The Beltway pundits/Blogosphere are in heaven writing about their latest shiny object, Donald Trump. Their overview runs in a number of directions, to wit:
Trump shows the utter paucity of the rest of the GOP presidential candidate field.
Trump will take enough support from Romney so as to deny him the nomination and since Trump won’t get it it either one of the “radicals” will ensuring Obama’s re-election.
Trump has finished off Palin as a force to be reckoned with for 2012.
The latest thought to capture their minds is that if Trump doesn’t get the nomination and runs as and Independent then President Obama is guaranteed to be re-elected because of the split on the right.
We’ve heard this sort of scenario before of course.
On the left President Truman was totally written off because not only was there a plausible mainstream Republican candidate opposing him, but the Democrats were split into their Southern wing with Thurmond running on a States Right ticket, and their Progressive wing with former VP Henry Wallace running against him.
The election turned out to not be even close, with Truman getting just under 50% of the popular vote and winning in a landslide in the Electoral College 303 to 189. The two parties that split from the Dem’s got 2.4% of the vote each with Thurmond picking up only 4 states in the deep south.
More to the point the election of 1980 saw a breakaway on the right, with Congressman John Anderson making a run against Reagan from the left of the GOP. At the height of the Anderson movement he received 20% in the polls which, if he actually obtained that on election day, would have destroyed Reagan’s chances against Carter.
Even though Anderson participated in debates with Reagan, and had the support of the influential cartoonist Garry Trudeau via his nationally syndicated “Doonesbury” cartoon, come election day Anderson garnered only 6.6% of the popular vote. That is a significant number, in that the thinking has been that if a third party draws 5% they would garner enough to severely damage the mainstream party they broke away from.
As for the Perot campaign, analysts have demonstrated emphatically that he took votes equally from President Bush and Bill Clinton. His campaign again demonstrates that when the public is ready for a change they will ensure that it comes about through a mainstream party.
The third party election campaign with the other Wallace, George in 1968, again goes to confirm that nothing can go against the mood for change. Even if all of Wallace’s 46 electoral votes from the deep south were added to those of Hubert Humphrey, which is very doubtful considering all those states went to Nixon in 1972, Humphrey still would have lost by a substantial margin in the Electoral College.
Even though running against a sitting president, and with the Republicans split and with Reagan, who was at one point 34 % behind Carter in the election year polls, subject to the same ridicule that the media have subjected Palin to, the result was a huge landslide. Reagan received nearly 51% of the popular vote to Carter’s 41% and destroyed Carter in the Electoral College 489 votes to 49 (44 states to 6).
History clearly shows that if Trump does decide on a quixotic run there is no reason for the GOP to have undue fear of that course of events. In fact, given that he has stated he could do exactly that if he is denied the nomination, the Republicans should, right now, exclude him from the campaign process.
M. Joseph Sheppard