US presidential race 2016
First up this week is a great bit of television from two comic masters. Jon Stewart popped up on Stephen Colbert's Late Show and — with the help of wig and some Cheeto makeup — gave a rather splendid Donald Trump impression. Stewart wanted to make a plea for Congress to secure funding for first responders from 9/11 (ie. something serious) but, as Colbert points out, right now no-one listens to anything unless Trump says it, so...
At one point in the sketch Stewart says 'I think that's Trump enough,' a sentiment shared by many whose enjoyment of such parodies is somewhat marred by the now impossible-to-ignore possibility the guy might win the Republican nomination. It all depends which polls you look at. In Iowa, this Des Moines Register result backs two other major polls that now have Ted Cruz ahead. But while Trump's position in early voting states may have weakened, this Monmouth University poll suggests he has widened his lead nationally since calling for a ban on Muslim immigration, with 41% of Republican voters putting Trump at #1.
Of course when it comes to deciding the nomination, it's not just the quantity of support that's important. It's also about quality, or, rather one quality in particular, which is whether the punter who expresses a preference for a particular candidate will actually vote in the primary process, part of the complex electoral and political machinery that will spit out the successful nominee.
This research from Fair Vote shows about 60% of eligible Americans vote during presidential election years, and turn-out is lower in primary rounds. Trump is liked by many who are disenchanted with politics. The question is, will these people stay disenchanted or be transformed by their enthusiasm and participate in the primaries?
This intriguing dissection of polls by the Washington Post suggests no, they won't, and that's why Trump won't do as well as many expect. This National Review piece titled Losing in Iowa could be Trump's Kryponite posits what could eventuate after an early failure.
This is good news for those hoping for anyone but Trump. However, conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt suggests those early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire may not be as influential this time around:
Has Trump so dominated media that even a win by Ted Cruz in Iowa or Chris Christie in New Hampshire would not have the impact it traditionally has had on the field? Donald Trump got to the media cupboard first, and the shelves may well be bare even in the unlikely event of a double Trump dump in the Hawkeye and Granite States.
That's the wild card this year: The real estate mogul/author/reality television star's massive “big footing” of all other would-be nominees in terms of “minutes discussed or on air” since debate season got underway on August 6. What has this massive media blitz done to the old rules, other than destroy them, that is? We know that. But what will the Trump tsunami leave on the shore after it recedes in February after voting begins?
Given these and the many, many other opposing interpretations of what's likely to happen once the dancing stops and voting starts, the only thing that can be said with any certainty is the Republican nomination is still up for grabs. Which means plenty of interest in this week's GOP debate, the fifth and final of the year. Hugh Hewitt will be one of those asking the questions.