GOP Establishment is Handing Trump the Nomination

GOP Establishment is Handing Trump the Nomination

The Briefing, Vol. IV, Issue 4-

This week:

  • Team Establishment is handing Trump the nomination
  • Has Trump driven up GOP registration in Iowa?
  • He hasn’t. But does it matter?

Iowa caucuses: Just a week left, and many of the leading lights of punditry are now convinced that Donald Trump is going to win in Iowa. The polls bear this out — although even now it is worth noting that last-minute surges in Iowa are the rule rather than the exception, and polls even just one week away from the election don’t tend to be predictive.

The odd thing is that establishment GOP hatred of Ted Cruz is so intense that leading establishment figures are now speaking as though they view a Trump victory as the best possible outcome at this point. It’s somewhat ironic, given Trump’s iconoclastic style, even if it fits Trump’s actual not-very-conservative ideology.

The various establishment players participating in this tomfoolery come at it from a few different angles. Perhaps they are working together, perhaps they aren’t. Although some anti-Trump conservatives view this as a conspiracy, it is sufficient to note what is actually happening in plain view and contributing to a possible Trump nomination.

On the one side, establishment Senate Republicans, past and present, are leaping in to say nice things about Trump, whom they should be shunning with crucifix and silver stake. But the fact is, Republicans like Orrin Hatch and Bob Dole and Richard Burr dislike Ted Cruz more than anything else in the known universe. And they have their personal reasons, sure. But their newfound Trump bromance seems like a case of hatred overriding rationality.  In reality, Cruz is unlikely to get the nomination even if he wins Iowa. Trump. on the other hand, could well prove unstoppable if he wins there.

The other group that has come to Trump’s aid is the Jeb Bush camp. As Robert Tracinski put it at The Federalist: “Jeb’s only chance, and his actual strategy, is that somehow every other alternative to Trump will implode, leaving Jeb as the only sane choice.” Or better, as Jeb SuperPAC strategist Mike Murphy put it, “I’d love a two-way race with Trump at the end.” This seems to be precisely what Murphy is trying to arrange. Begin with the token Jeb effort against Trump in Iowa — the billboard that quotes Jeb Bush saying that Trump is unhinged. If this isn’t designed to get Trump’s vote out, then nothing ever was. Jeb’s unfavorables are among the only ones that rival Trump’s, and Trump has gotten more mileage bashing Jeb than doing anything else in his entire campaign.

Murphy’s pro-Jeb organization, Right to Rise, is by now best known for proving that money can’t buy elections. But its pounding of Marco Rubio in Iowa — a state where Bush isn’t even pretending to compete at this point — demonstrates amply what’s going on. Jeb puts up token resistance to Trump in his rhetoric, but his money is aimed at derailing Rubio early, which of course helps Trump win Iowa.

So one group of old bull lawmakers goes after Cruz. Jeb’s money goes after Rubio. Only after Trump wins Iowa does the GOP establishment realize it has created a monster it can’t control. This puts the GOP on the verge of an ideologically and politically destructive Trump victory.

Iowa voter engagement: So what will happen to Trump in Iowa next week?

Given the common claim that Trump is bringing all kinds of new voters into the process, a look at voter registration in Iowa (courtesy of Iowa’s Secretary of State) would probably be helpful.

Screenshot 2016-01-24 at 1.53.51 PM

This chart runs up through New Year’s Day. The first thing you will notice is that there has been no big uptick in voters affiliating with the GOP in preparation for the caucuses. But the second thing you’ll notice is that it’s probably unreasonable to expect one. It doesn’t appear that this happened ahead of other caucuses either, at least not for the Republicans.

In each presidential year, the big (or not-so-big) move seems to happen on caucus night itself, when voters re-affiliate and the statistics show up in the numbers for the following month. (In 2008 and 2012, as with this year, that means they reaffiliated in January and it showed up in February). The larger jumps in registration seem to come with general elections, when the parties ramp up their efforts to get like-minded voters to the polls.

For campaigns in a hotly contested primary, voter registration is kind of a sucker’s game. New voters are far less likely to turn out for primaries (let alone caucuses), so why not just focus on contacting and winning the votes of those already registered with a history of turning out?

The third thing that stands out (or perhaps the first thing, because it’s the most distinctive feature of the graph) is the Democratic registration figures that jump out at the beginning of February 2008, the month after Obama won the caucus. The result suggests that nearly 60,000 voters reaffiliated as Democrats in order to participate in that lively caucus, the lion’s share going for Barack Obama. There was a corresponding drop of roughly 50,000 registered unaffiliated voters, plus a tiny uptick on the Republican side.

In all, about 17,000 new voters registered for the caucus itself — 10,000 for the Democrats, 7,000 for the GOP. In total, 240,000 participated in the Democratic caucus and 119,200 in the GOP caucus. And some part of that has to do with voters coming of age (anyone who will be 18 in time for the general election can caucus). So even a data-savvy Obama campaign was not able to do that much relatively speaking in terms of getting completely new and previously unregistered voters involved.

It is significant that that Democratic primary brought in about 10,000 new voters, but that’s clearly the exception. And even taking the Obama phenomenon into account, newly registered voters — or at least, net newly registered voters — historically play just a small role in the Iowa caucuses, not even in the two elections since Iowa adopted same-day voter registration in 2007.

So what does this tell us about 2016? A couple of things. One is that there isn’t proof yet that Trump’s task is impossible. The other is that Trump has a huge challenge ahead of him, one that very few have surmounted in modern times. Trump has poll numbers, but he has almost no organization on the ground in Iowa that can convert them into the sort of rare win that Obama obtained. Can he do it anyway?

In sharp contrast to Obama, Trump has captains for only a small fraction of Iowa’s 1600 precincts (it was less than 10 percent as of a few weeks ago), and most of those captains have themselves never even caucused before, which puts them at an even greater disadvantage. He also has a very modest data operation compared to what Obama had. Basically, what Trump needs is for tens of thousands of Iowans to break all the rules of what has happened in caucuses — and especially in Republican caucuses — during the 21st Century.

Can it happen? Well, Trump has broken many rules of politics so far, surviving in the polls what would kill most candidates dead. But polls are not real life. If Trump pulls it off in Iowa, it will be the first time he has actually succeeded in a real-world test. This is terra incognita, unless it isn’t. It will be fascinating to see what happens.



    • They’re slinging mud just to see if anything is going to stick to someone that won’t carry their “business as usual” banner. Jeb has done a spectacular crash and burn and there’s no one out there who has actually tapped into how the American people feel besides Trump. Me, personally? I hope Trump wins and destroys everything that keeps the establishment politicians, Democrat and Republican, in control over our lives and our pockets.

      • Trump record proves he won’t do that. Trump is so full of PC crap. He is his liberal NYC values that has been responsible for helping to destroy this country and not making it great again. Cruz is the only one that has a record of standing up for his convictions and shinning a light on the cozy political class in DC.

        • Let me see… Cruz joined Ryan in pushing the Fast Track legislation that Obama wanted and the Democrats voted against. Cruz also supported the expansion of the H-1B immigration program. You know, the one Disney used to bring in low wage workers from India to replace current employees and forced those current employees to train their replacements or lose their severance. Is that the shining light you’re talking about?

          America wants a wall, America wants illegals out of the country, America wants the law enforced, and America wants a congress that will do the people’s will, a president who doesn’t pick and choose which laws he wants his Department of Justice to enforce, and a Supreme Court that looks to the constitution for guidance in making its decisions and not pull something magical out of their asses to fit their political agendas. Guess which candidate is the only one who hears this and is running his campaign on doing what the American people want? It ain’t Cruz.

          • Your facts are wrong. Facts are easy to check. I suggest you look them up. Trump saw the anger and frustration of the American people who voted for politicians to stop Obama and the Democrats agenda which is destroying this country. He is trying to ride Ted Cruz’s coattails on that. It wasn’t that long ago, when Ted Cruz was standing up fighting to stop this invasion of our country and taken the heat for that. Where the hell was Trump? Oh wait I know he was supporting everyone wanting this illegal invasion to continue. The very people responsible for trying to destroy this country. Trump is a charlatan and you are either a democrat, as most of Trump’s supporters appear to be, or you are being easily misled. Any conservative values you might find attractive in Trump will be negotiated away in the blink of his eye. He has no conviction. Ted Cruz is the only candidate trying to bring We the People back into running this country and not the corporate welfare whores and media elitist like Trump The established Washington Cartel”, every democrat including Trump, and the media are afraid of Ted Cruz because he has and will shine the light of truth on those charlatans and restore the governance of this country back to we the people. Ted Cruz – The only one running that looked into the eyes of the ethanol lobby sitting right behind the Fox debate moderators and said hell no. The government will no longer be picking winners and losers. Cruz is the only tried and true man of his word in this presidential race.

          • Keep dreaming. Ted Cruz was a big help to Obama when Fast Track was passed. On top of that, he and Rand Paul both agreed with the Republican Party leadership that they would support the party platform in exchange for the blessing of the party to run for president. Glenn Beck accused Rand Paul of this in an attempt to knock him out of the race, but he either forgot or doesn’t realize that Ted Cruz took the same deal. No, Cruz is every bit establishment as the rest. Trump has bought several politicians over the years and has no qualms admitting it. I’ll take a loud mouthed upstart like Trump over a smooth and polished politician like Cruz any day of the week.

          • Apparently you haven’t woken up yet. You’re either still dreaming, ignorant, democrat, or totally gullible. Ted Cruz is hated by the established politicians, which includes Trump, because he is the only one running for President that has shone the light of truth on these charlatans. Ted Cruz looked in the face of the ethanol lobby sitting right behind the Fox moderators at the last debate – you know the one Trump was afraid to attend, and told them hell no. The government will not be picking winners and loser. Trump kisses their ass and said he supports ethanol subsidies. Trump is a corporate whore who loves government bailouts and eminent domain. He has no convictions and will negotiate away in the blink of an eye anything that would make our country great again. Ted Cruz is the only tired and true, trustworthy man of integrity running in this race.

        • you are entitled to your opinion………but you should do your homework on Trump…………look at his enormous success in building a major company and his strength in negiating

          • I’ve done my homework on Trump. I suggest you open your eyes and take a better look at him. Building a business and being the very embodiment of corporate welfare and eminent domain is not the same as being a Patriot and Making our Country Great Again. Trump will negotiate away in the blink of an eye any values that would help stop the destruction of our country because he has no conviction on them.

        • Trump came down the escalator to announce his run, and came out swinging. He spoke bluntly, very little nuance, just shooting from the hip and ignoring the P.C. rules of politics. He is funding himself, because he has a vision for America, and doesn’t want to be beholding to donors or lobbyists. If those things aren’t examples of him standing up for his convictions, I don’t know what they are.

          • Trump is nothing but PC as he showed when he avoided answering the NYC values questions. He is a charlatan that only cares for himself. He will not make our country great again. He will negotiate away in the blink of an eye anything that will make our country great again. Poor pouting pampered pompous rich boy trump is going to take his toys and go home. “Why is everybody always picking on me?” What a clown and charlatan Trump is.

          • Trump is nothing but PC as he showed when he avoided answering the NYC values questions. More PC as he showed in avoiding having to debate his ideas and trying to hide behind us veterans. He’s full of PC crap. He is a charlatan that only cares for himself. He will not make our country great again. He will negotiate away in the blink of an eye anything that will make our country great again. Poor pouting pampered pompous rich boy trump is going to take his toys and go home. “Why is everybody always picking on me?” What a clown and charlatan Trump is.

      • you need to read his latest book “Crippled America” where he details his views on many key issues that you will not see discussed in the media
        get it from the library or buy………best investment ever………be informed as to what is happening today in the US and the need for major changes…….if you just read one chapter you will read it all……..he claims politicians talk but accomplish nothing


    • No, it’s more subtle than that. ¿Jeb? is playing the long game. He and Trump have been pretty much hands-off each other from Day Two. Curiously. But his PAC has been fire-hoseing every other candidate who shows signs of catching fire, or even getting warm. Look at your TV – they’re pouring money into ads against Rubio now, as they were Cruz before. When was the last time you saw them put up a PRO-Jeb ad, detailing his good points? Right – you didn’t.

      So once all the others have failed (including Jeb), and Trump is taking his victory lap, Jeb will be able to take credit for knocking down Trump’s competition. And his payoff may be the VP slot, to consolidate the Establishment vote with the anti-establishment vote. And if/when Trump wants to go back to his former job as a real estate typhoon, he’ll be able to hand it to someone with the greatest connections; and all will be well. No, not “well”. It’ll be YUGE!

  1. REP establishment can’t ‘hand’ anyone anything. The voters do that and the ‘establishment’ will follow. Their ‘power’ is vastly exaggerated. Iowa and NH will decide which way the wind blows.

  2. I think for many people this is simply great entertainment. It’s not that they don’t have a favorite but simply that they have no power to determine how any of this works out. This is what American politics have come to. It’s too much in the hands of the political professionals, the media, the various consultants and manipulators and too little in the hands of the voting public itself.

    There’s always the feeling that not much will change no matter who gets elected (although the Obama administration should have dismissed that notion). Elections have become like professional sports — an abject fascination for some and an irritating irrelevancy for others.

  3. This article is way way over thought, and is highly unlikely to be true! The real reasons behind Trump pulling out of the debate is quite simple. Roger Ailes has been quite sick for several months now, and is evidenced by Rupert Murdock’s increased presence at staff meetings! What fox had planned for Trump tonight has Murdock’s prints all over it. I’m sure the offer of promotion was sent out to the over zealous piss ants witching Fox News, that however comes up with a plan that kills Trumps campagain gets Roger Ailes job when he is asked to leave due to health issues.
    So let’s look at the possible plan they came up with. First off the key player in this attack on trump, Meygan Kelly, in recent days has had Michael Moore on as a guest! Now what self respecting conservative news agency would give two seconds to this third rate film maker, ass hole! But Kelly did!
    Next up three questions from audience members that are planted in the debate, one is Marbella Noor, a Bernie sanders supporter, they also have Mark Watson and Dulce Candy, all one has to do is track them down on you tube to know they are plants in the audience to pose questions far worse than the Rosie O’Donnel cheap shot. Obviously Trump was tipped off by loyalists in the network and is retaliating by bowing out of the debate, this coupled with the Fox press release stating that through some back channel it’s reported that the Ayatolas and Putin will treat Trump badly in their first meetings with him as the new president! It’s clear that fox had rigged the debate, and figured they would walk away with the fame of taking trump down. Where are the reports in the lame stream media about any of this! Fox and CNN are leading the charge to take trump out and overlooking the real facts behind the story! All intended to hoodwink the steeple!

    • Well done, Dennis!!! I attempted to say what you’ve said, just couldn’t complete the puzzle! Again, great job!!!

  4. It very clear. The GOP establishment are all RINOs. Trump, if not actually a democrat, is a RINO. RINO’s hate Constitutional Conservatives, therefore they hate Cruz. What better reason to vote for Cruz?

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