Don’t believe the hype: Clinton will easily beat Trump in the general

This is a response to “Donald Trump Will Be The Republican Nominee” by Henry William Saroyan. I highly recommend reading the original. Please enjoy!


Henry William Saroyan is an insightful writer and a good friend. He is also dead wrong about Hillary Clinton’s chances in the general election. In a recent article entitled “Donald Trump will be the Republican Nominee,”—lamenting, you guessed it, the Donald’s status as the presumptive nominee—Saroyan suggests that Democrats ought to be “very concerned about the general election.” He further asserts that perhaps, “the DNC shouldn’t write [Sanders] off too quickly,” citing Clinton’s electoral weakness. As Mr. Saroyan would have you believe, a Hillary Clinton/Donald Trump general election match up would be unacceptably close, and furthermore, it would be ultimately quite challenging for Secretary Clinton to defeat Trump. But we ought not buy into Saroyan’s disconsolate articulation of general election dynamics. And while he is clearly worried about the “dubiety of the electoral outcomes of states previously known as Democratic strongholds,” he ought to be more worried about the dubiety of his own argumentation.

At the outset, Saroyan claims, appealing to the authority of “serious politicos”, that Trump will dramatically alter Rust Belt voting patterns, significantly threatening traditional liberal strongholds like Michigan or Pennsylvania. Yet, we have little reason to extrapolate from Trump’s strong performance in those states during the primary, to predict his performance against Hillary Clinton in the general election. This is especially true since Republicans constitute far less of the voting public as Democrats do in those states. Taking into account the percentage of all primary-goers won, Trump’s performance in primary contests in the Industrial Midwest are, to quote Nate Silver, “middling by this metric even though Trump won both states.”[1] Furthermore, general election polling of swing states has Trump trailing Clinton by about 10 percentage points[2], a reasonably commanding polling lead and one that will be difficult to surmount. Lastly, Trump faces several demographic challenges that he must overcome in order to consider closing that polling gap [3] As will be subsequently discussed, that isn’t happening any time soon.

Saroyan also contends that national polling clearly demonstrates Clinton’s weakness to Trump during a general election.

A recent Rasmussen poll shows Trump finally polling ahead of Hillary Clinton nationally, albeit only by 2 points (but, re-read the word “national,” that means he is performing at the levels he needs to among decisive demographic groups – like women – to ensure him an electoral edge). This poll may just be an aberration. But, erring on the side of caution, it may signal that the nation, as a whole, is warming up to the Donald and rejecting Hillary Clinton’s middle-ground progressivism.

Suggesting that the nation as a whole is warming up to the Donald and that he is performing well amongst decisive demographic groups is prima facie absurd, but before we get to that, let us first address the Rasmussen poll. Firstly, Rasmussen’s house effect tends to produce predictions substantially more favorable to Republicans[4], suggesting that this poll overweights support for Trump . Additionally, in order to ascertain an accurate picture of current electoral attitudes, we ought to look at an aggregation of the most recent polling as most polling averages as that of RCP and 538 do. A more recent poll, for example, from CNN/ORC gave Clinton a +13 lead over Trump. Furthermore, IBD/TIPP gave Clinton a +7 lead over Trump while USA Today/Suffolk gave Clinton a +11 lead.[5] It is self-evident that three polls, one even more recent than Rasmussen’s, offer a more compelling view of the general election and furthermore, may suggest that the Rasmussen poll is a statistical anomaly.

Suggesting, as the article does, that Donald Trump is performing well amongst key demographics, is a willfully ignorant position. In the latest CNN/ORC poll, Clinton slaughters Trump amongst women voters 62/34 and demolishes him among non-white voters an astonishing 80/15.[6] And if the nation is indeed warming up to Trump’s nationalist populism and rejecting Clinton’s centrist oriented pragmatic liberalism, as the article suggests, why would the nation, in such a case, be more willing to adopt Sander’s tepid articulation of Nordic social democracy? To err on the side of caution, in this case, is simply to err.

Furthermore, it is frankly  ridiculous to imply, as Mr. Saroyan does, that Bernie Sanders supporters would desert Secretary Clinton in order to support Trump as many prominent Republicans, like Mark Salter, Tony Fratto, Ben Howe, and Philip Klein have done for the Donald following Indiana. The “Bernie or Bust” narrative amplifies the voices of  a very small minority of Sanders voters to suggest that a large portion of Sanders’ supporters will either vote for Trump or not vote at all. Further examination proves this incorrect— in fact, Sanders supporters favor Clinton over Trump by a margin of 86-10, while non-Trump Republican voters favor Trump over Clinton 70-24.[7] Furthermore, given that this primary was a relatively civil one, Sanders supporters who would never vote for Clinton will be more inclined to not vote at all, rather than to vote for the other party, as compared to their Republican counterparts

Our latest estimates have Clinton beating Trump by 347 electoral votes to 191 in a New York Times’ projection of a likely scenario.[8] At the same time, Trump is deeply unpopular with general election voters, and has incredibly low favorability ratings—a traditional metric of a candidate’s lower and/upper bound in elections.[9] Despite all of the signs suggesting otherwise, however, Bernie Sander’s supporters still cling to the myth that Clinton is critically unelectable. There is certainly a palpable resignation among Sanders supporters, for it is hard to pin one’s hopes on a candidate that does not inspire you. And Hillary has never been the candidate of resounding hope and dynamic change, a role which then Senator Obama played in 2008 and which Bernie Sanders has assumed in 2016. Hers is not to consider what American could be but what it can be. Political pragmatism isn’t exciting. But that is no reason to question whether Clinton will beat Donald Trump in the regular. Because, Donald trump will be the Republican nominee, but he will not be our next president.

 

 

[1] http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/trump-will-have-a-hard-time-turning-blue-states-red-in-november/

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/05/04/upshot/electoral-map-trump-clinton.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur

[3] http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/432663/rebuttals-trumps-path-rust-belt

[4] http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/is-rasmussen-reports-biased/

[5]http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/us/general_election_trump_vs_clinton-5491.html

[6] http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2016/images/02/29/rel4b.-.2016.general.pdf

[7] http://www.vox.com/2016/5/4/11593434/bernie-sanders-poll-trump-clinton

[8] http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/05/04/upshot/electoral-map-trump-clinton.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur

[9] http://www.vox.com/2016/5/2/11565194/clinton-trump-unfavorable

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