Remember Ron Paul? He never had a chance to win the GOP nomination. He was so far outside of the party mainstream, on so many issues, that he was never going to go anywhere. He did however have a strong third place showing in the Iowa caucuses in 2012.
The key to understanding how that could be, is to understand the layers of support every candidate has in the electoral process. It is for similar reasons that I expect Donald Trump to overperform in caucuses, relative to how he will eventually show in the primaries this cycle.
Right now, the polling is all about name recognition. Donald Trump has been a big name in America for about 30 years now, The Art of the Deal having come out in 1987, four years after the completion of the original Trump Tower on 5th Avenue. John Ellis ‘JEB’ Bush, on the other hand, has a father and a brother who were Vice-President and President of the United States from 1981-1992, and 2001-2008. That boosts their polling, but in different ways.
Trump has waves and waves of soft support right now. People who don’t necessarily vote often, but know his name and have enjoyed his entertainment, tend to support him. Put it this way: Arnold Schwarzenegger only won 48% in 2003, versus Gray Davis’s 47% in 2002, in their consecutive races for Governor of California. Despite pulling virtually the same percentage, Schwarzenegger received about 700,000 more votes than Davis did. Big names generate excitement among the casuals.
However note that [mc_name name=’Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’M001177′ ] pulled in about 10% of the vote in that same election, because state law provided for no primary process. A single ballot was held for a replacement for Gray Davis on the same ballot as the Recall itself. Schwarzenegger never had to win a primary to become Governor. He could make an immediate, mass appeal to the general electorate for one vote, one time.
Trump does not have that luxury. He can’t fluke his way onto the general election ballot. He has to reach beyond the low information periphery of the general electorate, those people who barely pay attention, and get to voters who will take the time to show up to a primary election. I doubt he can convert his poll numbers into that kind of turnout, not because I think the people who like him don’t exist, but because those people don’t give a flying leap about GOP primaries. I think he’d greatly overperform in the general, versus how he’s doing in the primaries.
So that puts my view directly counter to that of many analysts, who say Trump could win the primary but would be destroyed in the general. No, I think Trump would upend the political map, if he somehow won the GOP nomination, and we’d have no idea how he’d do. I say he could win, and he could win states no other Republican could win. Then again, he could also lose states no other Republican would lose. His turnout profile is that much different from any other Republican’s.
So how does this relate to Ron Paul? I think Trump could win a general, I think he could lose primaries he otherwise might win, but what about caucuses? Donald Trump, like Ron Paul, has a core of Internet-driven support that is vastly different from the masses of Apprentice viewers that back him in the polls. And those people, unlike the peripheral sometimes-voters who could show up for him in November 2016, most certainly are the motivated type who could show up and devote an entire evening to caucusing for Trump.
So that’s my prediction. I look for Trump to underperform Registered Voter polls in the primaries, but to overperform in the caucuses. And like him or not, I don’t buy the electability argument for a moment. This is about ideas. The last two times we allegedly nominated the most electable guy, we lost.
Vote for Trump, or not, because he has a history of representing ideas you believe in, or not. That’s what matters.