Saturday, March 5, 2016

Why Donald Trump Will Not Be the Next US President

If you like maps, stick with me!  The maps in this post tell nearly the whole story.

Donald Trump continues to make headlines as the Republic front runner for the nomination.  It's still early days, however and headlines don't say much about the real picture.  So let's look at the detail.

About 35% of the delegate count has been awarded.  Mr. Trump has not won a majority in any state so far.  Therefore the delegates are being awarded proportionally.

Mr. Trump has won 331 delegates as at 4 March. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz combined have 348 delegates (231 and 116 respectively).  Another 38 have gone to Ohio Governor John Kasich (27),  and Dr. Ben Carson (8) and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (3).

So the headlines call Mr. Trump the front runner.  But the detail is that he has less than the najority.  Mr. Trump is far from the winning the nomination by that count.  Moreover, a tide of opposition to him from within the Republican party is rising.

If things continue to unfold like this, the winner will be determined in August at the convention.  With more than half the delegates pledged to other candidates and the anti-Trump lobby building, Mr. Trump is not likely to get the nomination.

The second reason Mr. Trump won't be the next president is that even if he captured the Republican nomination he still has to contend with Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders and political realities underlying the electoral map of the US.

For those of you unfamiliar with the US election system it's worth noting that the US President is not elected simply by majority across the country.  We have an electoral college system in which each state has a certain number of votes, based on population.  In theory a candidate can win with a minority of the general population, but a majority in enough of the large states.

The electoral pattern in the US is that there are a core of Western and Mid-Western states that practically always vote Republican.  There is also core of Eastern  and Western States that have been Democratic strongholds in the recent years.  Then there are a few swing states.  Each of these is small on its own. Collectively they add up to about 20% of the electoral vote.

The plain truth is that in the absence of widespread dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs, the electorate generally prefers to stay the course.  The rider may change but the horse is the same.
That's pretty much the case in the US today.  If anything the overall economy is improved from where we were in 2012. The US dollar buys far more across the globe than it did a few years ago.  More people have jobs today than in 2012. Socially we've seen a general relaxation of attitudes on issues.  All of this favors Democratic candidates.

Since 1936 in the general election many of the largest states have voted Democrat, except for years where there was widespread dissatisfaction with the status quo.  President Eisenhower a Republican, won the 1952 and 1958 elections in nearly every state.

In 1960 young John F. Kennedy narrowly won the election by swinging a few of the the larger states to his side, including Texas, Pennsylvania and New York (together these 3 states are 25% of the electoral college)  Much of the country was behind Richard Nixon at the time.

In 1964 Lyndon Johnson, building on the legacy an President Kennedy won practically every state across the country. Note however, that Johnson lost 4 States in the South that had gone to Kennedy in 1960.

In 1968, with widespread social discontent and a deeply unpopular Vietnam war Richard Nixon swept the nation with a landslide election.  The solidly Republican states swung back to Nixon.

It was no surprise, however, after his presidency ended in shame and scandal that Jimmy Carter was elected in 1976.  His victory came in a way similar to that of Kennedy, with about 15 states swinging out of Republican hands.  Those states were mainly in the South  (Mr. Carter was governor of Georgia) and the industrial Mid-West.

The Republicans regained control in 1980 and held the White House with solid support across the entire country until 1992.  The discontent was so great after the Carter years that even the bulwark Democratic states of the upper North-East swung into Republican hands. In the 1984 general election Democratic nominee Walter Mondale won only his home state of Minnesota.  The Democratic victory in 1964 paled in comparison to the Republic victory 20 years later.

This was the situation until 1992, when President Bill Clinton swung several of the large states back into the Democratic camp.  He even won in California and some Mid-Western States which had historically voted Republican. Part of this result can be credited to the migration of many people from the east coast to California.  By 1992 California had grown to 54 electoral votes from just 32 in 1960. Importantly, Bill Clinton, former Governor of Arkansas, carried some of the key swing states in the South and the mid-West.

The White House changed hands in 2000, when the younger George Bush beat Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. That election was hardly decisive.  Simply a handful of states swung back into the Republic court.  The Democrats carried the bulk of the North-East, the upper Mid-West industrial belt and California.  What changed were the South and South-Eastern states that President Clinton had in his camp.

So what does the landscape look like now?  Well, firstly, the 2012 elections came out pretty much the same as the 2008 election. President Obama lost only the state of North Carolina. This pattern is typical for an incumbent president, providing that president hasn't done anything to alienate the population and provided the over economic and social situation has not changed dramatically.

It's hard to imagine that were Mr. Trump the Republican nominee he would win over the states that in the most recent elections supported Mr. Obama and the Democrats.

Judging by the evidence thus far much of the Republican party overwhelmingly prefers other candidates.  If Mr. Trump managed to gain enough supporters going into the convention, his majority would be at best slim.  Many Republicans who dislike Mr. Trump and hold relatively moderate views would be likely to select the Democratic candidate, providing that candidate's platform and policies were also centrist. This works well for Hillary Clinton, who has a strong base of support in southern states.

So my guess is that Mr. Trump will not make it as far as the Republican nomination to begin with, which is one of the reasons why I ignore almost anything he says.

Just for the record, I'm a registered Democrat, though I don't always vote along party lines.  If Mr. Trump were the Republican nominee I would most certainly not vote for him and if I were a Republican I would not be among those voting for him.

I hold no ill will toward Mr. Trump.  He's made himself a brilliant career in the real estate business. He is clearly savy  and smart. He understands well how to use the media to his advantage.  He's funded his campaign from his own pocket, which, of course, is his democratic right and something to be respected.

It's a good thing that this large, colorful figure has come into the fray.  He's made people start seriously thinking about who should be the next president and why.  But at the end of the day, I think he won't win the election.  Frankly speaking, I find that a rather comforting thought.

Note - the maps above were selected from  Thank goodness for the internet!  You can find practically anything for the asking.