Nate Silver on why Republicans backed Trump

Nate Silver writes about the Trump phenomenon.

It is a great article from a writer who is the best predictor in politics.

If you’d told me a year ago that Trump would be the nominee, I’d have thought you were nuts. Don’t just take my word for it: Read what I wrote about Trump in July or August or even in November. Those pieces variously treated Trump’s nomination as being somewhere between improbable and extremely unlikely. You can also read pieces from October, December orJanuary that were less skeptical of Trump’s chances and show how our opinion of him evolved over time. Still, other than being early skeptics of Jeb Bush, we basically got the Republican race wrong.

Nice to see a pundit admit he was wrong. But how did he go wrong?

For a candidate like Trump to win the nomination, it means that several things have gone wrong — both for the Republican Party and in the assumptions we made about how party nominations work. The other day, I summed up the three most important such factors as follows:

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 2.15.25 PM

To take the last one first, it’s irresponsible to reflect on Trump’s candidacy without considering the unprecedented way in which he dominated media coverage from the beginning of his campaign, which was worth the equivalent of $2 billion in paid advertising. Any time a demagogic candidate wins a nomination, it suggests a potential failure of political institutions, including (but not limited to) the media. This is something I’ve written about a lot from the earliest points of the campaign, so we’ll move along for now.

I’ve also spent a lot of time writing about the failings of the Republican Party as an institution. To some extent, these problems ought to have been foreseeable, and some empirically minded scholars like Norman Ornstein foresaw them. The Republican Party had a lot of near-disasters in recent years over matters including the debt ceiling and the selection of a new House speaker; furthermore, it had some actual disasters in the form of Senate, House and gubernatorial primaries that left the party with “unelectable” candidates. This raised the likelihood of a disaster in the presidential race as well, and early warning signs included theunprecedented number of candidates in the race and the lack of strategic coordination to stop Trump.

They simply couldn’t stop Trump because they all underestimated him, from the Media party to the delegates.

My theory as of a couple weeks ago — and having not gotten so many other things about the Republican race right, I’m sticking to it — is that Republican voters were swayed by Trump’s arguments that the candidate with the most votes and delegates should be the nominee. (Meanwhile, voters regarded Cruz’s wins over Trump at state party conventions as undemocratic.) Some voters might have preferred Cruz or John Kasich to Trump in the abstract, but not at the expense of a contested convention in which the plurality winner would be denied the nomination and replaced with another flawed candidate.

But if that explains why Trump had a strong finishing kick and went from getting 35 or 40 percent of the vote to 50+ percent, it doesn’t explain how he got to 35 or 40 percent in the first place.

To me, the most surprising part of Trump’s nomination — which is to say, the part I think I got wrongest — is that Trump won the nomination despite having all types of deviations from conservative orthodoxy. He seemed wobbly on all parts of Reagan’s three-legged stool: economic policy (he largely opposes free trade and once advocated for a wealth tax and single-payer health care), social policy (consider his constant flip-flopping over abortion), and foreign policy (he openly mocked the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq War, which is still fairly popular among Republicans).

Previous insurgent Republicans, such as the tea party candidates of 2010 and 2012, had run both as “anti-establishment” candidates and as more conservative than their rivals. Trump kept the anti-establishment branding, although this was also a selling point for Cruz, who often ran neck-and-neck with Trump among voters who said they felt “betrayed” by the Republican Party in exit polls.

Momentum helps. Once that gets going it is hard to stop, and after Wisconsin Trump got momentum. The other factor is that people don’t like backing losers and when it became apparent that only Trump had a path to victory, then people started backing the only candidate with that path to victory.

A path to victory is important. Without one it is hard to gain support.


– FiveThirtyEight


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  • cows4me

    His reasons seem rather arrogant to me and it’s probably this arrogance that has got Trump to where he is. The arrogance I’m talking about is the failure of Silver, the media, the talking heads and the establishment to even acknowledge that Trump could possibly get support. Basically the people have grown tied of been told who to vote for or what to think by so call experts.

  • Jman

    A couple of points. Nate Silver says all the press coverage Trump got was worth $2 Billion dollars. However that media coverage was almost entirely negative, because the left-wing media hates Trump. It’s hardly the same as spending $2 Billion running advertisements for yourself. People saw through the negativity for what it mostly was – nonsense. For example Trump is constantly demonised as a mysoginist when he clearly is not. Because he makes a relatively innocuous comment about Megyn Kelly that’s all the evidence the ferals in the media need. No need to look at Hillary Clinton and her decades of enabling her rapist husband. He’s demonised as a racist when again, an objective look at the facts shows he is anything but. What he is, is a nationalist who wants to protect America from criminals, illegals and terrorists. What really scares the media about Trump is that they know many on the left are nationalists as well and are likely to vote for him.

    • Ross15

      The key part of Trump getting the $2 bill of media coverage was that he hogged the headlines and kept the others out of the headlines. He did not care whether it was positive or negative coverage.
      He has won Race 1 and now onto Race 2 where I think we’ll see a different strategy from Trump , after the guy is a great salesman who knows how to play the game and he know how to win.

    • Sticktotheknitting

      Dead right my friend who has always voted democrat is going to vote for him.

  • Terry

    Nate Silver is not the only one who underestimated Trump. A lot of us did. He may now very well be on his way to the White House, where the realities of domestic and international, politics, and the expert adviser resources that become available to him may see him function as the different President that American seem to want. He could very well become Reagan 2.

    • JohnO

      Farrer got it wrong as well. He was writing how Trump had huge negatives among women and was totally unelectable. Well Trump was ahead among women in the all the primaries that matter.

  • JustAnotherLurker

    I can’t vouch for the authenticity, but this seems about right

    • SaggyNaggy

      …and this is me…

  • cod

    It’s actually very simple, the people like him, so they voted for him.

  • localnews

    If Trump doesnt win, what will the next few years hold for him? Does he keep his media profile and get to spend the next four years throwing bricks at Clinton? Apart from the boost to his business profile around the world does he come back with an ace team, and become a shoe in, in four years time?
    There would have never previously been a defeated candidate who could keep their profile in the media, would he be able to make life difficult for Hilary?

  • Just me

    My theory:
    Trump has connected with a core part of the American psyche:
    – That ambition isn’t bad. When you’re ambitious and you’re prepared to work for something and take all the knocks, then get up and keep going; then that’s something to be respected. This is an alternative narrative to the socialist slop that’s dished out – the excuse making etc. It’s a bit like the Black Lives Matter nonsense. Trump pointed out blacks should stop killing each other. It simple and it easily understood, and despite criticism, it’s smart.

    – That the USA is worth protecting. That those prepared to sellout American interests are beneath contempt. He is, above all, a nationalist. The US have played the international mediation game for years – who’s really benefited? It’s a question Americans ask themselves… they also question the excessive hoards of refugees coming from despot Islamic slums have largely bought their stone-aged issues on themselves. Not all these people respect or even like the USA. The US don’t want any home grown threats or imported terrorists jeopardising there homes, families, and friends. While we’re fed memes and snap shots of crying children… the US public at least have the benefit of one mainstream broadcaster with alternative assessments. They are in many respects better informed than a lot of Kiwis.

    – He’s not intolerably religious. He’s a token Christian one that has established a moral stance without quoting Bible passages. That makes him more palatable than Cruz, and less rigid than Carson. Multiple marriages is almost a norm in the states. The criticism of him hasn’t stuck.

    He’s an oaf. Most likely a sexist. Almost certainly a loose cannon. But the public figures “at least they know what they are getting” and better than than someone who’ll sell the USA out.

    • one for the road

      Seems brighter than GW Bush….

      • SaggyNaggy

        If we’re going down that road, it seems pertinent to point out that W is the only President to hold an MBA, and one from Harvard no less. He also built considerable wealth out of Texas oil. He’s much more of a self-made man than Trump is, who just inherited a lot of his money, and spent much of it on failed business ventures. In fact, it’s been pointed out that, had Trump just put his Dad’s money on term deposit, he’d be vastly wealthier today than he is now.

        Trump is a moron. He just happens to be a blowhard with a couple hundred million dollar head start on the other morons.

        • one for the road

          To true Saggy, but
          I meant that Trump is more atuned to the populus and the winds of change than was GW Bush..

        • Deborah Lancaster

          Trump turned a million dollar business mainly known in the states into a billion dollar business known throughout the world. I know you think this is an easy task but its not. Business is what I’ve studied my whole life and many people just as rich as Trump have wasted their money and ended up in the gutter. He filed 3 chapter 11 bankruptcies out of his hundreds of businesses…thats not a big deal and was the smart thing to do. It meant he got to restructure the dept without losing the business or firing the employees.