New Hampshire, South Carolina and now Nevada: the evidence is mounting that Donald Trump will be the Republican presidential nominee. Those who doubt a Trump victory believe that Republican voters will at some point come to their senses, while others see a narrowing field as one that favors Trump's competition. We have always been bullish on a Trump nomination. Indeed, in September, we gave Trump a 45 percent chance of being nominated. Today, less than a week before Super Tuesday, we give Trump a 90 percent chance of winning the Republican Party nomination based on the available evidence.
First, Trump leads in almost all polls - both at the national and state levels. Of the 19 national polls conducted since the Feb. 2 Iowa caucuses, 18 show Trump in the lead. This is very telling; indeed, if we take each of these polls as a proxy for the primary, Trump has a 95 percent chance of winning the nomination.
This simple count holds up when looking at the limited state level polling as well. Take Marco Rubio's home state of Florida, for instance: to date, all the polls have shown Trump in the lead, with Rubio only a distant second. Of all the state polls conducted since the South Carolina primary (14 by our count), Trump wins in 11 of them, or about an 80 percent chance of winning.
This is all very strong evidence of the eventuality of a Trump nomination. Second, contrary to pundit belief, Trump has not lost ground since Jeb Bush bowed out. A recurring argument is that Trump won't be able to get more than 35 percent of Republican party votes, and that once the weaker candidates exit, stronger names like Rubio and Ted Cruz will only gain ground relative to Trump.
However, our data does not bear this out. The polling actually shows the reverse trend - the majority of voters citing Trump as their choice when the list is narrowed down to Trump, Cruz and Rubio.
If the Republican primary came down to these three candidates, for whom would you vote? Supporters of Republicans Who've Dropped out Supporters of Kasich and Carson All Republicans and Independents Donald Trump 21% 20% 37% Ted Cruz 29% 35% 21% Marco Rubio 28% 30% 17% Source: Reuters/Ipsos Poll, February 2016
And if somehow the race narrows to a two-way contest, Reuters/Ipsos polling shows that Trump still comes out on top. In fact, Rubio's antidisestablishmentarian faction should be worried about Cruz leaving the race, as Cruz voters are just as likely to go to Trump as they are to support Rubio.
If the Republican primary came down to these three candidates, for whom would you vote? Repubs & Indeps Repubs & Indeps Donald Trump 43% Donald Trump 45% Ted Cruz 33% Marco Rubio 31% Source: Reuters/Ipsos Poll, February 2016
Third, Trump is the right person at the right time with the right message. He speaks to the Republican base, and they in turn give him the benefit of the doubt. The counter-argument goes something like: Trump can only commit so many gaffes and be irreverent so many times before he will crash and burn. Well, to date, he has been the Teflon candidate - few would have survived a fight with the pope and a series of overt policy reversals. Trump has not only survived, but flourished. On this point, more importantly, the fundamental question is why?
Here the evidence might be less direct, but equally compelling. What Trump says and does strongly resonates with the Republican base. First, Americans in general and the Republican base in particular are frustrated and fearful of the future. They believe that the middle class is dying; that the system is rigged against them; and that traditional parties and politicians have no solution to their problems.
Moreover, they believe only a strong leader willing to break the rules will be able to fix a broken America: Trump's persona par excellence! Seventy-one percent of Trump supporters agree with this statement, compared to 49 percent of all Americans.
This general angst, coupled with a strong America First tendency in the Republican base, make Trump's brand of populism especially appealing. This is fertile ground for Trump. He speaks the language of the people; he understands their fears. And they in turn give him the benefit of the doubt.
Taken as a whole, the body of evidence is very compelling. All things point to a Trump nomination. Of course, the critics might say that "anything and everything can change." To this, we say that no one has a crystal ball. But our money is on Trump.
© 2021 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.