The five reasons Trump will lose in November

Summary:  Now that both parties have chosen their candidates, let’s revisit my prediction that Clinton will win. Here are the reasons experts will give on November 8 to explain why Trump’s defeat was inevitable. See the facts. Ignore the media hysteria (Trump is clickbait; they need the clicks).  See the For More Information section at the end, and the interesting discussion in the comments.

The gap begins its inexorable widening. From Real Clear Politics.
See the 3-way results here, including Johnson.

Clinton-Trump polls, 15 June 2016

Many people assume Trump’s success in the GOP primaries — against those odd far-right leaders — mean he’ll do as well against Clinton. That’s wrong. The media need Trump — he’s top clickbait — but the facts are against him. Here is my prediction, building on the available data.

First, the current polls underestimate Clinton’s strength. A large fraction of Sanders’ supporters will back her after she gets the nomination; Trump will push even the Left’s Clinton-haters to pull the lever for her. The former is a standard dynamic in US campaigns; the latter results from Trump’s high and rising “unfavorable” ratings in the polls.

Second, Trump’s power comes from long-suppressed populism. This includes dark elements, such as racism, and re-fighting old battles (such as sky-high rates of immigration). Trump stumbled into populism, and has poorly exploited its themes — instead he runs his mouth off over tangential issues. See Walter Russell Mead’s description of populism’s deep roots in America, and the power of populism to rally Americans abandoned by Left and Right.

Third, Trump has stepped on the big stage where he’ll face scrutiny on a scale greater than by the GOP’s clown chorus. Given his fondness for wacko conspiracy theories (e.g., Obama’s birth), and gullibility. Breitbart repeats the politically useful lie “Hillary Clinton Received Secret Memo Stating Obama Admin ‘Support’ for ISIS“. Trump jumps in…

The secret memo in fact says nothing remotely like that. See the details here. Trump speaks without thought, without fact, without sense — and A-team journalists have put the cross-hairs on him. Such as James Fallows at The Atlantic, with his “The Daily Trump” column — documenting why Trump is unfit to be President.

Fourth — and perhaps most important — almost the entire American ruling class will support Clinton. The Clinton have been their loyal satraps since Bill was governor. Goldman bought in early and probably got the best deal. Now everybody else, including the war-loving neocons, are jumping aboard. The aggregate power of this motley horde will overwhelm Trump.

Last, Paul Campos (Prof Law, U CO-Boulder) gives a summary of Campaign 2016. The dynamics look unfavorable for Trump.

(1) Trump is a completely undisciplined narcissistic sociopath, who is also none too bright, although he does have a certain animal cunning, along with a version of the perverse charisma that some sociopaths seem to radiate.

(2) He has no campaign organization.

(3) “Make America White Again” wouldn’t be a good campaign strategy even if (1) and (2) weren’t the case.

Therefore, it seems quite probable that by the time the fall rolls around, it will be obvious that Trump will be heading for a historic beatdown, something in the 61-39/58-42 range, i.e., a margin previously thought impossible in these partisan times when too few people can see the wisdom of a Bloomberg-Friedman ticket, and which would certainly cost the GOP the Senate, while seriously denting even their gerrymandered majority in the House.

Update to Campos’ analysis of Trumps’ campaign

The WaPo shows that Trumps’ campaign is failing in almost every way, polling a lows below past losing candidates. He’s begging for money, as Hillary outspends him across the nation. He has not built a national campaign staff, having roughly 30 paid staff across the nation.

Cartoon by Brian Duffy: "Populist", Jan 2014


Any prediction has event risk, since a shockwave (low probability, high impact scenario) can upset it. A terrorist attack, a sudden recession, another of the endless Clinton scandals (about which liberals claim amnesia), or violence by Hispanics and Leftists — any of these might erase Clinton’s lead.

I predicted in March that Clinton will crush Trump in November, if things run normally. that means a margin of victory of 15%+ in the popular vote (in the top quintile of presidential elections). If Trump continues to stumble, by November his support might include only the Republican core — and the result would be a landslide like 1964 or 1972 (23% margin of victory, in the top decile). That’s unlikely but possible. I’ll give (guessing) Clinton a 95% chance of winning (again excluding big events that tip the scales).

The results? Trump’s defeat will not end the populist resurgence, any more than Barry Goldwater’s defeat in 1964 stopped the conservative resurgence. Trump was the pioneer. Perhaps the next candidate to carry populism’s banner will be better qualified.

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about Campaign 2016, and especially these…

  1. Next phase of the Trump revolution: rise of the new populism.
  2. What the press won’t tell you about Trump and populism — Walter Russell Mead’s famous essay about Jackson.
  3. Why the Left is missing the rising populist movement.
  4. The Right struggles to understand Trump and populism.
  5. Liberals look at Trump and populism, but see only their prejudices.
  6. Trump wins because he says some sensible things which journalists can’t conceal — You must not see populism!
  7. Racism is the dark side of populism. Will it divide and defeat us?
  8. Populism arises amidst workers abandoned by the Left, seeking allies.

22 thoughts on “The five reasons Trump will lose in November”

  1. Obama/Hillary has same foreign policy to overthrow existing governments using terrorist organizations. A FACT! By over throwing power structure in Iraq, Libya an now Syria, we have the largest refugee problem since WW2. Now these two want to start a war with Russia. Pathetic!

    1. Bob,

      You are right about Hillary. Do we know that Trump would be different? He has said little about foreign policy — and has no track record by which to judge.

      Candidates’ formal position papers and detailed policy speeches are crafted as campaign ads — and have a poor record of predicting what the candidate will do in office. In 1932 FDR ran against Hoover’s big budget deficits; in 1940 he ran as a peace candidate. Reagan and Bush Jr ran advocating balanced budgets; both signed tax cut bills that sent the deficit skyrocketing.

      Fast forwarding through many more examples, Obama’s campaign won him the Nobel Peace Prize.

      My guess: Trump strikes me as a guy who will back the military’s funding requests, and prove belligerent in foreign policy.

  2. Yes, they are piling on Trump, big time. Fast break, then full court press. Fascinating to watch actually. Humans really hate Change, in general. 61% to 39%? I don’t know. Will a full ten percent hold their noses and go HRC?
    If so then what comes next or becomes of the Other Party or even more so what becomes of the Dem Party?
    Does Hillary install an all Women State Department with Nuland and Powers and Rice?
    I mean this will become an adventure fraught with serious consequences. It seems.



  3. It’s an odd statement, that begins by emphasizing facts but then it turns out that some of the facts are simply assumed. For example, you write that “Trump will push even the Left’s Clinton-haters to pull the lever for her”–how do you know that? You really can’t know it, even if they told you, because some will say one thing in public, and in a group, and do another thing in private. This is the kind of assertion that can only be proven after the election, so you cannot call this a “fact” yet.

    The second item in your list is not a reason why he will lose: it’s a view on some of the reasons why he has gained a following. I do not understand how populism gaining ground means Trump will lose.

    The third reason is more than debatable, as you know, since we debated it.

    The fourth reason is why Trump’s following would strengthen, for the already very disenchanted public to see the mass of the tiny ruling class go to Clinton. Again, I don’t see why this is a reason listed for Trump losing.

    But then you even further and say Clinton will “crush” Trump. What does crush mean here? 52% to 49%? One of your classic lines, which I need to adopt as my own, comes to mind: “stay in the reality-based community” :)

    By the way, I hope my tone here does not come across as unfriendly, because it is decidedly not my intention.

    I agree with Trump on trade issues…after that, I really don’t know what the hell he is saying since he flips and flops depending on the day of the week. At least on being anti-free trade he has been consistent, for decades. Everything else requires sorting into Trump A, Trump B, Trump C. He can be a populist some of the time, and a liberal at other times, which further complicates any attempt at analysis, let alone prediction. It could also mean that there are enough Trumps out–multiple editions of himself–that someone will find something they like.

    1. Prof Forte,

      This is, as always, a brilliant critique. I wish I could get you to review my drafts. They’d be much stronger for it.

      (1) Much of what you point to is sloppy framing by me. This is a forecast — and these are predictions. I’ll add a note to the text (due credit to you).

      (2) “I do not understand how populism gaining ground means Trump will lose.”

      That’s not my point. I said “Trump stumbled into populism, and has poorly exploited its themes — instead he runs his mouth off over tangential issues.” The unstated implication is that more focus on populism — message discipline, better marketing — would strengthen his campaign.

      (3) “for the already very disenchanted public to see the mass of the tiny ruling class go to Clinton”

      That’s an embedded but unstated belief of mine: the 1% are powerful when united. Your raise an important secondary point: how will the public react to a candidate’s support by the 1%. We saw this in the Democratic primaries, where the winner was publicly supported by the widely hated Wall Street (est the king: Goldman). Just dandy.

      (4) “What does crush mean here? 52% to 49%?”

      I think most people understand the meaning of crush in this context: a larger than usual margin of defeat. But let’s put some spurious accuracy to my vivid but imprecise language: let’s say it is in the top 20% of popular vote margins, but probably not in the top 10%. That’s a margin of over 15% but probably less than 23%.

      There have been 57 presidential elections. 11 of them had margins of 15%+ — which is a workable definition of “crush”. I said this had low odds of equaling the victory margins in the 1964 and 1972 elections: 23%. Those mark the bottom of the top decile of results.

      (5) “I hope my tone here does not come across as unfriendly”

      If I had money, I’d pay to get such comments!

    2. Prof Forte,

      I forgot to add the bottom line. I agree with your assessment of Trump. I agree with Trump on trade and (in a broad sense) about immigration — these are core aspects of populism.

      He is also racist (in a broad sense of the word’s modern meaning), which is — unfortunately — also a core part of American populism. I agree with what he says about some issues on some days, although he says different things on other days.

      I have written about his “platform” (more accurately, his inchoate set of political views):

  4. “Trump is a completely undisciplined narcissistic”

    I don’t know him personally, but it definitely has a ring of truth to it. Those who believe he isn’t intelligent are fooling themselves. It’s not dumb luck he has completely rewritten the rules for presidential campaigns and how politicians interact with the media. Just writing him off as a fluke created by ignorant populism just continues the flawed logic that has rendered the news media helpless to combat the crazy things he says.

    The news media needs to show him respect and carefully point out the flaws AND strengths of his policy stances. The more the news media treats their audience like children the more they will tune out. If the news media wants to show Trump for the weak candidate I think he is, they need to stop trying to tear him down and refute his arguments carefully and respectfully, one by one. If the media fails to present both sides of the case, they will be ignored by the people they are most desperately trying to inform. Some of the reasons Trump’s supporters flock to him are because they think the news media are biased and unfair. The news media has done a great job in showing that is exactly what they are.

    Otherwise, we may see Trump as president. The news media and pundits underestimate Trump at their own peril.

    1. Swatter,

      “Those who believe he isn’t intelligent are fooling themselves.”

      Agree. But that’s a rare accusation against him.

      “carefully point out the flaws AND strengths of his policy stances”

      I agree, as I’ve pointed out in many posts. Note, however, why they don’t do so: they don’t want people to see populism.

  5. Editor, care to place a confidence level on your prediction? It’s impossible to evaluate it retrospectively unless you do! Right now I think Trump’s odds of victory are 25-35%. This is higher than the current prediction market price, so I have accordingly placed some bets on him.

    1. sficht,

      This is the winner of Best Comment of the Month. Or better. I make all these predictions, yet never thought of giving that vital context. Thank you for pointing this out!

      It’s a complex matter. First, there’s no point in guessing about event risk. That is, shockwaves (predictable but low-probability events) and black swans (unexpected events). So I’ll give a forecasts under “business as usual” conditions (note: I don’t consider this an unusual election in terms of US history).

      Not to dress this up as Newtonian physics, my guess is that Clinton has a 95% chance of winning. Too many of Trump’s weaknesses are — individually considered — probably terminal. Their combined effect seems overwhelming.

      1. TBH, I think you’re copping out by “excluding the possibility of event risk”. That’s the whole point. How extreme an “event” would have to occur for you to change your mind? What fraction of “surprising” events (e.g. things that cause the stock market to move up or down by an amount that happens only 1% of the time) would be good for Trump vs bad for Trump?

        My ~30% estimate includes such tail risks, because these can happen in the real world and I put money behind my prediction. It’s good that you put a 95% probability figure behind your *baseline* prediction, but this is *still* useless for evaluating your skill as a forecaster unless you attach a probability to whether your “baseline” assumptions will be valid. (You could also rigorously define what you mean by “event risk” — in a way that would be possible to evaluate ex post facto — but that’s quite difficult to do exhaustively.)

        Let me put it this way: would you accept a bet that pays $1 if Hillary wins and costs you $10 if Trump wins?

      2. sflicht,

        I’m a professional at making predictions and calculating odds. That requires knowing what can be predicted — and for which of those odds can accurately be calculated.

        If you think you can accurately calculate event risk congrats, or answer those questions you raise, you’re a nominee for smartest guy in the world.

        Back in the real world, these events have microscopic odds of occurring in any 5 month period. The list of such things is impossible to prepare in any meaningful fashion. There is no reliable analytical method to calculate the odds of any such.

        I’m not impressed that you’re willing to put money down on the basis of odds that you’ve made up. Self-confidence is not inherently a virtue.

      3. I strongly disagree with your comments. If you *really* believe that the question is unpredictable, then you should base your predictions on a prior distribution. For example, maybe your prior (in the absence of data) about whether this election is “special” should default to the uniform distribution: 50% yes, 50% no. If so, then your overall forecast for Hillary’s odds of victory should be pretty close to 95%, unless you think that most “extreme” scenarios strongly favor Trump. *Refusing to make a quantifiable prediction because there is a large amount of uncertainty is emphatically not an intellectually defensible position.* There are very simple, clear, logical rules that govern how to estimate the probability that Trump wins, unless X happens, where the probability of X happening is Y and the probability of Trump winning given X is Z. Just plug in your numbers.

        I hereby offer to bet $100 against your $1000 that Trump will win the election. Do you accept? If so, you believe Trump has less than 10% of winning. If not, you believe Trump has a more than 10% of winning. THERE IS NO OTHER OPTION.

      4. sflicht,

        “then you should base your predictions on a prior distribution. … There are very simple, clear, logical rules that govern how to estimate the probability that Trump wins,”

        Bayesian probability is very trendy now. However, (like many people) I’m not a fan — except in limited circumstances. To call Bayesian methods “simple, clear, logical” is absurd.

    1. LA Anthony,

      That’s an important question, with no easy answer. Unfortunately we don’t know why Trump is running or what he wants to accomplish.

      Worse, what little we know about him suggests (just suggests) that he isn’t open to advice or insights from outsiders. Perhaps not even from insiders. Needless to say, that’s a disqualifier for high political office — where selecting and relying on good advisors is essential.

  6. I’ve never in my entire life witnessed such a huge collection of ABSOLUTE MORONS as I’m seeing here on this site! OMG, are you folks delusional or WHAT!!!! You have absolutely no clue what’s coming at you with the combined force of a hundred CAT 5 tornadoes, 10,000 diesel locomotives,a 12.0 earthquake and a 1’000 ft. high TSUNAMI WAVE!!!! DON’T TAKE MY WORD FOR IT-YOU’LL HAVE PLENTY OF TIME FROM NOV. 9TH ON TO MULL OVER YOUR COLLECTIVE STUPIDITY (PUN INTENDED!) BTW-YOU’RE NOT INVITED TO THE TRUMP INAUGURAL PARTY!!!!! LOLOLOLOLOL!!!!!!! IDIOTS!

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