Shortly after Donald J. Trump announced for president, I published a blog post on these pages entitled “No Filter and No Chance.” This was followed by a number of pieces lamenting the surprising lack of substance evident in his campaign, the out of control ego and the sad descent into outrageous, violent, racist, sexist comments repeated with abandon. I, like many others, had predicted his downfall. Hmm, brilliant, right?
But now it is more clear than ever that Trump has all the makings of a George Wallace candidacy, only with less experience in government.
So how could this nasty, vitriolic blowhard become president of the United States?
According to Stephen Moore, the conservative writer, here is how he does it: “Trump is remaking the GOP into a populist/reform party of working class/evangelical and entrepreneurial class voters.” And Pat Buchanan writes: “A Trump campaign across the industrial Midwest, Pennsylvania and New Jersey featuring attacks on Hillary Clinton’s support for NAFTA the WTO, MFN for China – and her backing of amnesty and citizenship for illegal immigrants, and for the Iraq and Libyan debacles – is a winning hand.”
Thus, the bottom line for the Trump trumpeters is that he mobilizes large numbers of new voters who are angry and fed up with Washington, pulls in the Reagan working-class Democrats and independents, and carries states that have voted Democratic over the last 25 years.
There are several problems with this analysis.
First and foremost, Trump is not a candidate who is appealing to the majority of Americans – 67 percentcan’t see themselves voting for him in November, according to a March NBC/WSJ poll. He has a 25 percent positive rating and a 64 percent negative rating and is trailing Hillary Clinton by 13 points and Bernie Sanders by 18. (This was before the Clinton sweep of five primary states on March 15.)
Furthermore, 43 percent of Republicans believe he will be harmful to their party; 27 percent of all voters feel Trump’s version of change for the country would be right and a full 52 percent believe it would be wrong.
And even before most of the violence at the Trump rallies and the latest Trump rhetoric, 50 percent believe “Trump’s comments are frequently insulting and he has the wrong approach to the issues.” Only 18 percent believe Trump “tells it like it is and has the right approach on many issues.”
My guess is that these numbers are not going to get better as the campaign progresses but will only get worse for Trump. This is not a zebra who will change his stripes – if anything, the numbers will become more pronounced. Can you imagine the recording of Trump from Howard Stern’s radio show turned into political advertisements? More and more examples of his inconsistencies and outright falsehoods? His complete and total lack of knowledge about policy and failure to articulate issue positions?
He is also outright dangerous. Is this the person Americans want two feet from the nuclear codes?
Many of Trump’s supporters are arguing that he will bring to the polls millions of new voters – basically angry white males. Data on this is very sketchy given where we are in the primaries. There has not been a huge surge in voter registration beyond normal numbers and there is some evidence that turnout models may, in fact, hurt Trump and the Republicans, as Robert Schlesinger argues so persuasively in this space.
Here is a run-down of Trump’s problems:
Hispanics: Washington Post polling shows 80 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Donald Trump. Romney got 27 percent of the Hispanic vote, Trump will be lucky to reach the upper teens. According to Pew, 48 percent of Hispanics voted in 2012 and more than 1.4 million new registrations have been recorded since 2008. Clearly, the number of Hispanic voters will only continue to grow. You better believe that turnout in 2016 will be closer to the mid-60 range for whites and blacks, not the upper 40s of the past.
African-Americans: It may be difficult to match the Obama numbers but given Trump’s treatment of blacks at his rallies and his talk of “political correctness,” it will be close.
Women: Of course, women will be a majority of the electorate in 2016. Trump’s problems with them, I believe, are just beginning. The more women see of him, hear of his past statements, view the treatment of Fox News’ Megyn Kelly and others, the more they will be turned off by his antics. Never mind his position on issues affecting women, which will be highlighted and are of grave concern.
Millennials and younger voters: Sen. Bernie Sanders may have excited them, but it is hard to believe they will sit on their hands if Trump is the nominee against Hillary Clinton. Voters in this age group are growing fast and flexing their political muscle.
Educated voters: This is a serious problem for Trump. Turnout for people with advanced degrees is over 80 percent: about 75 percent for those with bachelors degrees, 64 percent for those with some college, a bit over 50 percent for those who are high school grads and less than 40 percent for those without a high school degree. Trump’s strength right now is with less-educated voters. The big question is: Can he put together an organization that produces a sea change in registering and bringing to the polls the less educated, non-voters? There’s not much evidence yet that he can.
Finally, as we all know, the electorate is more diverse with each passing year. Close to 30 percent of 2016 voters will be non-white. Given the failure of the Republican Party, and particularly Donald Trump, to appeal to those voters, this is a serious problem. The current and future demographics do not bode well for a Trump or any other candidate who fails to appeal to all of America.
It is still possible that Trump will not be the nominee, but most Republicans who are worried about their party are looking right now at a train wreck come November. And maybe for years down the tracks. Unless things change, 2016 could make the Johnson-Goldwater election of 1964 look like a nail biter.