[Update: The odds below have been updated as of July 27, taking into account the the events leading up to and at the Democratic National Convention.]
It’s a shotgun marriage, this odd relationship between Donald Trump and the Republican Party that he now calls his own. Can it hold together for another four months, long enough to reach the November finish line and accomplish the only real goal that the party has, namely, defeat Hillary Clinton?
Trump’s new significant others (Republicans) have signed on, and they don’t really seem all that interested in exactly what Trump would do as president, or how he would do it. Details, they have been told, are for losers. Policy, in some form or another, will come later, as soon as the Evil Beast has been vanquished. No one wants to talk about the nuts and bolts of raising the minimum wage, how to grow the economy, pay down the debt, or even be told how ISIS would be defeated. They already know that Donald Trump will do the right thing, because — well, because Hillary Clinton would do the wrong thing.
Besides, when Trump does talk specifics, he doesn’t feel the need to hold his line.
He won primaries by promising to keep Muslims out of the country, but has modified that stance three times since then.
He said he would force the military to torture and kill the families of suspected terrorists, then changed his mind less than 24 hours later.
He said he would self-fund his campaign, but has accepted donations via his website and, in an apparent violation of U.S. law, has solicited help from government officials abroad.
He has had four different positions on whether the federal minimum wage should be raised and changed his mind three times in the same day when asked about abortion.
Yet Trump still has a puncher’s chance at becoming the next president of the United States and leader of the free world. After all, much of what he’s doing is an embodiment of Richard Nixon’s famous advice to Republicans: run hard to the right in the primaries, then steer back to the center for the general election.
Bush 41 and Bush 43 both took the advice to heart and won. However, Mitt Romney twisted himself into a pretzel doing it, and was soundly defeated. Now it’s Trump’s turn to explain to the American public why he might not do the ultra-conservative things he’s heretofore promised.
“Everything is negotiable,” Trump recently said in an interview with the New York Times. That explanation will be good enough for people already leaning to the right, but what about the truly undecided?
For independents, this general election is a nightmare, forced to decide between the caricature that is Donald Trump and the seemingly robotic duplicity of Hillary Clinton. But it’s a choice that must be made. After all, it’s a two-party system, right? No third-party candidate could garner enough votes to impact the outcome. Or could they?
As the Republican National Convention draws to a close and the Democrats get ready for their quadrennial coronation, I look at the odds for all the meaty questions leading up to the general election.
Let’s start with the big one …
7/20 (74%) 15/22 (59%)
3/1 (25%) 3/2 (40%)
Gary Johnson or Jill Stein: 200/1 (<1%)
Clinton has a solid four or five-percent lead in most polls, and it’s hard to find a Trump path to the presidency when you start looking at his numbers with minorities and the electoral college. But the man proved to be very hard to beat in the primaries (rebounding impressively from some bad weeks) and has ample time to win over voters with his simple rhetoric. This race is not over. It’s scarcely begun.[Update: As of this writing, Trump has enjoyed a convention bounce and Clinton has yet to give her acceptance speech. She’s hoping that the next polls will show her stopping a moderate slide. Polls taken at convention time rarely hold, but they serve the purpose of energizing supporters just prior to the full start on the campaigns. Trump seems to have benefited from terror attacks, while Clinton is hoping that the passage of time will put the FBI email investigation and the DNC email leak into the rear view mirror.]
Tim Kaine: 3/1 (25%)
Tom Vilsack: 5/1 (17%)
Julian Castro: 5/1 (17%)
Elizabeth Warren: 8/1 (11%)
Sherrod Brown: 12/1 (8%)
Bernie Sanders: 15/1 (6%)
Tom Perez: 15/1 (6%)
John Hickenlooper: 24/1 (4%)
James Stavridis: 49/1 (2%)
FIELD: 24/1 (4%)
[Update: Winner winner, chicken dinner for Tim Kaine.]
Virginia and its 13 electoral votes aren’t in the bag for Clinton. They would be with Kaine as VP. Vilsack would have a similar impact in Iowa (six electoral votes). Both would help Clinton with the white male demographic, nationally.
45% 44.5% (OVER +150)
Both candidates can claim New York as their home state. But New York has gone to the Democrats in every election since 1984, getting bluer and bluer in each of the last three. Trump should do better than Romney and “Dubbya,” but hitting 45-percent is going to be tough.[Update: Clinton’s lead is holding up in Trump’s home state, despite Republican bravado from that he has a legit shot at winning here. The last thing Clinton wants is to spend campaign time (or money) in the solidly blue Northeast, and it’s still not likely that she’ll have to. The former secretary of state has many powerful allies in New York, which hasn’t voted red since the Reagan landslides of 1980 and 1984.]
3.2% 2.9% (OVER -150)
In 2012, third-party candidates received 1.7-percent of the popular vote. The likely third-party candidates this time around – libertarian Gary Johnson and green Jill Stein – aren’t going to be huge draws, but (as previously mentioned) a lot of independents won’t be able to stomach voting Republican or Democrat this year. (Some card-carrying GOP members won’t be able to stomach it, either.) That means a rise in the third-party vote.
In most polls, the third-party candidates are garnering more than 3.2-percent. But when it comes to actually pulling the trigger on election day, voters tend to be slower to “throw their votes away,” so to speak.[Update: Odds for either Gary Johnson or Jill Stein have taken a slight hit as predictions of chaotic conventions have not come to fruition. The “pox on all their houses” crowd has been marginalized a bit, and the voting public – angry as it might be – always comes to the conclusion that electing a president is a binary choice. This could all change if Johnson finds his way into the debates.]
4.5% 4.0%(OVER +135)
He’ll get more than zero-percent of the vote in Pennsylvania and Ohio, but he certainly won’t get 26-percent nationally. According to Gallup, Romney received five-percent in 2012, while McCain garnered just one-percent in 2008. Bush did a little better in ’04 with seven-percent.
The divisive racial epoch we’re currently living in will make it hard for the GOP to better Romney’s numbers, no matter the candidate.[Update: African Americans have long considered Republican calls for “law and order” a dog-whistle desire for whites to crack down hard, and the Republican convention did nothing to assuage their concerns. From the opening to final gavels, an overwhelmingly white convention cheered when speaker after speaker mentioned “Blue Lives Matter.” “An attack on law enforcement is an attack on all Americans,” Trump said while accepting the nomination on Thursday. “I have a message to every last person threatening the peace on our streets and the safety of our police: When I take the oath of office next year, I will restore law and order to our country.”]
21% 18.5% (even)
Bush received 44-percent in 2004, John McCain 31-percent in 2008, and Mitt Romney 27-percent in 2012. Some polls support Trump winning more than Romney, others show him winning historically few Hispanic votes. You don’t need to climb atop a border wall to see which are closer to reality.[Update: This one is hard to read because polls on this have been all over the map due to a variety of factors – typically low Hispanic turnouts, lack of landlines, reluctance of some to answer questions in English. Democrats are working hard to court Hispanics, especially in the few swing states – e.g. Florida and Colorado – where larger numbers could tilt the state blue. Choosing Tim Kaine, who speaks fluent Spanish, as a running mate certainly doesn’t hurt Clinton’s chances.]
Hillary Clinton: 100/99 (49.75%)
Donald Trump: 50/49 (49.5%)
Third-party candidate: 200/1 (<1%)
Ahh Nevada, home to our beloved Las Vegas. Trump has ample ties to the gambling world and won the GOP caucus handily with nearly 46-percent of votes. But he’s trailing Clinton by a couple points in the Silver State and Obama carried its six electoral votes in 2008 and 2012.
Nevada also has a large and growing Hispanic population, roughly 27-percent according to the 2010 census. I refer you back to the border-wall joke in the prop above.
In sum, there are reasons to like both candidates’ chances. With so much time left before the election, Nevada is a true toss-up. Can we say the same of the other key swing states? Some yes, some no …[Update: No change here. The latest credible poll shows Clinton up by four points (45-41). Johnson is pulling five-percent away from both candidates. About one out of every nine voters is still up for grabs. Expect high turnout, in large part because of the Senate race to replace Harry Reid, who is retiring. That one, between Republican Rep. Joe Heck and former state attorney general Catherine Cortez Masto, is also a tossup. Democrats obviously hope that Masto’s presence on the ballot drives up the Hispanic vote.]
Hillary Clinton: 1/1 (50%)
Donald Trump: 50/49 (49.5%)
Donald Trump: 49/50 (50.5%)
Hillary Clinton: 24/25 (48.9%)
2/3 (60%) 5/7 (58%)
17/11 (39.29%) 7/5 (42%)
The pardon petition has a 67,000-signature lead, at last check.[Update: The pardon petition’s lead is down to about 57,000, but the Clinton camp hasn’t pushed the open letter all that much.]
1/4 (80%) 1/99 (99%)
4/1 (20%) 99/1 (1%)
The DOJ did re-open its investigation into Clinton’s handling of classified information, and there could be serious repercussions for Clinton, especially if she’s found to have lied to the House Select Committee. But nothing, to date, suggests that charges will follow from her handling of the emails, themselves.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (Donald Trump) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
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