So, what if Donald ducks . . . ducks out . . . out of the election?
What if Donald Trump quits?
The script for his quit-twit isn’t hard to write: “It’s all rigged,” he’ll grouse. “The debate schedule is unfair.” He doesn’t like the moderators. “They” (whoever “they” are, likely including the RNC for withholding or diverting funding) haven’t been nice to him.
He’ll wants to get out before he actually loses . . . by a landslide. Before history puts him down not for “leaping tall (eponymous) buildings in a single bound,” but for all-too-terrestrial electoral results akin to Goldwater’s and McGovern’s and Mondale’s and Dukakis’.
He’ll want to dodge SNL’s poking fun at him – making him a laughingstock, actually, like they did to Sarah Palin. (Mr. Trump, what makes you an expert in foreign affairs? “I once saw Russia from my jet.”)
He did not seem to be enjoying his roasting at a certain Washington correspondents’ dinner a while ago. And he skipped the next one. Could be a precedent there.
He will not win. As previously observed in this column, “Hurricane Donald Blows Away,” Trump has “offended the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, abused the Second, alienated women, immigrants, Muslims, Hispanics, blacks, soldiers, and posthumously disparaged a decorated war hero and his grieving family. He’s alienated too many broad swaths of necessary voters – blacks, Hispanics, immigrants, Muslims, white college-educated suburban women.”
He cannot get them back.
The damage he’s done with these voters is irreparable. He’s solidified their revulsion and fear. Trump’s been in their face since June 16, 2015, when he declared that Mexican immigrants are drug runners, criminals, and rapists and that he’s running for president to wall them out.
These voters may not have decided whom they’ll vote for, but they’re certain it won’t be Trump.
For example: his jet-setting, make-nice, look-presidential foray into Mexico gained him no traction. Back in Phoenix, he did not rise from the embers of his campaign, but immediately stumbled into a dispute over who-said-what about paying for his iconic (and quite imaginary) Wall. The New York Times reports that it was not the speech wanted by the Republican National Committee – fast becoming “STINO” (Supporting Trump in Name Only).
Trump has boxed himself in. When he “doubles-down” on his braggadocio, he cements the resentment of all those he’s offended. But when he backtracks now, his departure from 15 months of vitriol is seen as insincere, opportunistic, and politically-driven. The New and Improved Trump will not win any converts, but it may actually immobilize his remaining true believers, who will take even his clumsy attempt at moderation as a betrayal.
Furthermore, as David Brooks observed, the adamant, resentful, anti-immigration (and anti-immigrant) stance that Trump has made the keystone of his campaign resonates with only a small fraction of voters. Six percent consider immigration a major issue; the rest consider the economy, homeland security, and the deficit are more important than immigration.
So, what of the polls? A New York Times poll-of-polls reports that Trump has closed his gaping shortfall behind Hillary, in nationwide popular votes, to within two percentage points.
That does not, however, rebut the thesis that he won’t win. Even “if the election were held today” (in the pollster’s uniform phrase), Trump loses the popular vote 41% to Hillary’s 43%.
National polls of voter opinions are for conversations among on-air talking heads.
Presidents are not elected by nationwide popular vote, but in 50 separate state elections that are the Electoral College. Despite its headline, the New York Times, state-by-state analysis, concludes that Trump has merely a 18% chance of actually winning. The website fivethirtyeight.com gives him 30%. (A remarkable discrepancy, actually, presumably based on the same data . . . It might cause one to doubt the stats – or the statisticians).
A landslide loss either way. Trump won’t be President.
What these headlines do provide, however, is the figleaf for Trump to claim he’s “quitting while he’s ahead.” “I could have won the election,” he’ll say.
But Donald will duck it.
And the winners are . . . Mike Pence. He probably gets kicked upstairs. Or Ted Cruz? He was the runner up, presciently held off endorsing Trump, had been endorsed by Mike Pence (who may graciously decline the top spot for him). But Cruz would be foolish to take it, on a rebound, with only two months to go . . . better to pick up the pieces in 2020.
Other winners: Paul Ryan, the Republicans House and Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate. That’s another worry for Hillary. Bill, we remember, had a Democratic majority Senate at his impeachment trial. A Republican House and Republican Senate adds to Hillary’s worries.
The big, big loser? Hillary, by far.
Donald ducking out is the last thing she wants. Since her nomination, her only rationale is she’s not Trump. All she’s been doing is taking pot-shots at Trump.
With Trump out, Hillary has no rationale.
In the resulting two-person race – between Hillary and Libertarian Gary Johnson – Gary gets into the presidential debates. He smokes Hillary out from her “I’m the lesser-evil” hiding place and challenges her to defend her record on Syria and Iraq and the whole of the Middle East and North Africa. To prove to the country that she really isn’t untruthful, untrustworthy. To make her own case that she, Hillary, is “fit” to be president, not only because she’s not Trump.
Because Gary’s not Trump either.
The even bigger winners: the two-thirds of voters who don’t want Trump and don’t want Hillary either, but have been more afraid of Trump. Now they’re “Liberated.”
Ron Litchman, Chair, The Manhattan Libertarian Party. RonL@manhattanLP.org.
(I express my own views, not necessarily those of the Manhattan, New York State or National Libertarian Party, nor of any other individual.)
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