Add to Technorati Favorites Presidential Politics for America: Candidate Profile: #11. Donald Trump

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Candidate Profile: #11. Donald Trump

For background to this series, click here.

Now let's get to him. You know. . . . HIM.

Donald Trump, 69, Real Estate Tycoon, Reality TV host, billionaire, classy, huge

Campaign Website and"Make America Great Again"

PPFA Slogan--"Wait, America Isn't Great?"

Ideology on liberal-conservative spectrum (-10 is far left and +10 is far right. A center moderate is 0.): +5.25 (Individual rights: +8; domestic issues: +7; economy: +3; foreign policy: +3) While there is no voting record on which to base these numbers, the total tonnage of his bluster is enough to stun a team of oxen in its tracks.

Conservative Rank based on above: 10 of 16.

Spin from the candidate's campaign--"Donald J. Trump is the very definition of the American success story." Whether its real estate, entertainment, or his four billion dollar net worth, everything he touches turns to gold. Will the White House be next? It could use some gold plating. He's not only a man of conviction, like other Republican candidates in this election, but unlike them he also is a man of action. Neither party has fixed illegal immigration, and it's a huge problem. He's promising to fix it. Admit it; he's already got the nation talking about issues it didn't want to! He's playing the field like a puppet master. What a man.

Spin from opponents--Where to begin? I think I actually need to break out paragraphs for this category.

Ideologically, he's done even more of an evolution than Mitt Romney, a candidate of whom many conservatives were skeptical. On a 1999 Meet the Press, Trump told Tim Russert that he was "very pro-choice." In an interview where he praised the Canadian health system(!), he said, "I'm very liberal when it comes to health care. I believe in universal health care. . . . It's an entitlement." As recently as 2010 he was donating to Democratic campaigns, including those of Anthony Weiner, Chuck Schumer, and Harry Reid. He once advocated for the legalization of drugs, and he proposed a massive tax on the wealthy to sustain Social Security. Romney hard a hard time shaking the accusation of moderation; will Trump be able to?

Electorally, he could very well give the Democrats a landslide victory in November. CNN, Fox News, and Quinnipiac all have him down by gargantuan numbers to Hillary Clinton in a general election match-up. Public Policy Polling shows how Hillary Clinton trails all but one candidate in reliably red Kentucky. That one candidate?  The Donald.

Rationally, he's a birther, and he still doubts the President's place of birth. I needn't go on.

Politically, until very recently, he was a prominent supporter of Hillary Clinton. As late as 2012, he called her a "terrific woman" and noted he liked her husband as well. He once described Jeb Bush, the favorite for the Republican nomination, as "a good man," "bright, tough and principled," and "exactly the kind of political leader this country needs now and will very much need in the future." Now he's making the case that Bush is "pathetic."

Statistically, well, we'll get to that below...

How do the polls look?--His RCP national average is 6.5, which slots him in seventh place. However, there's a bullet next to his name as he charges up the charts. That 6.5 average is factoring in the four most recent major national polls, but in the earlier two of those he registered at merely 1 and 2 points. In the last two polls, however, he hit double digits each time--11 (Fox News poll) and 12 points (CNN/ORC poll). Those each put him in second place, behind only Bush.

In Iowa, he again averages 6.5 for seventh place, and again we see momentum for him. Quinnipiac has him at 10 points and again tied for second in its most recent Iowa poll. In New Hampshire, he averages 10.0, only 0.2 behind Scott Walker for second place. In fact, he's polled double digits there in three of the last four polls, coming in second to Bush in each of the last two.

Based on these national, Iowa, and New Hampshire numbers, Donald Trump is polling like a top three candidate.

PPFA analysis--So why then is he ranked number 11 on my countdown? First let's talk about why his numbers are, at least ostensibly, so strong, and why they'll probably hang there for a while.

First, if you're a single-issue voter on illegal immigration, you're probably an angry or fearful white Republican, which is a small but solid constituency to which Trump most directly speaks. As the economist noted, "For conservative whites who also feel that their relative position is slipping in an increasingly multicultural nation, such an unflappably indomitable fighter and audaciously authoritative voice makes a most welcome standard bearer." In other words, Trump's aggressive language on the issue taps into that anger and/or fear. He could very well be earning close to 100 percent support from that type of Republican, in addition to other small pockets of Republican voting groups. While that's not enough to challenge Bush, Walker, or Rubio nationally for the long term, it does separate him from the rest of the pack in the short term.

Second, he has seemed inoculated from aggressive rebuttals. Why, if you are a candidate from the middle or bottom part of the field, attack a bloviating billionaire? Is that a fight you can win, or even a winnable fight worth your while, with precious few resources? He's shown he'll take wild swings in any particular direction. Trump has famously hurled bombs at his fellow candidates like a guy with nothing to lose, because he really doesn't.  He was wealthy before and he'll be wealthy when this is over.  He's not a current office holder who has to consider re-election. He's a dangerous politician right now, and the field recognizes that. Until the candidates begin to take shots back at him--which has just begun in the last few days--it will be tough to dent his numbers.

A third reason for these early polling numbers is his huge name recognition advantage over the field. A voter is more likely to respond affirmatively to Donald Trump, who they've seen on TV a lot, than Bobby Jindal or Ben Carson, who they have not. What's most relevant about this situation is that of the many people who recognize his name, relatively few of them actually like him. This graphic from FiveThiryEight charts it nicely:

He's known by over 80 percent of Republicans polled, and his net favorability rating--determined by the percentage of people who view him favorably minus those who view him unfavorably--is unprecedentedly bad. So whereas other candidates who aren't known as much can still frame a favorable narrative for themselves and rise in the polls, there are few remaining voters Trump can still rally to his cause. Similarly, a recent Washington Post/ABC poll tracked his net favorability compared to other candidates in the race, and it looks even worse:

Yikes. And that's among his own party.

See, the problem with the traditional polling style that we like to use in political horse races is that we usually favor and rebroadcast one statistic above the rest: "Which candidate do you most support?" In a sixteen seventeen candidate field, all their numbers in that category are going to be pretty suppressed. There are only so many percentage points out of a 100 to spread around. But whereas other candidates can grow their numbers as voters learn about them, Trump's numbers show that he doesn't have that room for growth. Everyone has pretty much made up their minds about him, and while his recent incendiary comments galvanized his voting base, he's turned far more voters against him.

Practically speaking, what his disastrous unfavorability numbers mean is that when candidates start dropping out of this crowded field, their supporters will not to go Trump. They'll diffuse to candidates similar to the one dropping out or to realistic general election winners. Trump is proving to be neither. Therefore, he's at or near the ceiling of his possible support, and ten to fifteen points does not a nominee make.

PPFA nomination rank--11 of 16 (Odds: 33:1).  I have to be honest: I was torn between Trump and the next candidate on the list for the Number 10 and 11 spots. I broke the tie very scientifically, ultimately reasoning that, "No way can I put Trump in the top ten." The next candidate, #10, will be the last candidate in Tier 3--We Know They Can't Win.

PPFA general election rank--15 of 16. But only because Rick Santorum would be just as polarizing as a general election candidate, his well-established record would scare away all Democrats and most Independents, and he does not have massive personal wealth to invest in a campaign like Trump does.

Tier 4--They Know They Can't Win
Number 16
(Number 15.5)
Number 15
Number 14

Tier 3--We Know They Can't Win
Number 13
Number 12


Anonymous said...

I don't see why people think Trump is raising an issue no one else wants to talk about. Americans have been talking about immigration for a long time, and talking a lot. But no one has a real solution, not even trump? Build a big long wall? That won't work. It appeals to idiots because it's easy to understand, and Trump certainly attracts idiots. But how many idiots are there in America?

IC said...

You'd be surprised, Anon.

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