elites—not his own campaign team’s failure to understand and organize for the Colorado caucus process—should bear the blame for his poor showing there.

To evaluate this claim, I will examine the Colorado caucus process in the context of Mr. Trump’s complaints, focusing upon the history and the political justifications which undergird the changes made to the Colorado process last year.

 

The recent history of the Colorado caucuses

The establishment wins in 2012

In 2012, former Republican senator Rick Santorum won the Colorado caucuses, defeating Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who was the preferred candidate of the so-called “party establishment,” by nearly six points. Mr. Santorum’s victory came as a surprise, particularly in light of the fact that Mr. Romney had won the state’s caucuses handily back in 2008 with over three-fifths of the vote.

Yet when it came time for Colorado’s delegates to cast their ballots in the 2012 Republican National Convention, not a single vote was cast for Mr. Santorum. Instead, because the delegates selected for the national convention were not bound by the vote in the precinct caucuses, Mitt Romney received the support of most of the state’s delegation, while the others simply refused to participate. Many party activists and grassroots conservatives in Colorado felt betrayed by this sleight-of-hand, which they viewed as an effort by the Republican Party establishment to force its candidate of choice onto the voters.

Taking back control in 2016

With the rise of Jeb Bush in the early moments of the presidential primary process last year, Republican Party grassroots activists in Colorado became deeply concerned. As the National Review recalled early this week, many conservatives were worried about a repeat of 2012, where Colorado’s state delegation was press-ganged into supporting Mitt Romney at the Republican National Convention. At the same time, a binding straw poll—though an improvement over the non-binding presidential preference vote which permitted Mr. Romney to win a delegate majority in spite of losing the state—would favor a well-funded establishment candidate, who could simply spend a few million dollars in the state to buy up advertising and build a traditional ground campaign in lieu of actually investing time and energy to reach out to grassroots conservatives.

For these reasons, party activists pushed for the abandonment of the precinct straw poll in favor of the direct election of delegates by voters in precinct caucuses, a move which gave Republicans the opportunity to elect grassroots conservatives in their communities as delegates to the county caucuses. These county caucuses would then choose delegates for the congressional-district and state assemblies, at which the final delegates for the national convention would be chosen. Unlike in 2012, all of the delegates selected for the national convention are bound to the presidential candidate for whom they have stated a preference, and each delegate’s preference is known to the caucus assemblies prior to the final vote.

The net effect of creating this complex system is two-fold. First, the elimination of the precinct straw poll, which enabled Coloradans to cast a vote for the presidential candidate of their preference, in favor of precinct caucus elections of county delegates ensures that passionate grassroots conservatives, rather than representatives of the best-funded campaign organization, would be favored for election as delegates to the county, state, and congressional-district assemblies. Had such a system existed back in 2012, Rick Santorum likely would have won significant majorities among the county convention delegations, which then could have assured him at least a majority of the state’s delegation at the Republican National Convention.

Second, by binding the delegates to the presidential candidate of their preference at the conclusion of this lengthy process, the state party rules safeguard against efforts by an establishment candidate to woo the state’s delegates and subvert the will of the conservative grassroots activists who participated in the precinct caucuses and organized for the candidate who best represents their views.

 

Evaluating Trump’s claims about Colorado

 Claim #1: “[T]he people of Colorado were not able to cast their ballots to say which nominee they preferred.”

Mr. Trump’s careful wording here is technically correct. Because the presidential preference poll was abandoned, Republican voters in Colorado could not vote for any of the presidential candidates by name.

That said, the alternative was not, as Mr. Trump seems to imply, the coronation of Mr. Cruz by Republican party elites. Though there was no presidential preference poll, Colorado voters participated in precinct caucuses to directly elect delegates—each of whom expressed a particular candidate preference—to the county assemblies, which in turn chose the makeup of the congressional-district and state conventions which would select the official national convention delegates. Therefore, in practice, the Colorado caucuses did permit voters to cast ballots for the nominee of their preference through the direct election of county delegates.

Claim #2: The delegate selection process in Colorado was “rigged” and “totally unfair.”

Complicated, perhaps. Rigged? Not at all.

The rules of the GOP Colorado caucuses are readily available online. Though they are complex, they are not difficult to grasp, and the rules clearly state how the process operates. And with respect to fairness, the mechanics of the caucuses were completely aboveboard. The vigorous debate within the state party last August about dealing away with the presidential preference poll occurred in full view of the public and culminated in a unanimous decision from the Colorado Republican Party’s executive committee to change the process to its current form. Mr. Trump had just as much time as all of the other candidates to prepare a campaign strategy that would succeed, and he was more than capable of posting a decent showing there had he made an effort to organize in the state. But no such effort was expended, and Mr. Trump lost.

Is there a better alternative to the current system?

Turning from Donald Trump’s specific criticisms of the Colorado caucuses, I wonder what sort of primary election process he would propose to replace the unrepresentative and opaque system which he claims we have now.

Mr. Trump appears to desire a simpler system which rewards candidates by proportion to their support in presidential preference elections. If a candidate has “by far the most delegates and many millions more votes than anyone else,” as the businessman tweeted last Friday, he or she should no longer have to “fight” for the nomination. In response to a debate question on the subject last month, Mr. Trump stated that “whoever gets the most delegates should win.”

These comments seem to support the adoption of a national proportional primary system, a similar process to the one which the Democratic Party currently uses. If a candidate wins a certain percent of the vote in a proportional primary, she should receive roughly that same percentage of the delegates from her victory. This sort of system is simple and fair, and I am not opposed to it.

However, Mr. Trump’s contention that the person with only a plurality—not a majority—of the delegates should be awarded the nomination anyway sets a dangerous precedent. A fractured nomination contest with multiple contenders could permit a fringe candidate with minority support to become the party’s representative in the general election, a development which would disenfranchise a majority of the party’s members and create a scenario in which one of the fundamental obligations of the political party—to tie its representatives to a distinct philosophical framework—would be left unfulfilled. It is in these situations, where the democratic process is unable to yield a decisive majority consensus, that political party leaders are so important to have. If Mr. Trump is unable to attain a majority of delegates—or, for that matter, a majority of the popular vote—there is no opportunity to turn back the clock and retry the election until he or another candidate can convince a majority of Republican voters that he is the best choice available to them. In the absence of time travel or do-overs, the delegates at the Republican National Convention must have the ultimate say if a candidate fails to demonstrate the evidence of consensus which a majority represents.

Footnotes

  1. Trump did not substantiate this latter claim, and I was unable to find any evidence for it myself.

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Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Hispanic Pitzer Student Criticized for Denying the Word ‘Trump’ is Hate Speech

Over the weekend, several places on Pitzer College’s campus were spray painted with pro-Trump messages. Last Sunday, Brian Carlisle—the Vice President for Student Affairs at Pitzer College—responded to the vandalism and set off a firestorm of student responses.

Carlisle condemned the “hate filled message”—referring to the phrase “Make America,” presumably the first half of Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s campaign slogan—that was written over an on-campus mural. Carlisle also stated, “harassment and intimidation will never be accepted at Pitzer” and said that the administration is conducting an investigation to hold someone accountable.

Carlisle’s response was not sufficient for students who believe writing “Trump” is a racist hate crime and emblematic of “institutional racism” at Pitzer. “The way Administration has failed to classify these incidents as a hate crime has put students of color  safety at risk and has proved to students of color that their safety and well-being is not a priority of this institution,” claims Sarah Roschdi (PZ ‘17). “Students of color are being directly targeted by pro­trump messages and their [sic] has been zero steps taken to secure the safety and wellbeing of students of color on this campus.”

Haylee Sindt (PZ ‘18) did not agree with Roschdi’s sentiments. “Every person that has been affected by this, has the absolute right to feel this way,” wrote Sindt. “You may say that it makes you feel unsafe or that this is a hate crime,” she adds. “However… this is not a hate crime, it was not done to maliciously harass or intimidate ‘people of color,’ and in no way shape or form should it ‘negatively and personally impact people.’”

“Please tell me how the words ‘Trump’ and ‘Make America’ is threatening or triggering,” Sindt continues. “What would the campus’s reaction be if ‘Vote for Bernie’ or ‘Hillary is Awesome’ was written on the mural? Would people still be reacting to the degree to which they are? We all talk about how these colleges are a free space, however, in reality they are not. The second that someone with opposing views, [whose] ideals are vastly out numbered, expresses their opinions, people shut them down, tell them they are wrong, and that they are making them feel ‘unsafe.’”

Several students expressed outrage in response to Sindt’s email. “Your email dismisses the experiences of every person of color on this campus,” Lillian Horin (PZ ‘17) said to Sindt, who is Hispanic. Horin also criticized Sindt’s use of quotation marks around the word unsafe. “Do not trivialize how people of color feel on this campus and in the world around us. We do not feel ‘unsafe,’ we feel unsafe,” wrote Horin. “Just because you don’t feel it doesn’t mean the rest of us are merely whining. If we feel unsafe, believe us. We have no reason to lie.” Horin added that the words ‘Trump” and “Make America” are, in fact, racist because “one need only look at his [Trump’s] supporters to see that it is.”

“I am not here to explain stereotypes, micro aggression, white privilege, or systematic oppression to you,” stated Jessica Saint Fleur (PZ ‘18). “It is no secret that Trump’s campaign is centered around these aspects of oppression. His entire campaign is built on bigotry and hate.”

One student even accused Sindt of being the one who defaced the mural. “Your tone in your email sounds like you might be/know the person who vandalized the mural,” states Basha Brulee-Wills (PZ’ 17). Brulee-Wills then encourages Sindt to think about why she is at Pitzer, “because it possibly cannot be that you’re striving to uphold Pitzer’s core values.”

Pitzer’s Dean of Students, Moya Carter, shared her opinions regarding on-campus vandalism as well. “This is not the place to speak to the foolish, embarrassing, hate filled, Islamophobic, fact devoid behavior being represented by some of the candidates running for President of the United States,” wrote Carter in an email to the student body. Just sentences later, Carter claims that “Pitzer College is a community that strives for critical thought, diversity of beliefs and freedom of expression.”

“When they have nothing better to argue, they immediately accuse someone of being racist,” Sindt told the Claremont Independent. “Many students do not know how to accept what students with differing ideas have to say, so they immediately shut them down. People need to learn that not everyone in life will agree with them.”

To survive, the GOP must stop Trump

Many journalists and political commentators have already opined on the problems which would accompany the selection of Donald J. Trump as the Republican Party’s nominee for the highest office in the land. Many conservatives are concerned that Mr. Trump would lose to Hillary Clinton in the general election, given his poor poll numbers against the former secretary of state. A survey conducted this week in Utah, a state which has voted Republican in every presidential contest since 1968, revealed that Trump would narrowly lose the state in a one-on-one matchup against Secy. Clinton.

Others have argued that Mr. Trump, whose juvenile humor and penchant for personal assaults have attracted much attention this election cycle, lacks the temperament to become president. Vanity Fair even published a piece which sought to characterize Mr. Trump’s demeanor and public statements as evidence of narcissistic personality disorder. And conservative writer George Will has discussed how Trump’s lack of fealty to conservative principles will cause the Republican Party to suffer defeat in November against Hillary Clinton.

Yet Mr. Trump’s supporters would dismiss these criticisms, at least in part. On the first point, general election polls this early in the presidential election have little predictive value. An article published in 2007 by the Pew Research Center explained that early general election matchups “are mostly wrong about who will win the White House,” and an extensive analysis by political scientists Christopher Wlezian and Robert Erikson of general election polling has shown that “polls from the beginning of the election year have virtually no predictive power.”1 Wlezian and Erikson’s examination also concluded that it is not until April that general election polls begin to carry some meaningful predictive value, but even then, they are only mildly predictive of the eventual outcome. Therefore, although Mr. Trump has performed the worst of all the other Republican presidential candidates in head-to-head general election matchups thus far, we should take these results with a grain of salt, at least for now, and not dismiss the New York businessman out of hand.

On the second point, though Trump does have his (many) moments of infantile behavior, he has demonstrated at least some capacity to restrain himself and act presidential. We saw this occur in the most recent Republican debate, where the Donald largely refrained from attacking his opponents, and in the businessman’s speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s conference this week. Attempting to characterize Mr. Trump’s ego as some kind of mental disorder or incapacity, as Vanity Fair attempted to do, is nothing more than tabloid journalism.

Supporters of Mr. Trump would also argue that George Will’s critique of the brash businessman’s conservative credentials misses the mark. In general elections, partisan candidates suffer the consequences of their brinksmanship at the ballot box unless they manage to convince moderates to come aboard. Mitt Romney, for example, drew a higher percentage of conservatives to the polls in 2012 than did Ronald Reagan in his 1980 election victory, but Mr. Romney’s poor performance among moderates—whom he lost by 15 points—cost him the election. Assuming that Donald Trump can obtain the GOP nomination, his moderate and liberal policy positions—such as his support for federal funding of Planned Parenthood—will only help him in a national election, where a centrist electorate decides the outcome.

Though I could summon a bevy of counterarguments to refute these points, let us assume for a moment that Trump’s supporters are correct on all three counts. Let’s assume that the general elections polls right now, which almost all show the Donald getting trounced by Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, are not predictive of the outcome on November 8th, 2016. Let’s presume also that Donald Trump is well-suited for the presidency, having the temperament and the judgment to be the leader of the free world, and that his moderate ideological dispositions might actually help him defeat the Democratic nominee for president by attracting centrist voters to his candidacy.

Even if all of these assumptions are held to be true, Republicans should still fight tooth-and-nail to defeat Donald Trump because his victory would fundamentally undermine the Republican Party and its critical role in American democracy.

Political parties are important for two main reasons. First, they represent particular visions of how society is and how it should be. Parties make it possible for voters to choose between these different perspectives—for example, between the desires for a smaller or a larger government—without necessarily knowing everything that there is to know about every single candidate who runs for public office. In other words, parties enable a voter to make an educated choice at the ballot box simply by casting his ballot for the candidate who identifies herself with the political party—and the political philosophy—which the voter himself finds agreeable. Second, by attaching holders of public office to distinct philosophical frameworks, political parties make the government comprehensible to its citizens. It would be impossible to make sense of Congress if the viewpoints of its 535 members could not be grouped by some sort of political party affiliation. When we say that the U.S. House of Representatives is currently controlled by Republicans, we are conveying something meaningful about the ideological makeup of the House as an institution and about the values and philosophies of its individual members.

But in order to realize these benefits, political parties must nominate presidential candidates who represent their values. If they fail to do so, the particular vision which the party represents will crumble into a confused mess as the nominee, who stands as the ostensible representative of the ideals of the party, presents a set of fundamental principles which directly clash with the views that he is supposed to defend. And though Donald Trump claims to embrace some conservative views, his most important policy ideas sharply contrast with the GOP’s core doctrine. Of all seventeen of the initial contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump is the only one who has categorically opposed any reforms of Social Security or Medicare. In a party which stands for a strong national defense, Mr. Trump has raised doubts as to whether the U.S. should remain in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)—the “backbone of Western security policies since the Cold War“—and has intimated that he would remove American support for South Korea and Japan, which he sees as free-riders on the U.S.’s commitments in the Asia-Pacific region.2 He is a strong proponent of eminent domain3, a practice which conservatives regard as a transgression of our most fundamental property rights. And most notably, Donald Trump has railed against free trade agreements with Mexico, Japan, and other countries, saying that he would “renegotiate or break” the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as president. Yet the last Republican Party platform hailed the TPP as an opportunity to “open Asian markets to U.S. products” and even proposed a “worldwide multilateral agreement among nations committed to the principles of open markets.”

If the decidedly not conservative Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination, the party will be too hopelessly divided to articulate a clear vision of what it stands for in the months before the November general election. At his current pace, if Trump manages to clinch the nomination, he will do so without winning a majority of the popular vote. Yet as the party’s standard bearer, he would become the chief representative of the conservative worldview, a worldview against which he has openly rebelled throughout his campaign. This dissonance would ultimately lead to disaster, as most general election voters would conflate Mr. Trump’s views—particularly his unpopular stances on undocumented and Muslim immigration—with those of the Republican Party, even if most conservatives in fact strenuously disagree with his policies. And as the GOP’s fundamental philosophical tenets are pulled into his orbit, Republican candidates for public office all across the country would either have to renounce their party membership—thereby tacitly acknowledging that Mr. Trump is indeed accurately representing the GOP’s principles—or furiously deny that Donald Trump is in fact representative of their particular views on the issues or of the Republican Party as a whole. But with voters demonstrating an increasing tendency to vote for the same party in down-ballot elections as they do in the presidential contest, these arguments are unlikely to have much of an effect.

Even beyond the 2016 election, nominating Donald Trump would have severe repercussions for the Republican Party. As America’s population has become more and more diverse, the GOP has painstakingly worked to expand its outreach in minority communities and become more inclusive. Selecting Mr. Trump would upend all of that hard work and indicate that the party is willing to stand with a person who has called for barring all Muslims from entering the United States, who has promised to carry out the indiscriminate mass deportation of 11 million illegal immigrants, and who condones violence against protestors at his campaign rallies and stump speeches. If the GOP has any desire to survive beyond this November, it must defeat Donald Trump at all costs and resoundingly reject his poisonous rhetoric.

Footnotes

  1. See Erickson, Robert S., and Christopher Wlezien. The Timeline of Presidential Elections. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2012. Print. 3-5.
  2. In an interview on Meet the Press, Trump said: “We have 28,000 soldiers on the line in South Korea between the madman [Kim Jong Un, leader of North Korea] and them…We get practically nothing compared to the cost of this [involvement].” Of course, this statement is demonstrably false—South Korea spends nearly a billion dollars to support the relatively small American troop presence there—but it does reveal the contrast between Mr. Trump and the Republican Party on foreign military commitments. While Mr. Trump views U.S. involvement in the Korean peninsula and around the world as a monetary and strategic cost, most Republicans regard international engagement as a tremendous strategic benefit which far outweighs its costs. In fact, the 2012 Republican Party platform emphasized the need for “U.S. leadership in the Asian-Pacific community” and increased engagement with South Korea.
  3. The Supreme Court legitimized the practice of private-to-private eminent domain—where the government transfers property from one private owner to another, usually for the ostensible purpose of economic development—in the landmark 2005 case Kelo v. City of New London. Proponents of the Court’s expansive definition of eminent domain, including Mr. Trump, argue that this sort of government-facilitated property transference is necessary in order to kickstart economic development in blighted areas. Opponents of the Kelo decision, however, believe that this view of eminent domain, which allows the government to forcibly transfer private property from one owner to another as long as “just compensation” is provided to the original owner and the transference is “for public use,” legitimizes the abuse of private property rights, particularly those of the poor, and enriches wealthy businessmen like Trump who have the means, knowledge, and access to use eminent domain to their advantage. As conservative Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his dissenting opinion in Kelo, “[a]llowing the government to take property solely for public purposes is bad enough, but extending the concept of public purpose to encompass any economically beneficial goal guarantees that these losses will fall disproportionately on poor communities.”

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Image Source: Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Super Tuesday 2.0: The fallout from the March 15th primaries

On the Republican side

Donald Trump marched to victory in four of the five Republican primaries on Tuesday, steamrolling Senator Marco Rubio on his home turf in Florida and holding back an insurgent Senator Ted Cruz in Missouri, Illinois, and North Carolina. His only loss came in Ohio, where John Kasich, the state’s popular governor, won handily. After his disappointing loss in Florida, Marco Rubio suspended his campaign, shrinking the GOP field to three candidates.

The only certainty coming out of Tuesday’s primaries is that the uncertainty of the GOP race will persist for some time. Donald Trump had a good night, but it was not quite decisive enough to make his nomination a foregone conclusion. His dominant performance in Florida, though bringing him 99 delegates closer to winning the nomination outright, also pushed Marco Rubio out of the race and strengthened Mr. Trump’s opponents. According to a new national poll by Morning Consult, nearly half of Rubio supporters back Mr. Cruz as their second-choice candidate, while just one in eight view the Donald as their best alternative. A little more than a quarter would support John Kasich. Taken in the context of Trump’s razor-thin margins of victory in Missouri and North Carolina, where he won by 0.2 percent and 4 percent respectively, these numbers indicate that Mr. Rubio’s political demise may compromise Donald Trump in the long run, giving just enough strength to Cruz and Kasich to mount serious challenges to Mr. Trump in critical states like Arizona, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Though posting strong performances in all of Tuesday’s primaries, Donald Trump failed once again to demonstrate his ability to expand his appeal beyond his narrow, impassioned core group of supporters. Though he did manage to exceed his average vote share from the previous contests, the New York real estate mogul was yet again unable to obtain a majority in a single state. The longer he fails to exceed the 50 percent mark in these primary races, the more time will pass before he will be able to credibly claim that he is a consensus candidate who can unite the party, and the more opportunities Messrs. Cruz and Kasich will have to topple Mr. Trump before he can clinch the Republican nomination.

Beyond Tuesday, Mr. Trump will need to win just under 60 percent of the remaining 975 delegates in order to clinch the GOP nomination. With winner-take-all and winner-take-most states dominating the rest of the primary season, his path to the nomination is realistic but far from secure. In order to clinch the nomination and avoid ejection at a contested convention, Mr. Trump will need to string together victories in several of the upcoming winner-take-all and winner-take-most primaries and overcome his narrow appeal within the Republican electorate.

 

On the Democratic side

 After a shocking defeat in Michigan on March 8th, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton redeemed herself with a dominant performance in Tuesday’s Democratic primaries. She swept every state, taking Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio by comfortable margins and fending off fierce challenges from Senator Bernie Sanders in Missouri and Illinois. Though winning the nomination is still a statistical possibility for Mr. Sanders, his performance on Tuesday has made his practical path to the nomination impossibly narrow.

Unlike the Republican Party, which permits states to award delegates on a winner-take-all or a winner-take-most basis, the Democratic Party only allows its primaries to award delegates proportionally. This feature makes late comebacks difficult, since overcoming a large delegate deficit in proportional primaries requires not only victories but also wide margins of victory, like those which Mrs. Clinton has produced throughout the South. With Clinton now leading by over 300 pledged delegates and 400 superdelegates, Mr. Sanders will be hard-pressed to come up with the massive wins he will need in order to shift the balance of the Democratic race and overtake his opponent. Barring an extraordinary change in the state of the race—such as the indictment of Mrs. Clinton over her alleged mishandling of classified documents as secretary of state—Bernie Sanders will not be the Democratic Party’s nominee for president.

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Image Source: Flickr

Super Tuesday: Go Big or Go Home

What is Super Tuesday?

Since our last feature on the Iowa Caucuses, four states, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada have all cast their votes for both the Republican and Democratic Presidential nominees, respectively. With two caucuses and two primaries, these early voting states represent each region of the United States: the Midwest, the Northeast, the South, and the Far West. Both the RNC and the DNC set rules for when states can hold their primary elections, and excluding these four exemptions no states are allowed to hold primaries or caucuses in the month of February. Washington also held its Republican caucus for local elections earlier this month, but the state doesn’t vote to bind its delegates to a Presidential candidate until the subsequent primary in May. Typically, the earlier a state casts its votes, the more influence it holds in the nomination process.

States and territories from all over the US are holding primaries and caucuses on Super Tuesday, including Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia. Alaska and Wyoming will hold their Republican caucuses, and American Samoa will vote for a Democratic candidate. Super Tuesday is a landmark day in the election season because it almost always determines who ends up winning the nomination and how much longer the primary season will last. The joint predictive power of the four earliest states is dubious because they constitute a mere 4% of the voters in each party. Only one of the fifty largest cities in the US – Las Vegas – lies in these four states. By the end of Super Tuesday, 32% of Republicans and 26% of Democrats will have cast their primary ballots.

Unlike the primaries and caucuses in the early states, Super Tuesday has massive predictive power. In 2008, Sen. John McCain won crucial races in California and Illinois, and won all of the delegates from New Jersey and New York. Pres. Obama narrowly won Super Tuesday over Senator Clinton. Though he went on to win the election, Super Tuesday’s extremely narrow margin correctly forbade a long, drawn-out race that would divide the Democrats until late May of that year. Sen. McCain and Pres. Obama aren’t the only examples of the predictive power of Super Tuesday; Gov. Romney in 2012, Sen. Kerry in 2004, Pres. Bush in 2000, Vice Pres. Al Gore in 2000, Sen. Dole in 1996, and Pres. Bill Clinton in 1992 all won their Super Tuesday contests and were the eventual nominees. In other words, precedent dictates that it is highly unlikely that a candidate will lose Super Tuesday and subsequently win the nomination.

 

What does Super Tuesday mean for the Democrats?

Hillary Clinton has won three of the past four primaries and is consistently polling slightly ahead of Senator Bernie Sanders. While neither candidate has a clear lead in national polling, Hillary Clinton is doing particularly well with the Super Tuesday states. With the notable exception of Vermont – Sanders’ home state – Clinton is leading in nearly every other state slated to vote on March 1. To stay in the race, Sanders needs victories in Massachusetts and Minnesota. Sanders knows that a loss in Nevada significantly hurt his campaign, and has his eye on Super Tuesday.

The majority of the Super Tuesday delegates will be awarded by states in the South: Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. While most of these states are traditionally Republican, their Democratic bases are largely African-American – a group that supports Secretary Clinton. The recent South Carolina primary indicated Hillary’s popularity with Southern Democrats, and pundits expect other southern primaries to reveal similar results. To his credit, Sanders knew that South Carolina wasn’t going his way and did not spend significant resources on winning the state. In spite of controversy surrounding Secretary Clinton’s record on civil rights, the hashtag #WhichHillary does not seem to have whittled down her support base in the south. To this end, Sanders’ winning strategy involves him mitigating his losses in the South and winning the non-southern races. Because of the delegate-heavy South, Sanders is slated to lose Super Tuesday. Nevertheless, Sanders could very well be the first presidential candidate to lose Super Tuesday and go on to win the nomination if he performs better in the rest of the country.

 

What does Super Tuesday mean for the Republicans?

Donald Trump has won three of the four early Republican primaries, and is currently polling ahead in all 11 of the states casting their votes on Super Tuesday, aside from Texas where Ted Cruz is showing a single digit lead. Uniform third choice Marco Rubio who has won no primaries thus far, and did not fare as well as expected in his childhood state of Nevada is not currently leading a single Super Tuesday state. However, he is second seed in several states including Virginia and Massachusetts. Rubio and his campaign have assured us all that “early polls really don’t matter.” But do they? Historically, the first four primary states may or may not be indicative of who the Republican party will nominate for President. Because Super Tuesday has not predicted an incorrect winner for the party nomination in the relevant past, if Donald J. Trump walks away the clear winner on March 1, the odds are overwhelming that he will go on to become the Republican party nominee for President of the United States.

The day (or week) after Super Tuesday is often a time when we see the field of potential nominees narrow itself. On the day after Super Tuesday in 2000, John McCain suspended his campaign, allowing George W. Bush to continue on alone to the Republican convention to receive the party’s official nomination. Perhaps this year we will see the end of the ailing campaign of Dr. Ben Carson.

In examining his proposed tax policies and inconsistent responses on both abortion and gay marriage, Donald Trump is undoubtedly the closest Republican to the middle. He has the overwhelming support of moderate Republicans, even in spite of Kasich and Rubio’s perceptions as establishment Republicans. Ted Cruz is far more conservative than either Rubio or Trump, and Rubio sits in between the two. When Chris Christie, a relatively moderate Republican, dropped out of the race, he endorsed Donald Trump. Rubio supporters are more likely to pick Trump as their second choice than Cruz supporters. Between Rubio and Cruz, Trump will benefit more if Rubio drops out than if Cruz drops out. Trump is more likely to win a Trump/Cruz matchup than a Trump/Rubio matchup.

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Image Source: JSTOR Daily