Some Democrats are salivating over the prospect that Donald Trump will be the Republican Party’s nominee. They believe that not only will Hillary Clinton trounce him, but Democrats will easily regain control of the United States Senate and perhaps take back the House of Representatives, if Clinton wins in a landslide election. But not so fast. Democrats need to recognize that several factors could cause Trump to win the fall election, something I hope does not happen.
1) Terrorist attacks: No one, not even Trump, wishes for another event like San Bernardino in the United States. But if one or perhaps two attacks occur, they could change the entire election. Trump is campaigning as a strong man, an authoritarian figure. He would blame the Obama Administration and Clinton for not keeping American safe. Enough voters could decide that security is the most important issue and vote for Trump.
2) History shows that voters every eight years want to change the party in control of the Presidency. In fact, since 1952, no party has held the the Presidency for more than eight years, with one exception when George H.W. Bush beat Michael Dukakis in 1988. Voters want change and get tired of the same party in control of the executive branch for a long period of time. And since Hillary Clinton has campaigned on a platform that she will continue the Obama programs, the November election could be a referendum on the President, rather than on her new ideas.
3) Personality triumphs over performance. Since 1952, when personable Ike beat egghead Adlai Stevenson, nearly every election has seen the candidate who has the biggest personality beating the blander candidate (one exception occurred when unlikeable Richard Nixon narrowly beat the happy warrior Hubert Humphrey). No one would dispute that Trump’s personality (ego) far outpaces Clinton’s.
4) Trump is self-funding his campaign while Clinton is relying on large super pac private contributions. Thanks to Bernie Sanders and Trump, voters are concerned that special interests control candidates. And Clinton received huge honoraria from Wall Street interests, such as Goldman Sachs, and then refused to release the transcripts of her speeches.
5) Trump is accessible and will continue to get huge amount of free air time. He relishes going on almost every show that invites him. (An exception: Fox News’ Megyn Kelley’s program.) Trump appears on MSNBC, Fox, CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS and other outlets that call him. On the other hand, Clinton mainly appears on MSNBC’s friendly programs (Chris Matthews for example) and rarely goes on Fox or the Sunday morning talk shows.
6) Trump has a chance to win in Rust Belt states with blue collar union members supporting him, states that normally vote for Democratic. In coal mining states, such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, he will attack Clinton for saying the coal companies (and thus coal miners) should be put out of business.
7) Blacks could support Trump more than previous Republican candidates. Barack Obama got 90% of the black vote in 2008 and 2012. It is unlikely that Clinton will get 90%, and if she only gets 75% because blacks are upset with immigrants getting their jobs, she could be in trouble.
Finally, people who vote for Trump are like people who buy lottery tickets. They don’t think the odds are good that they will win the lottery jackpot, but they think there is a remote chance. People who vote for Trump are skeptical that he will be able to change the country dramatically, but they would like to give him an opportunity, just in case that he might just do it.
Will Trump win? I wouldn’t bet my house on it and will not vote for him, but he has a greater chance than most people think. We have nearly eight months before the November election, so a lot will happen before we go to the polling booths. Moreover, if this year is as interesting as the off-election year in 2015, all of us political junkies will continue to be glued to our TV sets and mobile devices to see the latest Trumpism.
Bob Stern worked for the LA-based Center for Governmental Studies, which closed in 2011.