This post carries the normal proviso that I don’t know what the heck I’m talking about so anything I predict is likely to be pure nonsense.
I’ve just done something which I very occasionally do. I last did it in February 2007. I put a modest little wager on who will be the next President of the USA. I put money on Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton.
OK. It’s the misty-eyed old Liberal in me. I got a thrill from betting on Obama the day he declared as a candidate for the President. (I also got a thrill from winning a small amount when he won). And I enjoyed putting money on, what I think will be, the first female “leader of the free world”. Most bookies seem to be giving her about a 54% chance of winning at the moment. Why am I so confident that she will win?
Well, first of all, Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee. I’ve given up thinking he’s going to have a blowout. He’s Mr Teflon. He’ll walk the Iowa caucus and most of all the other primaries. I live in hope of a “dream ticket” – Trump/Palin. That would be hilarious.
And Trump still might get to be President. If, as soon as he has the Republican nomination sewn up, he manages to take an overdose of political Ex-Lax and expel from his body all his previous positions and prejudices, and imbibes a new moderate, mild persona – well, he might do it. I wouldn’t put it past him. George W Bush did it – but George W Bush seemed quite reasonable at the equivalent stage of the process in 2000 – Governor of Texas, compassionate conservative etc etc.
I heard an American saying last night that Bernie Sanders had a 45% chance of winning the Democratic nomination. I don’t think so. More to the point, nor does Nate Silver:
Unlike on the Republican side, this isn’t necessarily a choice between head and heart for Democratic voters. Democrats aren’t just backing Clinton because they think she’s more pragmatic or electable; most of them are closer to Clinton than Sanders on the issues. So even if Sanders gained a lot of momentum after the early states, he could have trouble closing the sale with voters who think he’s a little too far to the left.
One reason to be reasonably confident about Hillary Clinton being the Democratic nominee is that she already has 343 delegates to the Democratic nomination who have pledged to support her. These are the “Superdelegates”. Bernie Sanders has 12 superdelegates pledged to him. Even if Sanders wins Iowa (52 delegates) and New Hampshire (32), he’ll still be 247 delegates behind Hillary Clinton. If the Democratic process gets a bit drawn out, like it did in 2008, Clinton has the upper hand.
So now we come to Trump v Clinton. We hear a lot about the people who like Trump. We hear little about the people who detest him. Let’s take three anti-Trump straws in the wind:
- There’s a significant constituency of Republican grassroots supporters who do not like Trump – for example in New Hampshire.
- Most Americans just really don’t like the guy.
- Trump has Hispanic and Latino Americans (13% of the electorate) queuing up to vote against him ten months before the election.
Here’s Nate Silver again:
Contra Rupert Murdoch’s assertion about Trump having crossover appeal, Trump is extraordinarily unpopular with independent voters and Democrats. Gallup polling conducted over the past six weeks found Trump with a -27-percentage-point net favorability rating among independent voters, and a -70-point net rating among Democrats; both marks are easily the worst in the GOP field. (Trump also has less-than-spectacular favorable ratings among his fellow Republicans.)
To be fair, Clinton has a high unfavourable rating at 50% overall (she has always tended to be a bit of a Marmite candidate) but Trump has a 58% overall unfavourable rating. Clinton’s overall net favourable rating is -8%. Trump’s overall net favourable rating is a stonking -25%.
But my hunch is that a Trump v Clinton match would boil down to one deciding criteria. Generally speaking, when faced with the choice between flashy/loud and boring/competent, US voters normally choose boring/competent.
I’m reminded of one of Hillary Clinton’s campaign videos (below) from the 2008 primaries. For me, it’s one of the most memorable American political ads. At the time she got a bit of jip about it. She was criticised for going for Obama’s jugular, accusing him, effectively, of being incompetent and ill-prepared for high office. Underneath all that flak, she actually smuggled into the American consciousness a very important point.
Being blunt, and with apologies, voters (particularly male ones) are bound to wonder whether a woman would be good in a crisis as President. Well, in one 30 second video, Clinton nailed it. She would be very good in a crisis. Yes, she is, email servers and White Waters aside, boring and competent. She can bore the hind legs off a donkey. But when push comes to shove, when they are faced with the choice of the pyrotechnics of Trump or boring/competent Hillary, American voters will choose boring/competent.