I'm trying to not get dragged into all the presidential primary fuss, but it's really hard to stay disengaged, especially when there are so many fascinating issues and personalities in play. So I was very interested in this analysis of the race by a group of hard-headed, pragmatic folks with no particular political axes to grind.
You wouldn't know from listening to the pundits on Fox News, who yammer on constantly that the Republican nomination is down to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, but, according to mostly British bookmakers, it's Marco Rubio, not Cruz, who is in second place on the Republican side, sometimes substantially... (details here).
Note that this is for the eventual nomination, not the Iowa caucus or New Hampshire primary.
The main reason may be simple. Rubio is doing the best against Hillary in head-to-head polls and the bookies are figuring Republicans will eventually start thinking pragmatically and vote for the candidate most likely to win. Moreover, Marco is an attractive, young candidate -- the JFK thing... And then there's the all-out war between Trump and Cruz. One will fall.More support for that notion can be found in a recent Wall Street Journal piece.
Another thing that may have kept Rubio floating higher (at least in the gambling world) is that he hasn't jousted much with Trump lately -- never a good idea. Donald has shown himself to be the greatest master of the fatal put-down in modern politics. Marco, wisely, tends to attack ISIS, Hillary, and Cruz more. Also, Rubio has lately taken a sunnier approach on the campaign trail that seems to be working.
Is the Florida senator rushing toward a last-minute Iowa caucus surprise as Santorum did in 2012 when the Pennsylvania senator jumped from 7% to 24% in a week? Who knows? Pollsters have a record of being way off in Iowa... I won't make any predictions, but I will say this -- if I have to choose between the pundits, the pollsters and the bookies, I'm no idiot. I'll go with the bookies.
A terrible way to forecast the 2016 contest is to gauge whose supporters are the loudest. Presidential elections are not decided by partisans or ideologues.It's not a matter of energizing the base and turning out the voters. It's a matter of demographics.
The arithmetic is pretty simple: 41% of voters in the 2012 presidential election described themselves as moderates, and 29% as independents. Almost all Republicans (93%) and self-described conservatives (82%) voted for Mitt Romney, but that wasn’t enough.
Because there are roughly 5% more Democrats than Republicans, the GOP needs a solid majority of independents to win a national election. In 2012 Mitt Romney outpolled Barack Obama among independents, 50% to 45%. But that didn’t take him across the electoral college finish line.Winning the nomination requires one strategy - appeal to the base. Winning the general election requires appealing to a broader group of voters - independents and moderates.
It is safe to predict that the proportions that held in 2012 will be about the same this year. About two-thirds of the voters will not be Republicans. Thus it is vital to pay early attention to how each of the candidates is doing among independents. A long, drawn-out primary that forces candidates to make strong appeals to the party’s ideological base can hurt the eventual nominee in November.
There are two ways that we can measure how independents see the Republican contenders. On the positive side, we can ask whether voters hold favorable views about a candidate. Or, on the negative side, we can ask whether they would rule out voting for a candidate. Those White House hopefuls with high favorability ratings among swing voters have good prospects for winning a general election. Those whom independents and moderates say they would not even consider supporting start with a deep, probably insurmountable, deficit. (emphasis added)So who does get the most favorable ratings from independents and moderates? You guessed it - the bookies' favorite.
Although Donald Trump is leading in GOP primary polls, his ratings among independents are the worst of any candidate in the field... Ted Cruz doesn’t do much better...
Already, large proportions of independents and moderates say that they have made up their minds about the two Republican front-runners. A full 58% of moderates and 51% of independents told YouGov in December that they “would never vote for” Mr. Trump. The figures are a little better for Mr. Cruz, but still about half of moderates (47%) and almost as many independents (41%) say they would never pull the lever for him.
How can anyone, under the circumstances, expect either of these two to win a general election? For the GOP to regain the White House, it will have to do much better, particularly given Hillary Clinton’s better ratings. In December, 48% of moderates said they would consider voting for Mrs. Clinton—a full 16 percentage points better than Mr. Trump and 22 points better than Mr. Cruz.
... Marco Rubio is the most competitive among independents: 37% said in December that they would consider voting for him; only 32% ruled him out. All the other GOP candidates are under water. Forty-seven percent of independents said they would never vote for Jeb Bush, and 43% said the same about Chris Christie.I realize that many folks view Rubio as an establishment candidate, and have concerns about his position on immigration. And I get that many of us are tired of voting for the lesser of two evils, and have a strong desire for something fresh, new, and different. But my concern echoes that last paragraph above. Nominating The Donald or Ted might make us feel good for a short while (we stuck it to The Man!), but it will more than likely result in another democrat squatting in the Oval Office. IMO that would be much worse than even a GOP establishment stooge.
(Among moderates) Mr. Rubio again comes in first: 35% would consider voting for him, and 36% wouldn’t. Thirty-five percent of moderates would also consider voting for Mr. Bush and Mr. Christie, but their negatives are much higher: 48% have ruled out Mr. Bush, and 44% Mr. Christie.
With a large field, the percentage of people who say they intend to vote for a candidate is less relevant than the percentage who say they will not vote for him. By this measure, the current GOP front-runners are doing very badly. As the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary approach, Republicans may want to consider this if they are serious about one of their own becoming president.
My mother had a saying for that: "Don't cut off your nose to spite your face."