Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Can Trump get to 1,237?

(Michael Vadon/Wikimedia)
After Donald Trump’s sweep of the Northeast last night, there is a feeling of inevitability in many quarters. Trump won Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, all with more than 50 percent of the vote. The big question now is: Can Donald Trump get to 1,237 delegates? And a second question is, with Trump winning big victories and racking up delegates, why does he continue to call the system rigged?

After the April 26 primaries, the most recent tallies show Trump with 950 delegates. At this point, Ted Cruz and John Kasich are mathematically eliminated from winning the 1,237 delegates needed to be nominated on the first ballot and can only hope to deny Trump a victory.

There are 13 primaries and 622 delegates remaining. At first glance, it seems that Trump’s road to the nomination is easy one. He only needs to win 46 percent of remaining delegates. In reality, due to the structure of the Republican primary, it might be more difficult that it seems. Several of the primaries are winner-take-all and Trump will not win all of these.

To analyze Trump’s chances, we’ll assume that he takes an average of 45 percent of proportional delegates and examine the probable outcomes of winner-take-all states. Forty-five percent is not an unreasonable number in light of Trump’s past performance and the fact that the race is down to only three candidates. It is also in line with current national polls.

The next prize is Indiana on May 3. Indiana is a winner-take-all state with 57 delegates, approximately 20 percent of what Trump needs. Polling shows that the race in Indiana is close. Trump leads by single digits and the deal between Cruz and Kasich may keep Trump from winning. Trump currently needs 287 delegates to clinch the nomination. If Trump wins Indiana, the number will reduced to 230.

On May 10, Nebraska and West Virginia hold primaries. Nebraska is winner-take-all with 36 delegates and West Virginia is proportional with 34 delegates. There is no recent polling in either state, but Nebraska would probably lean toward Cruz and West Virginia toward Trump. Assuming 15 delegates for Trump from West Virginia, he would need 215 more.

On Tuesday, May 17, Oregon holds its primary. The only poll available is a year old and does not show Trump in the race. Cruz, however, has performed well in other western states. The state’s 28 delegates will be award proportionally. If Trump keeps his ratio of 45 percent, he would win about 13 delegates and need 202 more.

Washington’s primary is on May 24. The state’s 44 delegates will be awarded proportionally. There is no polling available in Washington. Forty-five percent of the delegates would net Trump about 20 and leave him needing an additional 182.

June 7 is the last multistate primary day. The biggest prize is California with 172 delegates to be awarded proportionally. Current polling shows Trump at about 45 percent in California. He should win about 78 delegates and leave the state needing 104 more.

On the same day, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota hold winner-take-all primaries. Trump would probably take New Jersey’s 51 delegates, but lose in Montana and South Dakota. New Mexico also holds a proportional primary on June 7. Cruz led by one point in New Mexico in a February poll, but ceded the state to Kasich in the deal between the two candidates. After winning New Jersey, Trump will only need 53 delegates. Even if he wins all of New Mexico’s 24 delegates, an impossibility, he will fall just short of the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination.

This explains why Trump calls the system rigged. He knows that even with his commanding lead in delegates and all the other candidates mathematically eliminated, the odds are against him amassing enough delegates to win the nomination on an uncontested first ballot.

Conventional wisdom holds that, as delegates begin to be unbound after first ballot, Trump’s chances of winning the nomination will diminish. Some delegates may initially be bound to vote for Trump, but actually support other candidates. After the first ballot, Trump’s much-touted negotiating skills will be required to convince his delegates not to flip to another candidate and to win other delegates to put him over the top. Considering Trump’s unpopularity with most of the party, this is unlikely.

Can Trump get to 1,237? It is possible, but not likely. He would need to maintain and even build on his momentum. Trump needs to win the winner-take-all states of Indiana and New Jersey as well as take about 55 percent of the remaining proportional delegates. This would mean doing much better in western states than he has done previously. Because Trump can see that it is unlikely that he will be the nominee, even though he will enter the convention with the most delegates, he charges that the system is rigged.

Read it on Conservative Firing Line or Freedom Daily

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Republican primary campaign seems to have essentially become a two man race between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. The campaign has become increasingly heated, but there is still the possibility that the two frontrunners may forge an alliance to secure the nomination with a Trump-Cruz unity ticket.

Many Republicans worry about the electability of both of the frontrunners since both have low approval ratings and lose to the Democrat candidates in current polling. Many of these Republicans would like another alternative, but John Kasich, the only other candidate still in the race, has long been mathematically eliminated from any possibility of winning an uncontested nomination at the Republican convention.

It is also unlikely that Kasich could assemble a large enough delegate coalition to win on a subsequent ballot as an establishment candidate. Nevertheless, there is a possibility that Republicans who do not belong to either the Cruz or the Trump camps could attempt to nominate an alternative candidate at the convention by persuading delegates directly. Such an attempt would not sit well with either Trump or Cruz or their supporters.

The easiest way for Cruz and Trump to defend against such an insurgent candidacy would be to work together. While neither candidate is likely to have enough delegates individually to clinch the nomination, together they control an overwhelming number of delegates. In fact, if their delegates are pooled, the pair already have more than the 1,237 delegates needed to nominate a candidate.

In the most likely scenario for a unity ticket, neither Trump nor Cruz would have enough delegates to be nominated on several successive ballots. Sensing a looming disaster, party establishment and moderates would put forth a new candidate to try to break the impasse and offer a more popular choice for the general election. As Cruz and Trump realize that their chances of winning the nomination are slipping away, they may decide that an alliance and partial victory is preferable to a total loss.

The idea of a Cruz-Trump ticket is not as outlandish as it sounds. The two men share a disdain for the party establishment and a harsh outlook on immigration. Both of these factors put them at odds with much of the rest of the party. They also share a base of support among Tea Party voters. In addition, both candidates have shown the ability to shift positions without alienating their supporters.

If you think a Trump-Cruz alliance is out of the question, don’t forget that the two have already had an alliance of sorts in the past. In fact, there were numerous reports of a Trump-Cruz “bro-mance” last fall. The two candidates professed admiration for each other up until the point when Cruz first edged ahead of Trump in the polls. The nonaggression pact was particularly striking because Cruz, known as a strong conservative, refrained from attacking Trump at a time when many other conservatives were calling Trump’s ideology, policies and even party membership into question. In fact, in the early days of the Trump campaign, Ted Cruz was the only Republican candidate who embraced Trump.

The biggest problem in getting Trump and Cruz together might be in deciding who gets to be at the top of the ticket. Both are strong personalities and both will have a strong position going into the convention. Trump is likely to lead on the first ballot, but many Trump delegates will probably shift their allegiance on subsequent ballots. Cruz performs better in polling and has a marginally better approval rating. Cruz also has more experience in government and foreign policy. Nevertheless, Trump is the top vote-getter.

Donald Trump has clearly given Cruz consideration as a potential running mate. Last November, when asked about a running mate, Trump answered, “Ted Cruz is now agreeing with me 100 percent” according to The Hill. Trump refused to rule out sharing the ticket with Cruz in February and rumors persisted into March that the two campaigns were talking about the possibility.

Ted Cruz recently told a Good Morning America audience in Vacaville, Calif. that “I have zero interest, whatsoever,” in being Donald Trump’s vice presidential nominee. He continued, “And there are a lot of reasons, but perhaps the simplest is, if Donald is the nominee, Hillary wins, Hillary wins by double digits and I don’t think there’s anything we can do to change that.”

Cruz did not, however, categorically say that he would refuse to be on a Trump ticket. He also did not say that he would refuse a Trump promise to nominate him to the Supreme Court as some have suggested. What’s more, Cruz did not deny that he might consider Trump as his vice presidential nominee.

The likelihood of a Trump-Cruz (or Cruz-Trump) ticket remains a long shot. It may be that there is now simply too much bad blood between the two campaigns to make peace. The candidates may decide that their chances are better individually than together.

Neither candidate has completely closed the door on working with the other. While it seems unlikely that either would reach out to the other, things could change quickly if the two men saw it in their own best interests to do so.

Monday, April 18, 2016

You'll never guess which candidate polls best on the economy!

The results are in on a new Gallup poll that checks the opinions of potential American voters on the economic prospects of presidential candidates. The results will be shocking to many political observers and activists. Few readers will guess which candidate ranked as most trusted on the economy.

The poll of 1,015 adults who are potential voters had a margin of error of four percentage points and tested how the respondents viewed the five remaining candidates for president. The benchmark against which the candidates were measured was another recent Gallup poll which found that 50 percent still had a “great deal” or a “fair amount” of confidence in President Obama’s economic leadership. None of the 2016 candidates beat President Obama.

Shockingly, the candidate who scored best on the economy was none other than avowed socialist Bernie Sanders. Forty-seven percent had a “great deal” or a “fair amount” of confidence in the Vermont senator. The top three candidates were in a statistical tie with John Kasich at 46 percent and Hillary Clinton at 43 percent. The poll is another reminder that Sanders could mount a very formidable campaign and that conservatives should take him seriously.

The pair of Republican frontrunners finished a distant fourth and fifth. Ted Cruz had the confidence of 35 percent. Donald Trump was trusted by only 30 percent.

John Kasich was the only one of the five with a net positive confidence rating. Kasich’s 46 percent confidence was greater than the 43 percent who had “only a little” or “almost no confidence” in him, giving him a net confidence rating of 3 percent. Barack Obama’s net rating was two percent due to the 48 percent with little or no confidence in his economic policy.

Every other candidate had a negative rating. Forty-nine percent had little or no confidence in Sanders for a net of -2 percent. Clinton’s net was -13 percent (43/56). Ted Cruz scored a -25 (35/60). As with overall approval ratings, the big loser was Donald Trump with lowest confidence score and the highest score of little or no confidence. Trump’s net rating was an abysmal -38 (30/68).

The poll does offer a glimmer of hope for Republicans. In the breakdown by party ideology, Sanders and Kasich also lead among independents by 46 and 43 percent respectively. Neither Sanders nor Kasich is likely to be the eventual nominee however.

Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, fares much more poorly among independents (35 percent) than she does among voters overall. On the other hand, Cruz and Trump do almost as well among independents as they do among the general electorate (32 and 30 percent respectively). The Republican candidate will have to do well with moderates and independents to beat Mrs. Clinton and these numbers indicate a weakness for her on the economy with these voters.

Another recent Gallup poll indicates that almost 40 percent of voters rate the economy as the most important problem facing the country. With voter trust between Cruz, Trump and Clinton essentially tied on handling of the economy, it may give the Republican candidate a chance to erase Mrs. Clinton’s current lead in the polls.

One last takeaway from the poll is the curious fact that, as noted with candidate approval ratings earlier this month, the candidates that are liked most by voters at large are rejected by large numbers of the faithful of both parties. This may be an indication that both parties are moving farther apart and leaving a large number of disaffected voters in the middle who are unhappy with all three frontrunners. This may lead to a low turnout election or provide an opening for a third party.

Read it on Conservative Firing Line or Freedom Daily!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Bernie Sanders' path to the White House

(Michael Vadon/Wikimedia)
“If Bernie Sanders wins the White House,” goes a popular meme, “it will be the first time a socialist has been elected president since 2008.” While Barack Obama is not an avowed socialist, the meme underscores the fact that socialistic ideas are not the anathema that they once were. Bernie Sanders could win.

Unlike Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders has been open about being a socialist, even if he doesn’t like the term. He has cited American Socialist Eugene V. Debs as his hero. Until he decided to run for the Democratic nomination last year, he served Vermont in Congress as an independent, not a Democrat.

Bernie’s success has surprised many political observers as well as the Clinton campaign. Over the past few months the Sanders campaign has morphed from a quixotic campaign that seemed to exist only to make a statement to a burgeoning political movement that is increasingly playing to win. Still, in spite of his victories, Sanders trails Clinton in the delegate count, thanks in large part to the Democratic system of unbound superdelegates.

At this point in the primary, it appears unlikely that Sanders can beat Hillary for the nomination in a straight fight. With 1,941 delegates still available, Sanders trails Hillary by 688. The proportional distribution of delegates in Democratic primaries makes it difficult for Sanders to win enough bound delegates to dethrone Hillary.

In addition to a Sanders surge, a Hillary implosion will probably be required for a Sanders win. A major gaffe by Mrs. Clinton or, perhaps more likely, an indictment, might swing enough Clinton backers and superdelegates toward Sanders to allow him to secure the nomination. The situation is somewhat similar to 2008 although Obama had a slight lead in pledged delegates in April of that year. In contrast, Sanders trails in a close race.

Winning the Democratic nomination might actually be the hardest part of Bernie’s path to the White House. While most on the right view the word “socialist” as very negative, polling shows that many young voters are more open to voting for socialists. The term is not the political kiss of death that it would have been 20 years ago.

Second, Bernie is not viewed nearly as negatively as Republican frontrunners Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Trump has the highest negative rating of any presumed nominee in history. Cruz fares better, but is still less popular than Sanders. Neither Republican is widely viewed as honest or trustworthy. With Cruz and Trump calling each other liars, competing to see who can be more harsh on immigration and even insulting each other’s wives, it is unlikely that either will seem much more likeable before the convention.

Current head-to-head polling shows that Bernie fares better against both Republicans than Mrs. Clinton. The Real Clear Politics average shows that Sanders leads Ted Cruz by 10 points while Clinton only leads the Texas senator by 2.5 points, well within the margin of error of most polls. Hillary leads Donald Trump by more than 10 points, but The Donald trails Bernie by a staggering 16 points. With several months yet to go in the bruising Republican primary, it is likely that the eventual Republican nominee will emerge even more damaged and with higher negatives, making it even harder to turn the national tide.

Sanders, on the other hand, is a likeable candidate. Even though most voters probably disagree with his policy prescriptions, he comes across as more honest and charismatic than either Hillary Clinton or the Republican frontrunners. His campaign has a positive energy that is lacking from the stolid plodding of the Clinton campaign, the televangelist feel of the Cruz campaign or the combativeness and anger of Trump. The Democratic primary has not been as dirty and damaging to its candidates as the Republican primary.

In short, it’s likely that Sanders could beat either Trump or Cruz in a head-to-head race if he can put away Hillary Clinton first. The odds are stacked against the Republican duo by their harsh appeals to the conservative base on immigration. The swing states where the presidential race will be decided are filled with moderates and minority voters who are much less enamored with the idea of deporting illegal aliens than are Republican primary voters.

The final nail in the Republican coffin would be the party division that will result from the convention fight that is almost certain to occur. If Trump goes into the convention with a delegate lead that is short of the required majority and does not emerge as the nominee, a large number of his supporters will desert the GOP and either not vote or vote for an independent Trump or another third party.

On the other hand, a Trump nomination would be equally destructive to the GOP. As many as 30-40 percent of Republican voters could desert the party if Trump is its nominee. Trump opponents are also considering third party options. Regardless of the outcome of the primaries and convention, the Republican Party seems destined for a crackup.

Barring a third party run from the left by someone such as Michael Bloomberg, who says he has changed his mind about mounting an independent campaign, a divided Republican Party would almost assure a Democrat victory, whether the candidate is Sanders or Clinton. The biggest obstacle to the White House for Bernie Sanders is disposing of Hillary Clinton and her superdelegate lead. 

Read it on Conservative Firing Line and Freedom Daily

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

New poll shows Trump might lose Mississippi to Clinton

Amid questions about Donald Trump’s electability in the general election, a new poll may undermine Trump’s claims that he is the best candidate to defeat Hillary Clinton. At this stage of the campaign, most head-to-head matchups are national polls. Since the actual election hinges on state elections for the Electoral College, national head-to-head polls are of questionable value. One recent poll showed a state matchup between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton that should worry The Donald’s supporters.

Mississippi is a red state that has voted Republican in every election since its electors cast their ballots for Jimmy Carter in 1976. In most recent elections, it hasn’t even been close. For the past four presidential elections, Mississippi went for the Republican candidate by double-digit margins. This has been true even when the national popular vote was close, as it was in 2012.

This week, however, a new poll sent out a shockwave when it showed that Mississippi might be in play in a potential matchup between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The Mason-Dixon poll of 625 registered voters found that Trump and Clinton were in a statistical tie at 46-43 percent.

The poll showed Clinton with an Obama-like majority of black voters at 93 percent and a convincing lead among women voters at 47-40 percent. Clinton also was favored by 11 percent of Republican voters.

The poll also asked who voters would support if an unnamed third party candidate was in the race. In this scenario, Trump and Hillary tied at 39 percent and the unknown candidate received 13 percent.

Both Ted Cruz and John Kasich performed better against Hillary than Trump did. Cruz beat Clinton by a 51-40 percent margin. Kasich did even better at 52-37 percent.

The problem is not that Trump is unknown. Ninety-nine percent of Mississippi voters are familiar with Trump. His approval rating is a net -11 points with 44 percent disapproving and only 33 percent viewing him favorably. This is still a higher approval rating than Trump has nationally.

Much of Trump’s problem is the scorched earth nature of his primary campaign. CNN exit polls from Wisconsin found that only 62 percent of Republicans would vote for Trump if he is the party’s nominee. Ten percent planned to vote for Clinton while 17 percent would back a third party candidate. Eight percent plan to sit out the election.

The Mississippi poll is the first hard evidence of the electoral disaster that awaits Republicans if they nominate Donald Trump. Electoral math would require Republicans to win at least four key battleground states that were won twice by President Obama. If a Trump candidacy endangers the Republican hold on Mississippi, chances of winning swing states would be nil. So would his chances of winning the White House.

Trump and Cruz approval hits record low; both may be unelectable

As the two leading contenders for the Republican nomination continue to hammer each other in round after round of primaries, it seems likely that neither will achieve a knockout or win enough delegates to win a decision at the convention. At this point, the main accomplishment of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz seems to have been to bruise and bloody each other enough so that neither is likely to be able to beat the presumed Democrat champion, Hillary Clinton.

A recent Gallup poll comparing approval ratings for the remaining candidates found that the historically poor view of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz held by Americans reached a new low amid their insults and squabbling over everything from wives to who would deport more illegal immigrants. Trump and Cruz approval ratings are the lowest of all remaining candidates.

Donald Trump, the perennially unpopular candidate who has been continually reviled since his campaign’s inception last summer, continues to hold the most negative rating with a net approval rating of -35. For those of you in Rio Lindo, this means that people who disapprove of Trump outnumber those who approve of him by 35 points. According to Washington Post research, Trump has the most negative rating of any serious presidential candidate ever. The only candidate who has ever rated worse than Mr. Trump is David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader who ran for the Republican nomination in 1992.

Ted Cruz fares better in Gallup’s findings, but not by much. Cruz, who held a positive approval rating as recently as December has seen his rating plummet to near-Trumpian levels. Cruz’s -16 rating is actually one point higher than Donald Trump’s all-time high. Like Marco Rubio, whose campaign imploded when he adopted Trump’s tactics, Cruz is being tarnished by his tit for tat with The Donald.

Ironically, the third place finisher who is the odds on favorite to become the next president, Hillary Clinton, also has a negative rating. Nevertheless, the only candidate under investigation by the FBI (that we know of) and the only candidate who is likely to be indicted during the campaign, is still more popular than Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Her -11 rating is not her lowest and actually seems to be an improvement. Hillary’s approval rating has been remarkably consistent, even if slightly underwater, for the entire campaign.

The negative ratings of the two most likely Republican contenders may explain the increase in party identification among Democrats over the past few months. In the latest Gallup poll of party affiliation, Democrats led Republicans by six points. When leaners were taken into account, Democrats held an 8 point advantage. This margin is practically identical to the Democratic lead over Republicans as the 2012 elections approached.

Who fares best in the current public opinion? Ironically, it is John Kasich with a net favorable rating of 19 points who looks best to American voters. In a somewhat close second, Bernie Sanders finishes with a net positive rating of 10 percent.

Why are the also-rans finishing so much better than the frontrunners? In the case of Trump and Cruz, it might be that their attacks on each other have left the public with a sour taste its mouth. The anti-establishment and hardline immigration rhetoric of the pair might also simply not resonate with voters outside the Republican Party’s base.

Bernie Sanders’ popularity may be a rejection of Hillary Clinton among the Democratic Party base. Hillary is not generally well liked or trusted even among Democrats. Her FBI investigation and looming possible indictment have not gone unnoticed. Neither have the fundraising practices of the Clinton Foundation or Clinton connections to Wall Street. Sanders’ combination of democratic socialism and folksy populism is appealing for a party whose base has drifted farther and farther left during the eight years of the Obama Administration.

The widespread dissatisfaction with the leading candidates spells trouble for both parties. Ironically, for all their division Republicans may have an advantage here. If no Republican can win a majority and clinch the nomination, an open convention may present the party with a rare chance for a do-over. Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin recently told The Cap Times, “I think if it’s an open convention, it’s very likely it would be someone who’s not currently running. I mean, who knows?”

Due to the nature of the Democratic race, Democrats will have no such opportunity for a split decision. With only two candidates running for the Democratic nomination, there will be only one winner and one loser. For better or for worse, Democrats will be stuck with the choice of their primary voters and superdelegates.

For Republicans who support none of the above remaining candidates, there is hope that the convention delegates will find a better candidate. The job of a political party is to nominate a candidate who can win. That job may well end up in the hands of convention delegates.

Read it on Conservative Firing Line and Freedom Daily