Iowa and New Hampshire: Can Trump be stopped. Iowa a toss-up between Hillary and Sanders. NH unclear.
As we move into the deep stretch in the race for Iowa’s convention votes and close to the election in New Hampshire, candidates are pulling out all the stops. Trump continues seeding doubts as to Cruz’s eligibility to be president, and has focused personal attacks on Cruz’s nastiness, calling Cruz the most disliked Senator by his colleagues–which may well be close to the truth. Trump also got the endorsement of Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin, which was all the more pointed since she played a big part in coalescing Tea Party support for Cruz in the Texas race that made him a U.S. Senator. Trump, himself, continues to insult a variety of targets, while calling for a 45 percent tariff on goods coming from China, despite warnings that to do so would hurt our economy, produce a trade war with China, and, no doubt, lead to China retaliating with their own increased tariff on our exports to them. Trump’s absurd proposed tariff, most economists feel, would have dire consequences. It is, after all, more draconian than the Smoot-Hawley tariff of the 30’s that economists agree led to a deepening of the Great Depression. Can you imagine what would happen to American auto sales if the price of a Chevy, which reportedly contains up to 60 percent of its parts from China and Asia, went from $28,000 dollars to $50,000? Yet no matter what outrageous words flow from Donald’s mouth, and there is seemingly some new crap every few days, his poll numbers seem immune to repercussion. It baffles the minds of establishment Republicans and thinking people of any political stripe.
Conventional wisdom holds that Trump has tapped into a national frustration with Washington, and, as we showed in our last post, he clearly gets the most support of any of the candidates from racist Republicans. Yes, he does draw his core support from white, protestant males with lower education. And he clearly plays into a desire for a strong leader in the face of terrorist threats. His constant attacks on political correctness has also tapped into a widely held frustration. Yet that doesn’t explain the whole of the Donald Trump phenomenon. His unfavorability numbers have actually gone down slightly of late. His support from women, which had been statistically significantly low, amazingly have improved. Polls surprisingly show that he even does well with Republicans who identify themselves as moderate and somewhat liberal.
Most observers have been waiting for an implosion to Trump’s campaign. With his ego needs, and related to that, his constant waving of poll results that favor him, one wonders how he would handle primary defeats. He appears vindictive and ready to blame others every time one of his blunders shows signs of coming back to haunt him. Most Democrats, and Republican mainstream campaign professionals, believe that he would be the easiest Republican to beat. I’d have to agree with them. However, I’m not sure I want to risk being wrong. The polls showed that he clearly benefited from the fears and anger that the Paris and San Bernardino terrorist acts engendered. People seem to interpret Trump’s style with strength and identify with him to “shove it up the establishment’s a__.” Sarah Palin assured supporters that Donald would kick ISIS in that same part of the anatomy with a force that no other candidate could.
Is it too long before the general election for the Trump style to wear well? Will he be called to account for his insults and positions? Or could a serious economic downturn, combined with some terrorist actions on our homeland, produce the kind of “perfect storm” that could propel Donald Trump into the White House? One only has to study Hitler’s take-over from the democratic Weimer Republic to know that it is possible.
Meanwhile, the Republican establishment candidates have been dividing their mainstream vote. When will one of them rise from the pack to give the establishment a candidate to focus their efforts on? For a while it seemed like Rubio would be the one. But his support has stagnated of late. The occasional poll showed Christie, Bush and Kasich each rising slightly in the polls. Just this past week, the ARG poll in New Hampshire surprisingly showed Ohio Governor John Kasich jumping up to 20 percent. The Gravis poll the next day also showed him moving into second place with 15 percent (albeit Trump was far in front with 35 percent). Just as some were ready to anoint Kasich “the alternative to Trump and Cruz,” the CNN ( U. of New Hampshire) poll came out showing Kasich with only 6 percent. New Hampshire has always presented pollsters with unique problems in that primaries are not limited to voters who have registered with one of the parties. Many in New Hampshire are registered as Independents. In New Hampshire, an Independent can decide to vote in one or the other of the party primary elections–and declare which one at the last moment. The problem for pollsters is to guess how many independents will vote and which primary they will vote in. It’s no small matter. For example, on the Democratic side, registered Democrats go for Hillary Clinton, while Independents overwhelmingly support Bernie Sanders. But will the Independents who favor Bernie cast their vote in the Democratic primary, or will they be more intrigued with defeating Trump and vote as Republicans? Understanding this conundrum posed by New Hampshire’s unique voting rules, explains why the CNN poll has Sanders well ahead of Clinton, 60 percent to 33 percent. At almost the same time, Gravis’ poll showed Sanders with only a 3 point lead over Clinton. Clearly the two polls made different assumptions about how many independents to include in their Democratic poll’s sample.
In Iowa the polls all show the race to be close between Cruz and Trump. In the most recent polls, Loras has Trump up by 1 percent, while KBUR showed Cruz on top of Trump by 2 points. The prestigious Iowa Poll, last week, had Cruz leading Trump by 3 percent. All of these polls were taken before Sarah Palin endorsed Trump and also before Governor Terry Branstead, while refusing to endorse any of the candidates, said that “Cruz must be defeated.” On the Democratic side, the two latest polls are split, with KBUR (Monmouth) showing Hillary leading Bernie by 9 points. The CNN poll, released the same day, had Bernie on top by 8 points. Clearly the situation is fluid. For what it matters, all of the national polls show Trump well ahead among Republicans, and Hillary with a commanding lead over Sanders. Will Iowa and New Hampshire just be small objects in the rearview mirror by the second week of February, or can an upset showing trigger a snowball effect for one of the underdogs? Most national voters (and even sizable number in Iowa and N.H.) have yet to make up their minds, or support one or the other of the candidates, but say that their minds are not made up yet. It is an interesting time for political junkies.