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Why Trump Won

2016-results

So I, like everyone else except for some comedians, got the election wrong. Even though Hillary is leading Trump by over 1,000,000 votes (61,913,199 votes (47.9%) 60,911,924 votes (47.1%) as of 11/16), Trump won the election with a strong electoral college showing, 306 to 232.

2016-circledFirst, it is really important to note the obvious, which many in the media seem to be missing here. With the exception of Florida–a perennial tossup–all of Trump’s gains were in the Rust Belt. Hillary’s support in many western states was either as good or better than Obama 2012, she made gains in Texas (almost 600,000 more votes than Obama 2012), forced Trump to win by plurality in Arizona (although this is arguably more the product of Gary Johnson’s vote share) and only slightly fell behind Obama’s high water marks (2008 or 2012) in Georgia and South Carolina, and had a wider margin of victory in Virginia. The Northeast trended toward Trump, but only by a few percentage points (for example, Hillary lost 3 percentage points on Obama’s 2012 margin in NJ, even amid increased turnout). The only exception in this region is Upstate Maine, which swing to Trump by a net spread of 20 points. In short, in the aggregate the West, South, and Northeast did not shift very much in this election. What did shift was the formerly industrial Great Lakes/Appalachian states that moved heavily toward Trump. A combination of Trump turnout surge among uneducated white workers, lack of turnout among urban African American voters, and suburban Obama voters fleeing the Democrats explain the general political terrain in these states.

2016-change

2016-midwest-change

Why did suburban voters switch from Democratic support to pro-Trump?

Trump won 50% of the suburban vote, while Hillary won 45%, a pretty sizeable margin in the largest geographic electorate (49% of the electorate, compared to 34% in the big cities, and 17% in rural America. Why did this happen? This one really comes down to the fundamentals, and speaks the least to either of the two candidates unpopularity or transformative campaigning. Many forecast models actually had a generic Republican beating a generic Democrat in this election, based purely on a handful of variables. Among them, the two most important predictors are how long the party in power has held office, and the economic growth rate leading into the election. Well, the Democrats have held the executive office for eight years, which generally favors the out-party to gain the presidency. The only exceptions to this in the 20th century are Taft following TR’s two incomplete terms, Truman winning in 1948 after assuming the presidency after FDR passed, and George HW Bush winning his solitary term after Reagan’s 8 years (some consider only the latter to be analogous to the current situation given the shortened time-frame of the former, and Truman’s station of VP in the latter). Economic growth rates have been steady, but low in 2016. The first quarter had a recorded growth rate of 0.8%, the second 1.4%, and the third (ending with September) had 2.9%. Except for the last quarter, this country has not seen very much economic growth this year. While it is always unclear on what basis people feel or understand economic conditions in their everyday lives, it has historically been a good indicator into the public mood on staying pat or changing leadership.

For these basic reasons, in all likelihood suburban voters (“middle America”) were going to swing to some degree to Trump. America does have a strong tradition of switching party in power following a two-term president, and these are the types of people that generally see to that. It is also important to note this category of voters is the least likely of the three (with high white voter turnout and decreased Black turnout) to be instructed by aversive, reactionary racism. Although Trump made both latent dog-whistle (“law and order candidate,” “Make American Great Again,” etc) and overt racist pleas (banning Muslims and portraying Latin American immigrants as criminals), these voters predominantly voted for Obama in not just 2008, but also 2012. The racial backlash against the president argument and nativist appeals may have some import for this voting bloc, but it is no way the dominant explanation for the suburban switch to the GOP.

The states in which this was the primary cause of the shift are Pennsylvania and Ohio. Although Iowa is not generally conceptualized as a suburban state, the bellwether facet to this category does apply to the Iowan electorate.

Why did Black voter turnout decline so dramatically?

Although turnout was actually higher in absolute terms this election that 2012 (something pundits continue to get wrong), this aggregate trend belies group dynamics. I have yet to find a good metric for white or Asian turnout, but it is clear Latino turnout was up and African American turnout was down. Texas, Arizona, and Nevada all trended more heavily towards Democrats than expected, almost exclusively due to the rise of Latino mobilization. However, the gains in the West were more than offset by the losses in major Midwestern urban areas, such as Wayne County in Michigan, Milwaukee County in Wisconsin, and Cuyahoga County in Ohio.

The margin of victory for Trump in Michigan (+10,000) and Wisconsin (+25,000) were notably much smaller than the difference between Obama and Hillary’s vote share in the two biggest metropolitan areas. Turnout declined in Milwaukee County from just under 491,000 in 2012 to just under 430,000 in 2016. Notably, Hillary won the same 66% of the vote in the county as Obama in 2012. In Wayne County, total votes cast went from 814000 in 2012 to around 766000 in 2016. Hillary did receive less support than Obama by proportion (67% to 73%), but had turnout been the same as 2012, she would have carried both states.

It should be noted Black turnout was a bit higher in places the Atlanta metro area, greater New Orleans, and Philadelphia, and also lower in Southern Florida, northeast North Carolina, Wyandotte County in Kansas, Hennepin County in Minnesota, and Shelby County in Tennessee. So what explains this variance in Black mobilization, since a clear geospatial pattern is not immediately clear?

As of now, I have three leading hypotheses. First, the obvious: Obama was a Black male, while Hillary is a white female. The racial distinction is self-evident–plenty of social science scholarship has demonstrated all people, and especially African Americans, tend to show higher levels of support, trust, and efficacy towards officials that share their descriptive features. It is expected that Hillary would lag behind Obama for this reason alone. But importantly, Hillary’s gender could have been an impediment in the Black community, which is not exempt from chauvinism. However, it is unlikely that descriptive features alone explains such a steep, concentrated decline, let alone the regional variation of the decline.

The second hypothesis is Hillary Clinton’s immense unpopularity ended up mattering a lot more than Trump’s even higher unpopularity. According to Pew in late October 2008 Obama had a favorability of 60%, while Hillary in late October had 43% favorability. Specifically to the Black community, the ubiquitous feelings of support among voters for Obama during his initial election could only be made by Hillary  if Hillary was Black. Other scholarship has shown the Black voters rally around Black candidates under fire, but Hillary’s whiteness impedes a similar steadfast support for her candidacy (Clintonian honorary Blackness notwithstanding). Clinton’s inability to craft a convincing message in decreasing police violence against African Americans, lack of attention to employment strategies, and lingering questions about her loyalty to egalitarian change could also help explain her lack of standing in the Black community. But this approach is a very coarse measure, and explains none of the variation manifest in the maps.

The third, and perhaps leading hypothesis, is the role of heavy-handed voter ID laws across the nation, but most concentrated in the Rust Belt states Donald Trump flipped.

ncls-voter-id-map

Obstructive–and biased–impediments to vote, such as voter ID laws, tend to favor Republican causes, since the people most affected by ID requirements tend to be less economically secure, which is more common in the Black community, for immigrants, the poor, students, urbanites, and the elderly. Noticeably, only the very last constituency is even remotely pro-GOP. So if voter ID laws tend to decrease the Democratic electorate, and frequently African-American voters, is it possible these laws had some effect in this election? The answer is yes.

Most of the states with the most pernicious voter ID laws–Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee–saw a decline in Black turnout during this election. The only two exceptions to this rule are Georgia and Virginia, which makes some sense: the Clinton campaign spent a lot of time encouraging turnout in and around Atlanta, while Virginia has a Democratic governor that went so far as to pardon incarcerated members of the population with an important election in sight. Additionally, Texas had an increase in turnout, but it is unclear whether Black turnout was up with Latino turnout, or if the latter simply masked a decline in the former.

The only ways to truly understand whether voter ID laws played a role in the election, beyond the recognition of a pattern, is twofold. First, interviews with voters that can testify to the increased hardship in voting and interviews with those that did not vote and their reasoning. Second, a calculation of IDs issued based on demographics would confirm a bias in which groups failed to gain the necessary IDs to vote.

States that were most affected by the decrease in Black mobilization are Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio (although the latter would not have been a Clinton state even with more Black support–see suburban voter explanation).

Why did working class whites support Trump?

The most common explanation for the outcome is that disaffected white, working class voters with low educational attainment broke hard for Trump, and moreover, they turned out in high numbers to voice their displeasure with the status quo. Importantly, neither of these points are proven with the data, even if they are true. White voters made up 70% of the electorate in the election, their lowest number on record (down from 72% in 2012 and 74% in 2008). Moreover, according to exit polling Trump won about the same proportion of whites as Romney did in 2012 (Romney won 59%, Trump 58% with more third party candidate share). What about turnout? It is actually very difficult to find counties with mostly white residents that increased in turnout. For example, turnout was up by 2.5% in Hall County, Georgia, but although this is a heavily Republican county, whites only constitute 2/3 of the county population. Since both the Ds and Rs gained around 4,000 votes, it is not clear the white backlash thesis is correct.

So while it is plausible that uneducated whites in the Rust Belt feel unrepresented by both parties, leading many to favor the outsider candidate, the evidence does not show increased white support for Trump, either in the form of preferences or turnout. If anything, Trump’s 1-3% gain in vote share among Hispanic, Black, and Asian voters, and decreased turnout among Black voters, seem more consequential.

Trump did improve on Romney’s figure in regards to those that made under 30k a year–from 35% to 41%. If we assume many of these poorer voters were white (which is a hefty assumption), there is a good explanation for this change, especially in the Rust Belt. Trump preached isolationism and the false promise of being able to hedge job loss in manufacturing, and even restore many of these jobs. This plea to voters would be a successful frame, given the job loss in heavy manufacturing and lack of trade adjustment funding for jobs training with each successive free trade agreement. However, Trump will not succeed on this promise unless the labor force in the region is willing to work for 4 dollars (or less) an hour. Tax incentives are not enough to reverse private sector-led globalization and deindustrialization that has been occurring since the 1970s. The government can certainly facilitate the flight of business to other countries, but reversing that trend would require government-funded factory construction and jobs training, which there is little evidence any politician favors. The Democratic alternative–at least among the left side of the party–is economic diversification of the region, such as making education attainment higher in the region, jobs training in high-tech manufacturing, and increased demand-side stimulus to allow poorer citizens to use federal funds to redistribute wealth in their local economy.

This explanation is the most shaky for Trump’s victory. It is not clear there was an appreciable increase in poor white turnout in this election. Absent state-level exit polls in the Great Lakes, the data will not prove this point. If poor white voters were consequential in any states, it would have been predominantly the Great Lakes and Appalachia, both of which have been trending GOP for quite some time.

What about race?

With the immense amount of race-hate spewed by Donald Trump throughout the election, it is certainly plausible it activated, or made manifest, racism in the electorate. The endorsement by KKK and neo-Nazi groups of Trump, violence against racial minorities at Trump rallies, and rise in hate crimes are all reasons to assume race played a seminal role in this election. Moreover, the post-election ascendance of Steve Bannon to the top of the executive branch shows there is some work to promote white supremacy in government, if only descriptively and not substantively (although there is definitely room for both in a Trump administration).

However, the likelihood of either racial backlash against America’s first Black president or activated white supremacy by Trump being the defining facet of this election is very low. Not because it does not matter–which it obviously does–but because there are ample legitimate reasons to feel that the country is going in the wrong direction and that government is not responsive to the needs of the disaffected. Essentially, it is true some voters were mobilized by Trump’s white nationalist sentiment, but this race-centric theory fails to explain much of the suburban shift from Obama to Trump.

What can be stated about race is that racist rhetoric was not refuted by the public at-large or Trump supporters. Although we cannot know if Trump’s supporters were motivated by racism, we can safely say they were not deterred enough by Trump’s racism to vote for another candidate. This is kind of an odd dynamic, but in essence, we can say Americans are not racially liberal enough as a whole to rebuke a clearly racist political campaign. It should be noted there are probably many conservatives, like Mitt Romney and many in the Mormon community, that decided supporting another candidate (perhaps one less bigoted like Evan McMullin) was the thing to do. (Side note, I am a bit disheartened that so many Mormons decided to stick with Trump, as I suspected he would be the least attractive candidate of the main three Utah was considering.)

What about gender?

Gender is another important variable, especially with the disproportional negative media and political attention Hillary has experienced since the 1990s. She is perhaps the most scrutinized political figure in American history. Trump’s entire stamina critique of Hillary seemed to be about gender, veiled in her health episodes. It is safe to assume her gender is part of this, as is her relation to Bill’s promiscuity, her opportunistic position-taking and her email server issues. There are both legitimate and illegitimate reasons to be hesitant to support Hillary Clinton. As it turns out, Hillary’s support among men and women is nearly the same proportion as what Obama achieved in 2012 (the only big difference is the presence of third party candidates). Is it possible patriarchy is so ubiquitous in American society that women were self-policing and hyper-critical of Hillary in a way that would not occur if she were a man? Sure. Again, until we have enough interviews of women saying any woman is not well-suited to be president, we cannot posit out thin air that gender discrimination is a dominant explanation for what happened in this election.

What about immigration?

Immigration definitely mattered in this election, arguably more than race and gender. Many of the suburban voters claimed to be motivated by immigration related issues, such as building the wall or deporting undocumented residents. The anti-Latino sentiment of Trump clearly worked to mobilize Latino communities in Nevada, California, Texas, and Arizona. And unfortunately, Trump’s policy details are arguably most developed on the immigration question–a low bar, but true nonetheless. Luckily, it appears House Republicans are less apt for mass deportations than what many previously expected, so maybe a combination of meaningless fence construction and some path toward citizenship will occur. According to exit polling, those that claimed immigration was the most important issue supported Trump 64 to 32. However, among the four issue options, immigration was tied for last with foreign policy at 13%, while terrorism received 18% and the economy reached 52% (Hillary decidedly won the economy and foreign policy, while Trump won terrorism and immigration).

What about the urban-rural divide?

This is pretty clear as an important dynamic, with Trump setting records in rural areas. The resentment rural voters feel towards cities is palpable and somewhat justified: governments are located in cities, and government services are best delivered in cities. This dynamic often leaves the countryside feeling alienated from spending decisions, with little to show for their tax dollars. If the conversation ended there, an anti-establishment vote would be legitimate and easy rectify (show a new commitment to delivering services in the country). However, it is much more complicated, and heavily tied up into stereotypes and anachronistic notions of what modern governments should do. Many people in rural America have a skewed perception of what city dwellers are like. Sure they like lattes and ombre haircuts, but dependency on government support is not nearly as ubiquitous in cities as one might expect. In fact, the opposite is actually true: in what some term “red state socialism” many rural states receive more federal funds per outgoing tax dollar that do metropolitan states (New Jersey perennially getting the least for what they pay). Moreover, antagonism towards government in the countryside seems to deny the presence of social problems unique to cities that require collective governmental action, such as housing segregation, concentrated poverty, crime, and infrastructure maintenance. While the cultural divide between rural and urban folks is unlikely to get resolved, it is probably not a good sign to see the parties reshaped as metropolitan versus agrarian, as both geographic locations stand to gain from concerted government action to address the struggles in each environment.

Concerning this election, there is ample evidence that rural resentment of urbanites spurred support for Trump. There is some multicollinearity here, though, since race, class, partisan sorting, and ideology are correlated with settlement type, meaning it is difficult to ascertain the causal power of urban-rural cultural divide separate from those variables.

What about the media?

The media is culpable for this outcome in myriad ways. First, the unfettered coverage of Trump’s every move, from eating pizza with a fork and knife to taking a shit at 3am is a sign of the repugnant state of sensational, now tabloid, journalism. Making money is a necessary means to finance a news operation that allows for extensive investigative journalism, but money-making cannot be an end in itself. Trump should get a lot of credit for running a staff-less campaign and his innovative use of directly calling into news shows, but breaking regularly scheduled programing to cover one of his many rallies became gratuitous and transparently about ginning up the horse race.

Second, the lack journalistic push-back on Trump’s many false statements enigmatically fits in with the dominant to trend to draw a false equivalency on all sides of a debate. Hate speech cannot be covered as anything other than hate speech. Although the media was by-and-large critical of Trump, much of it was less fact-based and more focused on pot-shots and sensationalized quotes.

Third, the over reliance on tracking polls to explain dynamics on the ground directly contributed setting up high expectations for Hillary. There are examples of celebrities and journalists traveling around Michigan and perceiving it to be a Trump state, but the media did not seem aware of this sea change due to stable poll results and a lack of care for understanding Trump supporters.

A media that is solely concerned with ratings, and sanctimoniously dismisses a candidate that continues to beat expectations is a recipe for disaster. I do not think it is fair to claim the media should have known Trump could actually win–that is way to much to ask of anyone–but a more nuanced coverage of his bases of support would have changed expectations going into the election.

Did James Comey cost Hillary the election?

In the immediate days after the election, I would have summarily dismissed this claim. The polls showed very little movement beyond the pre-existing trend toward Trump because of the FBI reopening the investigation of Hillary’s emails. However, exit polling tells a different story about the effect of the very late announcement by Comey, which was only a week and half before an election. The weekend before the election the FBI concluded no further action would be taken on Hillary’s email scandal (although Anthony Weiner will surely be less lucky). Exit polling shows a trend: Clinton did better with voters that decided before September, while Trump did better in September and October. Importantly, those that decided to vote in the last week (after Comey reopened the investigation) supported Trump 50 to 38, while those that made up their minds in the last few days (after Comey cleared Clinton) supported Trump 46 to 44.

choice-of-vote-2016

Hillary picking up supporters after the Comey clearance can really only be explained by two answers. It is possible as the weight of the decision to support one of the candidates became more salient, voters decided supporting Trump was a less responsible move than they had previously felt. Or, Hillary was gaining steam after a lackluster October and the emails derailed some of her “momentum.” Both could be true at the same time, but this pattern in the exit polling suggests the emails might have had some effect. In either case, Comey’s meddling in the campaign and lack of control of his own agents at the FBI (with all the leaks), suggests he has lost institutional support for his leadership. Therefore, Comey should resign effective immediately, since he is neither serving the public nor FBI interests, but is strictly looking out for himself.

While it seems likely the Comey fiasco had some effect on deterring support for Clinton, it is still unlikely that the margins are perfectly correlated with areas where she needed more support, like in the Great Lakes. Until we see evidence from voters in that region that the emails mattered on a large scale, this episode will remain a stain on the cycle, but not a determinate one.

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Republican Presidential Candidate Roundup, 2016: Analysis and Predictions

Sixth Party System has been out of commission for too long, and what better way to return than with a roundup of all the GOP candidates for president. We have some real quality people… in America, and none seem to be running for president in this field. Oh well, one of them will advance to the general, so we may as well get to know them. The format is simple: below each picture I will explain the type of candidate, why they are running, their chances of victory, and their support base. I will handicap each candidates chance of winning the GOP primary, and if that is above zero, their chances in the general election. This is the chance of winning the presidency overall, not the likely popular vote share. Since the national electorate leans Democratic right now, anything over a 33% chance of victory denotes a strong candidate. Moreover, this percentage is estimated with the assumption that Hillary will be the Democratic candidate. If she somehow loses the primary, then all of the chances to win would be much higher. Just add 10% to each number and that is how they would fare against Bernie Sanders, Jim Webb, Martin O’Malley, or any other Democrat.

Primary chances are zero sum among the candidates on this page, whereas general election chances are variable since it is a new, discrete game for each candidate versus the Democrat. Structurally, Republicans face an uphill struggle to win over the national electorate, which means no GOP candidate is favored to win over Hillary in 2016. A strong GOP candidate can make it a tight race, as some of these candidates could capably achieve. Some might even win the presidency in 2016, but it would be close. Who can win some Great Lakes states, the upper South, Colorado, and/or Florida?

Well, let’s see!

Jeb! Bush (smug autocratic former Governor of Florida)

Type: neo-conservative patrician

Purpose for running: legacy, turn

Chance of winning primary: 21%

Chance of winning general: 40%

Base of support: moderates; people who like dynasties; neo-cons; GOP establishment; he wishes Hispanics

Geographic base: national, but primarily the Northeast, Florida, and the Sun Belt

Jeb! (pronounced yeb) Bush is attempting to craft an image of himself that reeks of inauthenticity. A man of the people–namely Hispanic people. The problem is he is neither of the people nor his he Hispanic. But what he is certified as is a politically connected son and brother of former presidents, and a former governor of a swing state. That pedigree would generally make him the odds-on favorite to win in a party that has historically observed an it-is-your-turn approach to candidate selection. The problem is the party has become more conservative, and the “activist” class has managed to forge the most powerful narrative, which now reverberates in formerly moderate circles. The fractured field actually helps Bush–almost everyone is to his right and will fight it out for the looney tunes vote–but he has looked quite underwhelming in these early stages of the campaign.

With his classical training as a political operative in mind, Bush’s inability to answer the “knowing what you know now, would you invade Iraq?” question is astonishing. I contend if you were to ask him that question right now, you would get a different answer.It is a pretty simple question, which from his perspective would have a telegraphed answer: yes, with some caveat. That is it. He cannot refute his brother’s vision of Iraq and domestic security without hurting his own brand. Whether Jedediah likes it or not, he is conjoined with Dubyah at the hip on nearly everything. Moving away from his brother’s legacy is only remotely possible if he at least surrounds himself with different people and espouses different wisdom on the area, but his advisers are the same people that masterminded the war, and his messaging is also the same.

Back to his ethnicity, Bush is badly hurt by Marco Rubio’s presence in the campaign. Although Rubio is Cubano, his skin color and general straight-shooting manner leave him in a much better position to court Hispanic voters than Bush, who married a Mexican woman and has a biracial child, but is himself a product of an Aryan Episcopalian aristocratic family.

Jeb!’s bumbling, tone-deaf, and incredibly back-heeled campaign is inherently cynical. It operates under the clear modus operandi that he is destined to become president, and that if he avoids controversy and gotcha’ moments, his connections and name recognition will keep him in the race until early November 2016. No matter what he overtly stresses or claims in his manicured public gatherings and speeches, Bush’s campaign is not about earning it (the candidacy), but enduring it (the campaign).

Ben Carson (blind neurosurgeon in Maryland)

Type: Tea Partier/take-my-country-back(er)

Purpose for running: profit

Chance of winning: zero

Base of support: Tea Party; conservative policy wonks and intellectuals (too small a group to build a base)

Geographic base: a couple of people at the selfish Johns Hopkins medical school

Carson’s primary reason for running for president is to sell books. Plain and simple. This is a profit-making endeavor, although I do not doubt his sincerity when he decries the PPACA as the worst form of social control since slavery, or that same-sex marriage is really not that different from bestiality. And while I find him a pretty boring, inconsequential candidate or pundit, there is something to be said for how infatuated many Tea Party groups are with his person. Do they think he has smart ideas? Do they like his tenor? Are they just looking for any black conservative, and Allen West is busy right now? All I know is Ben Carson hails from the JHU medical school which is famous for bogarting resources that the rest of the university would benefit from. Fitting that side of the school would produce a vitriolic GOP candidate.

 Chris Christie (cartel Governor of New Jersey)

https://i0.wp.com/conservativebyte.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/christie-obama-odd-couple.jpg

Type: metro machine conservative

Purpose for running: ambition and power

Chance of winning primary: 2%

Chance of winning general: 31%

Base of support: white homeowners; very confused good governance types; labor haters; network of  cronies; Italians; police and firefighters.

Geographic base: Northeast, Mid-Atlantic

The Culture of Corruption candidate really hurt his credibility with the whole Birdgegate debacle. It is obvious the whole thing was orchestrated because of how he runs his operations. The facts as currently available in the public surely disqualify him from overseeing a nation of diverse thought–some that do not jive with his thinking. Especially in this historical time period, in which federal security state affairs are at a crossroads, a Nixonian candidate like Christie or Walker is quite dangerous. Christie is very enigmatic: he seems to be go-getter, no nonsense type, as seen in how he handled Hurricane Sandy. At the same time, he is petty, abusive towards any opposition (e.g. questions), and he maintains a solid record of carving out special interest privileges. If you have to live under the reign of any of these candidates, Christie might be among the least pernicious, but that says more about the field of candidates than Christie’s acceptability. Such a pity; before the scandal I thought Christie could give Hillary a run for her money. Although he is still a strong campaigner, he is unlikely to make it through the GOP primary, let alone topple Hillary.

Ted Cruz (vacuous false-idol Senator from Texas)

http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.1467343!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/article_970/usa-cruz-senate.jpg

Type: opportunist, McCarthyite, Tea Partier

Purpose for running: attention and profit

Chance of winning primary: 1%

Chance of winning general: 3%

Base of support: Tea Party; Minutemen; various anti-government types; people who gravitate towards false idols

Geographic base: Sun Belt, Big Sky country, Washington D.C.

Ted Cruz loves attention more than anything else, such as power, governance, policy, esteem. This run for president is not serious in any way, but simply an opportunity to keep his name in the public eye so that he can sell books, book speaking engagements, and engage donors. He is a weak candidate in any general election that has at least 1/3 non-GOP voters, which makes his reelection in Texas precarious. Therefore, time is of the essence for Cruz to cash in on his exploits, lest he be left with no policy achievements and not enough money to show for his time in politics. The real kicker is if Cruz used his education and ability to cajole colleagues to do as he says for a greater purpose, he could potentially be a formal leader and decision-maker within the party. It is fairly clear he does not want this sort of responsibility, unless of course that would keep him in the public eye ever more. Cruz is one of the few in-government vanity candidates, which usually hail from non-elected circles.

iCarly Fiorina Version 0.32 (failed business executive in California)

“You’re all fired, pissants” … “Oh, I’m fired… ingrate”

Type: business conservative

Purpose for running: vanity, life-meaning

Chance of winning primary: zero

Base of support: California Republican Party

Geographic base: Certain Silicon Valley home, Orange County

Fiorina’s version number is to suggest she has regressed below the 1.0 status, into a walking, talking demagogue. Aside from Ben Carson, she might be the least qualified person to become president. Unlike Carson, she has executive experience and has run for elected office, but short of the Trump, she has failed at being an executive as she ran HP into the ground. HP’s products, profits, innovation, market share, brand loyalty, and worker morale all declined under Fiorina. Since her departure, HP has actually returned to form to some respect, showing crappy leadership indeed outweighs decent thinkers and workers when it comes to final product. She is a vitriolic, bitter person that is very insulting and defensive in just about every setting you will see her in. California is light on the GOP bench, but even there, she is a horrible, horrible candidate. The 42.2% vote share in the California Senate race against Barbara Boxer looks pretty good, as does winning Ventura and San Diego counties. However, the year of that election was 2010, and Boxer has long faced mainstream issues with getting Socal white middle class votes, which suggests a) the impressive counties Fiorina won had more to do with dislike for Boxer, and b) 42.2% in 2010 is actually pretty awful. A stronger candidate could have brough Boxer into plurality victory territory–still a loss, but a more respectable one. Fiorina does not deserve to be president or vice president, and she really has no particular base of support to justify her candidacy. Seriously, who supports Fiorina?

Lindsey Graham (limp-wristed Senator from South Carolina)

Edward Rutledge limp wrist

If you get this reference, cheers.

Type: Neo-conservative war hawk

Purpose for running: policy, keep neo-con hawk line on the agenda

Chance of winning primary: zero

Base of support: neoconservative war hawks; legal community; log-cabin Republicans

Geographic base: coastal Carolinas, D.C., Southern cities

Lindsey Graham, John McCain, and Joe Lieberman made up the holy trinity of neoconservative war hawks in the Senate between the late 1990s and 2010. They were bipartisan, but generally agreed on a conservative, anti-darkies agenda. Now in 2015, Lieberman is gone, with Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire subbed in, but Graham still has all the same answers. “Invade, invade, 9/11. bomb, invade, kill, 9/11, radical Islam, war, Iran, Benghazi, bomb, security, kill kill kill.” I suppose it is disingenuous to use quotes, but I stand by those terms as a pretty good paraphrase. His presidential run is not in any way to win, but instead to do two things: become a potential VP candidate, but more importantly, keep the hawkish line in the official discourse.

I guess this presidential run means Lindsey will not announce his coming out of the closet any time soon, but I sure hope Graham accepts his homosexuality soon and drops the facade of being a lifelong bachelor.

Mike Huckabee (snake oil selling former Governor from Arkansas)

huckabee scamer for hire

Type: evangelical conservative

Purpose for running: profit

Chance of winning primary: 9%

Chance of winning general: 22%

Base of support: Evangelical movement; certain right-wing populists; some moderates that view his rhetoric and governance as two distinct, almost disconnected paths.

Geographic base: Bible Belt, south of the Ohio River, east of the Colorado

Mike Huckabee has managed to transform from mild-mannered, pragmatic conservative governor to hate-filled, pandering, solicitous demagogue in a matter of eight years. Where Huckabee used to come across as an authentic populist with religious commitments, he now seems to represent purely reactionary elements within the country. Further, he tends to use language that foments anger and increases general hostility toward government instead of framing his perspective on issues as problem-solving what others fail to fix. These changes point towards a general lack of interest in governance, and instead, a growing interest in money. If he has a secondary motive, it might be to grow his power within the American baptist and evangelical communities, but even this may now simply serve as a vehicle for resource extraction through peddling snake oil products like crappy health care coverage after the PPACA, or weak cure-alls to diabetes. Among all the profit-motivated candidates in the race at this time, he still has the largest political base and greatest chance to at least win some primaries. He has done it before, and even if he has lost the esteem of more serious voters, his burgeoning power within the religious right affords him a strong, motivated base to turnout in droves.

Bobby Jindal (awkward malware Governor of Louisiana)

“Uh sir, you just don’t seem to get it. The fedurrul guvurnment caused the BP oil spill and is making it worse.” I imagine dealing with Jindal for coordination purposes is extremely obnoxious.

Type: panderer

Purpose for running: self-meaning, VP bait

Chance of winning primary: zero

Base of support: none really, but some conservative policy wonks like him

Geographic base: parts of Louisiana

Bobby Jindal is not a well-liked or popular political figure in any circles. Louisianans don’t like him, so he has no geographic base. Big money types have all-American good ol’ boys like Walker and Bush to turn to. Youths don’t like him. I am sure he holds some esteem in the Indian community, which on balance is more conservative than most Asian American communities, but that base is not strong enough in the GOP to do much. He tends to play up new generation leadership with fresh ideas, much like Rubio (and in his awkward, vague manner, Cruz), but Jindal does not actually have many ideas. School choice? Stopping Iran from getting a nuke? Repealing Obamacare? Keystone XL? Nothing innovative or original about this stuff. Even in a weak field, he would likely finish near last, but here, Jindal stands no chance. Chances are Jindal becomes a highly paid lobbyist for an oil company after he leaves the governor’s mansion.

John Kasich (calculating Governor of Ohio)

https://i0.wp.com/media.cleveland.com/metro/photo/10694556-large.jpg

Type: Reaganite, pragmatic conservative

Purpose for running: governance; ambition

Chance of winning primary: 3%

Chance of winning general: 48%

Base of support: Beltway players; moderates; policy wonks; Reagan era pols; in-government bureaucrats; business interests without conservative social agendas

Geographic base: Great Lakes, D.C.

Governor Kasich is a savvy politician, well-seasoned in decades of austerity era American governance. He probably aspires to be nearly as conservative as most of the other candidates here, but unlike them, when he perceives public sentiment is against him, he will compromise. The Issue 2 debacle in 2011 seems to have shaken the depths of his conservative agenda, but that likely made him a better general election candidate and representative of broader interests. Perhaps the fact that he has a conscience precludes him from becoming the GOP candidate, but if he somehow made it to the general, there is a strong chance he could beat Hillary to become president. When an authentic conservative willing to make deals to keep the country moving has almost no shot of winning the Republican primary, something is seriously wrong.

George Pataki (bored former Governor of New York)

“Who farted? Must be al-Qaeda.”

Type: security statist

Purpose for running: relevance, life meaning, probably profit

Chance of winning primary: zero

Base of support: Giuliani type well-to-do metropolitan homeowners who fear minorities and crime

Geographic base: places hit with terrorism, suburbs, and exurbs

As a fringe candidate running purely out of boredom and a dwindling sense of life-force, Pataki at least fulfills the security state fear monger role Giuliani usually fills. Aside from that, not much to say about Pataki except he is unlikely to gain any traction short of a terrorist attack that somehow he forecasted. That should also make him a prime suspect if one is to occur. He has a reputation as a New York conservative, but short of James Buckley, he would still seem quite moderate to the GOP base. A meaningless campaign for a meaningless person.

Rand Paul (the less disgusting Senator from Kentucky)

Type: libertarian extraordinaire

Purpose for running: keep libertarian line in public discourse; sell books

Chance of winning: 18%

Chance of winning general: 28%

Base of support: paleo-conservatives; libertarians; Bourbon GOP; college-aged white males; Ayn Rand readers.

Geographic base: national, college campuses

Every now and then Rand Paul will say or do something that seems cross-partisan and almost beneficial for the country, such as fighting the surveillance state and working with Harry Reid to retrench the prison industrial complex and enfranchise felons. That is really good stuff, and his voice within the GOP is much more important than the many Democratic civil libertarian analogs, which is quite ironic since the GOP is supposed to be the party of limited government, reserved rights, and skepticism toward governmental power. As some–but not all–political observers understand, the GOP actually seems to be the party of inflated and wasteful government, which is an interesting method of decreasing public confidence in government, which thereby bolsters claims to dismantle parts of the state that actually do serve a purpose, such as the welfare state. Anyone who followed Reagan’s presidency understands this tactic well: starve the beast to create the crisis in which retrenchment takes hold; make government so heinous regular folks will call for deregulation and the marginalization of public goods. But while these conservatives, starting with Nixon, the expansion of state oppressive apparatuses such as the surveillance and carceral states belies much of their retrenchment messages. This is where Rand Paul is both confounding and refreshing: he generally wants to dismantle nearly everything across the board, which includes conservative-led police state structures. Paul’s several filibusters have certainly kept these items on the agenda and disallow quick, bipartisan reauthorizations, even if he fails at the end of the day. Launching a filibuster when you are publishing a book about your filibusters is also a nice way to profit from these seemingly symbolic articulations.

That is where Paul becomes a little easier to figure out than say, Scott Walker: Paul wants to spread the gospel of libertarian doctrine, and if that forces him to lose some allies while he makes some money, so be it. The senator is not running for president to win, but instead to keep his agenda in the public eye, and to further build his middle-class white college boy base into a larger network. Perhaps one day he will become the GOP candidate, but right now the primary voters are not libertarians, but instead generally Huckabee type social authoritarians. In the past, Paul has pandered to this crowd (see any of his comments on civil rights), but he seems less content to make that a focal point in his current campaign. Although the Paul electorate is not fully formed, the elder (Ron) Paul did exceedingly well for an insurgency campaign in 2012. Perhaps Rand will go even further this time, which means several states outright. That libertarian strain is strong in California, Colorado, Maine, the Dakotas, and possibly Kentucky (for obvious reasons).

Rick Perry (moronic former Governor from Texas)

Certainly (I hope) an accidental sieg heil, but Niggerhead owner Perry has eclectic views on social issues, many of which are grounded in late 19th-early 20th century thought.

Type: states-rights evangelical conservative and secessionist

Purpose for running: relevance

Chance of winning primary: 5%

Chance of winning general: 2%

Base of support: secessionists; racists; Texans

Geographic base: Texas and parts of the Sun Belt

Oh Rick Perry, why do you want to advertise your stupidity? I know glasses can be perceived as a sign of intelligence, but that is if you adhere to Khmer Rouge assessments of intelligence, in which Perry should probably take the glasses off lest he be led to the killing fields. As if the glasses were not enough, he also obtained a lecturer job in the political science department of Texas A&M, which is actually a pretty good school and department despite it being his alma mater. What would complete Perry’s transformation into the conservative’s intellectual would be the ability to articulate clearly, write legibly, and remember one’s argument. Once he gets those down, National Review here he comes!

As if Perry’s meltdown last cycle was not enough, Perry is back for more. If he was the only southern conservative with occasional bouts of racist psychobabble, he might actually have a chance to make it to the final three. However, this cycle has Huckabee, Jindal, Santorum, and Cruz, which is a clown car of the same ilk. They will splinter the vote to the point that a “moderate,” northern conservative, or libertarian might carry the day, further marginalizing the quite formidable southern bloc. Perry is probably in the race to provide liberals with laughs and to potentially hype a forthcoming book about Texas secession and why he hates America so much. Of all the fringe candidates, Perry has the highest likelihood a winning a state primary (South Carolina maybe), but he will quickly lose steam and implode, much like happened to revisionist pseudo-historian Newt Gingrich.

Marco Rubio (thirsty Senator from Florida)

thirsty rubio

“Excuse my Obama bashing, I’m really rolling right now and some agua would be divine”

Type: Neo-neo-conservative

Purpose for running: ambition and hopeful VP pick

Chance of winning primary: 11%

Chance of winning general: 35%

Base of support: politically illiterate young people; moderates; certain Tea Partiers; Club for Growth

Geographic base: Southern Florida

The man that drinks scared, Rubio loves to tell everyone how much he likes hip-hop, and apparently, electronic music. Well that’s nice. I like hip-hop too. Oh, you like Tupac and Biggie? Me too!!!! I guess you have my vote (says no one). Although I do not doubt his sincerity with liking rap, I definitely think his infatuation with dub step is pure pandering. That said, in a general election equipped with rock the vote campaigns, he might benefit from some of these statements. But there are very few Republican primary voters who share his authentic interest in 90s hip-hop. If Rubio is crafty enough, he will try to learn a thing or two from Rand Paul and storm college campuses for his voting base. Simply put, Cubanos are not a large enough population in states out side of Florida, which will likely go for Bush over him, though I could be wrong on that. Rubio is betting the farm on this campaign as he is not running for reelection in the Senate–unlike unscrupulous Rand Paul–which implies he is either very confident in winning/gaining VP nod, or he does not want to be in DC anymore and would rather run for FL governor or get a show on Fox. Rubio’s message has predominantly focused on international issues, such as Iran and ISIS, with sprinkles of Obamacare and entitlement talk. I doubt these combination will go very far in such a crowded field, but I am hesitant to dismiss Rubio the way I do with other candidates. Historically he has shown a unique leadership style, such as his state-crossing idea generation tour when he was a state lawmaker, which allowed him to craft an image as a visionary man of the people. I do not see him doing such things nowadays, but if he can stay in the race past the first primary months, I think he could be a serious candidate that is capable of pleasing both establishment (“moderate”) GOP business interests, as well the Tea Party. Moreover, he then adds in the youthful vigor element to contrast with Hillary, and who knows, maybe he pulls off an incredible upset. Stranger things have happened.

Rick Santorum (talking airbag and former Senator from Pennsylvania)

Type: Christian conservative, blue collar conservative

Purpose for running: profit, nothing better to do

Chance of winning primary: 1%

Chance of winning general: 8%

Base of support: 19 & Counting; disenchanted conservative union workers; nuclear family idealists

Geographic base: Rust Belt

Rick Santorum is an utter moron, but lately I have realized he is probably not a bad person. Moreover, he has a strain of preferences in his career of taking pro-worker stances on some issues when the GOP line would be to his right. Granted, these are rare and often meaningless, but my point is he is not the worst. He might be a fundamentalist, but he has some common sense. He also has a low IQ, which hurts his ability to answer questions and communicate in an effective manner. Anyway, Santorum is not a threat to win this election–he seems to struggle to find an audience willing to listen to him. Unfortunately, that means this race is simply about keeping his name out there so he can make enough money off of family biographies to buy the his eponymous domain name. A frothy mixture indeed.

Donald Trump (ego-maniacal profiteer)

Type: xenophobic business conservative

Purpose for running: vanity and self-meaning

Chance of winning primary: 3%

Chance of winning general: 1%

Base of support: himself; interests abroad

Geographic base: Suburbs, NY and Chicago, Northeast

Trump is the most prolific troll in American political history. Unlike most human beings, when Trump makes an assertion at the beginning of a sentence, he has no problem completely disowning that view by the end of the sentence. Where many people are bound by consistency to decrease cognitive dissonance, Trump will float from one string of ideas to another that completely contradicts what he just said. He is neither principled nor conservative, which is what the base really wants. He is an opportunist who says what he thinks people want to hear, which may strike people as untrue, but that is what does. Many members of the GOP hate Mexicans, but Trump does not. And yet he feels very at ease with attacking anyone of that nationality as likely criminals or moochers. He makes business deals in quick succession with Chinese or Arab autocrats and tyrants, then will vilify their whole lot as enemies of the state. Wouldn’t that make Trump a traitor? Anyone that allows the words that fart out of Trumps disgusting head to bother them is misunderstanding what Trump represents in the cosmic collective: Trump is the desperate fame worshiping failure that thinks he has all the answers, when he has exactly zero solutions to anything. No matter how well he polls in New Hampshire, or any other state, the egomaniac will never gain elected office with a diverse electorate. He could run for mayor of Greenwich if he wanted, and might win, but that is about as high as this vanity candidate can buy his way into elected office. Now he could become a diplomat for a winning candidate he financed, but then he would have to knock off the racism, which might be asking too much.

Scott Walker (sinister Orwellian Governor of Wisconsin)

Type: smooth talking arsonist

Purpose for running: power, policy, ambition

Chance of winning primary: 26%

Chance of winning general: 46%

Base of support: Koch Bros™; multi-national business interests; homeowners; union haters; polarized and fearful public; bikers.

Geographic base: Great Lakes and Great Plains

First off, Scott is a such a cool dude. Like really. What a man of the people and just really humble, and hey, he is just like me: a commoner. He rides around Wisconsin in a rotund motorcycle, he has badges. I mean, so cool.

Too bad he is the contemporary incarnation of Richard Nixon. Seriously. He is the most Nixonian candidate this country has seen in… ever. His paranoia, quest for power, unscrupulous personal and institutional attacks on others, and his incredible ability to forge a seemingly benign message to cover up a dystopian policy is uncanny. Walker is the biggest threat of any candidate to become president, and then quickly deregulate an already deregulated country, open up nature reserves for resource extraction, and massively retool the surveillance/security state to Orwellian levels. Fear, like with Nixon, is his currency.

Walker is quite perplexing. The weirdest aspect of Walker’s person is no one really knows what he actually believes. It is easy to paint him as a mouthpiece for the Koch Bros™, willing to do anything for his big money donors in the quest for quid pro quo enrichment and political gain. But, he could also be a principled business oriented conservative, driven to implement his ideal vision of an American in which… businesses… and… Republicans reign supreme. But who knows to what extent he pursues his principles, discrete interests, constituent demands, or big business directives. Does it even matter?

The answer is no. Whether he believes in the policies or political tactics he readily employs hardly matters. What is known is that he pursues a deregulatory, union-busting, surveillance included agenda that would likely hurt almost every person in the country, whether they realize it or not. I could see the allure of seemingly normal, seemingly humble, seemingly direct leader that levels with people and claims to balance budgets and cut taxes. All this amounts to a middle class white male homeowner’s dream candidate.

Whether Walker is driven by personal goals or select interests, one thing is known: he is a power hungry politician that uses covert tactics to achieve his strategy of ensuring politics is filled with hatred, animosity, fear, and permanent crisis. In this context, he can step in and be the patrician leader business interests and scared people adore. God help us if ever becomes president.

Strictly about this campaign, he is among the most sophisticated politicians in the country, and he has an endless stream of dark money to keep him in the race long after most other candidates piss their sugar daddy off and bow out. I consider him the strongest primary candidate in the GOP, and among the top 4 strongest general election GOP candidate. If he wins Iowa, he could still lose in other states, but if he wins New Hampshire, I would say primary season will be over very quickly.

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