I’m not buying the theme that Bernie Sanders still has a chance to win the Democratic nomination. The general election matchup is all set in my mind. It’ll be Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton in the battle to become our nation’s 45th president. The projections posted now on the presidential elections page here at Election Projection are no longer ‘preliminary,’ and they seem to indicate that Hillary is a prohibitive favorite to become the second Clinton president in the last 20 years.
Indeed, many conservatives are looking ahead to the general election with remorse, thinking there is little chance a Republican will occupy the White House in 2017. (Some might even add that should Trump find a way to win somehow, we still won’t have a Republican in the White House, but that’s for another post.) Current political wisdom points to Trump’s extremely high negatives and declares that this race was over before it started.
I’m not so sure. Understand that the opinions that follow come from someone very much against Donald Trump winning the GOP nomination, so this is in no way a pro-Trump propaganda piece. That said, if we’ve learned anything from the Republican primary season, it is that Donald Trump should not be underestimated. Yet, even as I type that sentence I can hear the objections. “Trump might win the GOP nomination, but he can’t win the general.” “No one so disliked by most of the country will ever win the presidency.”
Those objections are not at all far-fetched. And in a normal election cycle, I would wholeheartedly agree. Most elections, Donald Trump would get clobbered. But this isn’t a normal election. As such, I’m convinced Trump could actually prevail. However, for that to happen, one thing must be true come November: Voter turnout must be low. Mathematically speaking, the only way Trump can overcome historically high unfavorables is to have a suppressed turnout.
Here’s why. Disliked candidates do worse as the number of voters increase. Trump’s limited, albeit fanatical, support will grow some as time passes, but he’ll probably never be liked by a majority. Therefore, a Trump victory will require a smaller turnout. The fewer votes cast, the greater influence his rock-solid support will have on the outcome. If more voters turn out, the likelihood is high that Trump’s share will decrease. So, what will the turnout look like in November? I sense a low turnout election is precisely what we have in store.
Because of the presumptive nominee on the other side, conventional wisdom regarding turnout must be discounted, not if discarded altogether. Despite what her fans might say, Hillary Clinton is not a strong candidate. In fact, she’s a very weak candidate whose unfavorables, while not as high as Trump’s, would be disqualifying in any other cycle. I’ll refrain from listing the indictments, figuratively speaking, currently stacked against her and simply describe her this way. Any other election, Hillary Clinton would get clobbered. Sound familiar?
Just as Donald Trump has a limited pool of potential support, so does Hillary Clinton. And you’ll find much more enthusiastic support among those on the Trump train than in Hillary’s corner. This is setting up as a presidential election in which neither candidate wins. Sure, someone will get the most votes, but it will be the one who manages to lose the election the least who becomes our next president.
And that’s exactly the type of scenario Donald Trump might just win.