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Dispelling the Trump Invincibility Myth

Dispelling the Trump Invincibility Myth

An urban myth of legendary proportions has built up around Donald Trump. The fable is that Trump defies all rules of politics and polling, so that no matter what deficiencies or giant screw ups he shows on the campaign trail, he will somehow turnout out masses of previously unidentified voters to defeat mere mortal politicians and install him in the Oval Office with ease.

I don’t buy it, and neither should you.

Sure, Trump surprised us all by vanquishing his 16 more experienced primary opponents. (Well, 15 more experience. I still don’t know what the heck Ben Carson was doing there.)

But he didn’t do it with black magic or voodoo. While all the pundits may have dismissed his chances, Trump was leading in almost every GOP primary poll since July 2015. So it wasn’t a Houdini trick that Trump won the primaries; it was our refusal to believe what was right in front of our own eyes.

While voter turnout in the Republican primaries was much higher than normal this year, a Politico analysis determined that these weren’t “new voters” who had never voted in a presidential election before. Rather, these were typical presidential voters who just decided to also vote in the primaries this time.

“All he seems to have done is bring new people into the primary process, not bring new people into the general-election process … those people are people that are already going to vote Republican in the fall.”
–Alex Lundry, Director of Data Science for Romney2012

And let’s not forget, most of them turned out to vote against Donald Trump. They just couldn’t decided on one candidate to vote for against him.

Sure, Trump has built a rabidly dedicated base of supporters who are going to vote for him this fall no matter what he says or does. But those supporters are being captured in the current polls, and they appear to be no more than 38 to 43 percent of the national electorate as a whole. Which means unless Trump somehow expands his appeal in the next three months, some 57% or more of likely voters are going to reject his anti-establishment, xenophobic allure.

That doesn’t mean Hillary Clinton is going to get them all. Libertarian pothead Gary Johnson will make some inroads, and Green Party pin-up girl Jill Stein will pickpocket a couple of points. But unless together they can syphon off 18% of the electorate, or if Democratic voters who are growing increasingly appalled by Trump’s antics suddenly decide it’s not worth their time to show up on election day, Hillary Clinton will draw a strong enough plurality to vanquish Donald The Dragon Slayer.

The hard facts are right there in the current polls. Don’t make the same mistake we all made during the primaries.

Trump clearly has an unusual allure to voters that is very emotional and very deep. He’s a phenomenon that cannot be dismissed. So was Bernie Sanders. But Sanders never got above 43% support in his quest for the Democratic nomination, regardless of all the massive rallies and online amoré his followers showered his way. Trump just had the advantage of running not against one very well-known, very well-financed candidate, but a crowded field of middle-weights, lightweights and wannabes that never had a chance in the first place.

If it had been household name Donald Trump versus Bobby Jindal, would you have been surprised to see Trump win? Trump versus George Pataki? Trump versus Rand Paul? Trump versus Carly Fiorina or Rick Santorum or Ben Carson? So let’s not build him into a Roman God.

Basically, Trump upset Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Marco Rubio. That’s his great accomplishment. It seemed a long shot at the time only because we didn’t know what bubbling loxes Jeb, John and Marco would turn out to be on the campaign trail.

By the time it became an “anybody but Trump” campaign, the only man left standing was Ted Cruz, who owns the unique distinction of being even more smarmy and unpopular in the GOP than The Donald. And Trump had to implicate his father in the JFK assassination to survive that challenge.

So go on, continue to drink the media inspired Kool-Aid that Trump is somehow larger than life and can defy all odds even while tanking in the polls. I prefer to put my faith in data and mankind.

P.T. Barnum said there’s a sucker born every minute. But I don’t recall a President Barnum anywhere in my history books.

Kevin Kelton is the co-host of the More Perfect Union podcast and founder of the Facebook political debate group, Open Fire. (Please join us there.)

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