Arguing With Data

Posted: Mar 18, 2016 12:01 AM
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For seven months, Republicans -- myself included -- have argued against the data. The data showed that Donald Trump would be a viable candidate. Many of us presumed he would eventually fade. Many of us presumed he would eventually burn out his supporters with his gaffes, waffling and walk backs.

What many of us misunderstood was Republican voter anger. There are a lot of angry people out there and they are flocking to Donald Trump. They have good reason to be angry. Washington politicians, particularly Republicans, have broken promise after promise. People in Washington seem to be doing quite well while the nation suffers.

Those of us who were skeptical of Trump could not comprehend that voters were so angry they would align with a man who actually has profited from the system the voters hate. But many of Trump's voters are perfectly fine with Trump as a flawed vessel, so long as he burns Washington to the ground, which they are convinced he will do. Ask a dozen Trump voters why they support Trump and you will get a dozen different answers. But each will end with a rebuke to Washington.

The problem now, as Trump appears more and more likely to be the Republican nominee, is the data. This time it is not Trump skeptics arguing about the data. It is Trump supporters doing so. They find themselves in the ironic position of arguing that the very same data set that showed Trump's rise also shows he cannot beat Hillary Clinton. They want the first half of the data to be true, while hoping the other half of the very same data is false.

The data does not work that way. The polls that showed Trump winning the Republican nomination also show that he cannot beat Clinton. In 19 of the 20 past polls, Trump consistently trailed Clinton by around eight points.

Certainly polling can change, but therein lies the rub for Trump. Trump performs remarkably well with blue-collar white men. He performs terribly with college educated white men, women of any background, black voters, Hispanic voters, Asian voters -- pretty much everyone other than blue-collar white men.

For Trump to make inroads with those voters, he risks alienating his core. If he wants to build a Hispanic coalition, he is going to have to walk away from his wall. If he walks away from his wall, he is going to see his voters walk away from him.

On top of that, only a quarter of voters in the polling believe Trump is trustworthy. In fact, Trump is actually the only candidate running for president viewed as less trustworthy than Clinton. On top of that, is the only candidate with higher unfavorable ratings than Hillary Clinton.

Beyond that, take the exit polling from North Carolina, Ohio, Florida and Missouri. All are swing states. The exit polling data from those states show that fully one-third of Republican voters would not vote for Trump in a general election. Of voters who rejected Trump so far, that number goes up to 40 percent of Republicans. Hillary Clinton has no such problem with the Democrats. Virtually all Democrats would support her in the general election.

Trump voters, to make a plausible case for him in November, have to now discard all the data they have used thus far to declare him a credible candidate. They have to ignore all the polling that Trump championed for so long himself. A Trump nomination will bring about a Hillary Clinton presidency.

Republicans face a problem. Because so many of their voters would not turn out to support Trump, they need a third party candidate if Trump is the nominee. Someone will have to run for president to motivate a Republican turn out, if only to get voters to show up for down ballot races. A Trump nomination does not just guarantee a Hillary Clinton presidency, but also makes it likely the GOP loses legislative seats at the state and national level.

Trump voters who disagree are only arguing with the very data that shows Trump will be the Republican nominee. The only way to avoid it is to avoid making Trump the Republican presidential nominee.