Now having made clear I am #NeverTrump and discussing why I think Trump cannot win, the question remains: Could Trump win?
Yes, it is possible.
Trump is the presumptive nominee of one of the two major political parties. Just as there are Yellow Dog Democrats, there are Yellow Dog Republicans. They will vote for Trump even though he is pro-gun control, pro-abortion, pro-soak the rich, pro-National Health Care, everything Republicans claim they are not. There is a certain percentage of party members who will vote for him simply because he has an “R” next to his name. That is his floor of voters on which he must build his coalition to victory. In a normal year a Republican’s floor 40% of the 100% of likely voters. This year, because of the #NeverTrump movement, I’d say 30% is the floor. By the same token, Clinton also only has a 30% floor this year instead of the normal 40% (The #DropOutHillary and PUMA movements).
So, 40% is theoretically in play, but as noted before states Romney won, Arizona, Utah, Nebraska and North Carolina are leaning Clinton, so a large chunk of that up for grabs is already leaning away from Trump. So what causes these voters to lean the other way
This is actually the least likely, but not for the reason you may think. Clinton is under investigation for her handling of classified material. The FBI is looking into criminal wrongdoing. If Clinton is indicted, she’s done. Even if Obama pardoned her, she would be done. Americans are not going to elect a convicted felon (and to be clear, to obtain a Pardon, you would be admitting guilt). This is a real possibility but not one that would swing the election.
I think this is unlikely is if the FBI determines there is wrongdoing and recommends criminal charges, I think it’ll happen by the end of June. Why? Because the FBI is pragmatic. It likes to be seen as even handed. If the FBI was to make its determination during the general campaign, it would be seen as being anti-Clinton. And that could generate enmity from Democrats on Capitol Hill who can retaliate via the budget process. So FBI Director James Comey would want to give the Democrats sufficient time to process how they want to proceed with the nomination process. And that would mean making the determination before the DNC Convention in Philadelphia. Hillary could be out as the nominee before the general election.
(Prediction: If the FBI decides there is no criminal wrong-doing, they will announce it at 3:00 pm on May 27, 2016, a/k/a The Friday before Memorial Day)
2. An Implosion by the Democrats
There was recently an editorial cartoon that showed the obituary page of a newspaper reporting on the death of the GOP and giving the causes of Death (Trump, RINOs, etc). And next to the Republican Obit was on for the Democratic Party noting the party was dead but just didn’t know it. It is possible, especially if Clinton was indicted, the fissures in the Democratic party finally split wide open with Clintonian third-wayers battling the Sanders/Warren full-socialism wing of the party. With the Democratic Party no longer being welcoming to Jim Webb democrats, the question is how far left the Democrats will go. The United States is generally a center-right nation. If the Dems go full McGovern, the American people may conclude the Dems have gone an entitlement too far and reject the candidate.
3. Civil Unrest
There are two variations of this: a) Riots a la Ferguson and Baltimore and b) political confrontations.
If there are massive riots in this country for whatever reason, history and social data tells us voters will vote for the candidate that appears to be more “Law & Order”. Between Trump and Clinton, Trump is clearly perceived as the more Law & Order type (despite both being pro-Statist). If there are riots, people will gravitate towards Trump.
The political confrontation variation is if the confrontations at Trump rallies escalate. Let’s be clear: these outbursts are not being caused by the Trumpkin, but are directed at them. If Trump supporters were the cause of this violence, then we would expect to see violence at Clinton & Sanders rallies. But it hasn’t happened. So people who dislike Trump are the perpetrators of the violence. If it continues or it escalates, expect to see a shift in sentiment in Trump’s favor as Americans will see Trump opponents, who are using force and violence to get their way, as the primary danger to civil society and will not want to be seen supporting such violence.
(As an aside, there is something bemusing about Progressives, who oppose a wall to keep out illegal immigrants, advocating making human walls to keep out Trump supporters).
4. Everyone Hates Hillary
The general election campaign is shaping up to be the first where both major party candidates are hated by a majority of Americans. Right now, Trump is the most hated. But Trump is probably nearing the ceiling on disapproval. Clinton hasn’t hit her peak hatred yet. It is probable that her disapproval numbers go up. And if they near or exceed Trump, he may become the “lesser of two evils” and he wins.
5. A Horrific crime committed by an illegal alien-
Remember the outrage the killing of Kate Steinle caused last summer? You should because Trump used the outrage generated from the killing of the San Franciscan by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez a felonious, 5 time deportee illegal immigrant to fuel the early days of his campaign. This was his proof that all illegal immigrants had to go. It bumped his popularity and probably contributed to the GOP’s failure to take out Trump early. Now, imagine a more brutal crime then Steinle’s death. A suburban family murdered. Not necessarily Charlie Manson Levels, but heinous. That would put Clinton on the defensive, requiring her and her surrogates to adopt the “Not every illegal is like that” argument. Doing that concedes to Trump that some illegals do that. And, as Ken White a/k/a Popehat notes the media loves to play up irrational fears. The continuous drumbeat of “Stranger Danger” by the press will assist Trump and Clinton and her surrogates will be seen as old school “soft on crime” Democrats. Advantage, Trump. And if the murder were to happen in a “Sanctuary City”, it’s good night, Irene for the Democrats. (And if the perp used a gun obtained in Mexico because of Operation Fast and Furious then we’re talking Nixon-McGovern or Reagan-Mondale levels of a landslide for Trump).
6. Clinton’s health deteriorates
Dilbert creator Scott Adams’s blog entries on the 2016 recently blogged about Clinton’s health, suggesting Clinton’s erratic campaign behavior is indicative of someone on a lot of medication and the being unable to get the proper dosage. There have also been claims, unsubstantiated, that the Press is not allowed to photograph Clinton deplaning. It’s hard to tell if any of this is true or just rumor. But if it is true, it is an issue, both in terms of the campaign and electability. (See Thomas Eagleton) On a campaign level, it would increase the chance of something occurring, be it a faux-pas/gaffe/etc. that causes Clinton to do or say something that hurts her. (Think Gary Hart’s “I was stuck Campaigning in New Jersey” comment and multiply by 100). On electability, voters are going to be leery of electing someone who might not last the full term. Americans crave political stability and any indication Clinton was not healthy enough for the job would help Trump.
7. Terrorist attack
This is one of the bigger risks. When the attacks in Belgium occurred, Trump was out in front of the story, channeling his inner FDR by pounding at the need for better security, rounding up Muslims, etc. Another high profile attack would give a platform to strut his stuff about how tough he would be. If there was a major terror attack on US soil, you get all of that plus it lead to cries of flaws in the Obama Administration’s handling of the War on Terror. As Clinton is running for a 3rd Obama Term, she would be the one to bear the brunt of the public’s anger.
8. “October Surprise” Scandal
It is what is it says: some massive scandal involving the Clintons (and probably their Foundation) that is so egregious that it turns off voters.
9. A Black Swan Event
The now cliched Malcolm Gladwell phrase to describe some incident that is unforeseen/unforeseeable that upends everything.
How likely are any of these? I have no blessed idea. The more probable involve a Clinton health scare and/or gaffe or the Democratic Party doing something monumentally stupid. But a Trump election will not occur because of anything Trump does but some external force pushes voters to him.
That’s how he wins.