This weekend Ted Cruz swept all of the delegates in Colorado. This led to Donald Trump complaining that voters were being cheated, and that the whole system is corrupt, and rigged. He’s right. It is actually rigged, to favor the frontrunner. Even though Trump has won just 37% of the vote, he has claimed 45% of the delegates awarded, so far. That’s after Cruz swept Colorado. I find it odd that Trump’s campaign didn’t care about the delegate process in Colorado, which has been planned this way for a long time, until after he lost all delegates there. To be clear, Colorado Republicans did vote, just not the way the rest of America did. Frankly, this faux outrage is just sour grapes after Trump’s campaign made some major mistakes in the process there.
There are 16 states left in the GOP primary. Trump has secured 37% of the vote in the previous primaries. In order to win the nomination airtight, he must win 1237 delegates. There are 854 delegates remaining. Trump must win 494 to secure the nomination before the convention. Otherwise it’s a contested convention and many think Trump will not emerge the nominee.
But as we continue through this contentious primary, more and more people seem to be hinting that if Trump is not the nominee at the convention, they will walk from the GOP. That’s very similar to the #NeverTrump movement, who say that if Trump is the nominee, they will not vote for him. It looks like no matter what happens some group won’t support the GOP nominee. Whether it’s caused by a massive #trumpertantrum or people who are #nevertrump, it’s becoming clear that the eventual nominee won’t have the support of the entire GOP primary voting body.
That sounds bad. I’ve been #NeverTrump since before there was a hashtag. But this doesn’t look good for the general election: Either Trump’s gonna take his millions of voters and go home if the nomination is stolen from him or millions of #NeverTrump-ers will never vote for Trump if he is the nominee. How can we hope to win the general election.
Let’s look at the math.
To date, Trump, who has earned just over 8 million votes so far, has just 13.3% of the number of votes that Romney earned in his failed bid, in the 2012 general election. 13.5% of what McCain received in 2008. Only 12.9% of what Bush received in 2004, where he won. 16% of Bush’s 2000 presidential win. (Where he lost the popular vote, but won the electoral college)
8 million votes is a big number, more than any other 2016 GOP primary candidate, so far. But that is a small percentage of the overall general election votes. And, if the GOP turnout continues to be as large as it has been in the primaries, we should see more GOP voters than the last several elections have seen. Frankly, most of them won’t care about the primary. I used to be one of those voters, I rarely voted in the primary, but always voted in the general. This primary has brought more people into the action, but there are tens of millions more GOP voters who have not participated.
If all of Trump’s voters walked, it would be a blow, but one that could be overcome in the general election. But according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, Only 35% of his voters would walk. 2/3 would still vote for a brokered candidate. Based on current numbers, a non-Trump GOP candidate would lose 2.8 million votes in the general election. Not all 8 million. Obviously these numbers will change as the rest of the primaries are held, but the percentages will likely stay the same. A Trump campaign that is defeated at a brokered convention will take about 1/3 of his votes with him. Votes that probably won’t switch over to the Democrat candidate.
Losing a third of Trump’s voters in the general election will hurt, but it doesn’t have to be a death blow to the general election chances of the GOP. If the Democrats field an unpopular candidate like Hillary Clinton, GOP voter turnout should outpace Democrat turnout. Unless the GOP also fields an unpopular candidate. More on that later.
Compare Trump’s 1/3 walk away votes with polls showing that a full 35% of Republican primary voters won’t vote for Trump in the general. That isn’t 35% of Cruz supporters, that’s 35% of all Republican voters. #NeverTrump isn’t just Cruz supporters. Members of #NeverTrump come from the 63% of primary voters who did not vote for Trump. If that percentage holds, half of Republican voters in the GOP primary who didn’t vote Trump won’t support Trump as the eventual nominee.
There have been 22 million votes cast in Republican primaries this year, so far. More will follow as the rest of the Primaries happen. If 35% of those Republicans follow through with their claim of #Nevertrump, that is a much bigger number that the third of Trump’s 8 million voters. At this point, it’s more than 7.7 million GOP voters that will not vote for Trump. If the percentage of #NeverTrump holds, that number will grow.
Is that the death knell for a Trump presidential bid? Not necessarily, but with Trump’s growing unfavorable ratings it doesn’t look good. If 35% of your base will not vote for you, and your unfavorable numbers are far below your opponent’s (10 point difference), it becomes very hard to get out enough votes to win in the general election.
Nominating Donald Trump almost certainly hands the general election to Hillary Clinton. And, if the #NeverTrump people choose to not vote at all, it harms other GOP candidates down the ballot.
Nominating Ted Cruz will alienate some Trump supporters, but in the end, the deficit is much smaller. Plus, Cruz has actually beaten Clinton in some polls about the General election. Cruz currently trails by 2.5 in this Real Clear politics average, while Trump trails by over 10 points. Obviously, things will change during the general election cycle, but a Cruz nomination has much less to overcome than a Trump nomination going into the general election.
A #trumpertantrum walkout of Trump supporters is much better than a #NeverTrump revolt against the GOP nominee.