No, Trump is Not at High Risk of Losing

For the past few weeks or so, since the George Floyd protests especially, I have been seeing a narrative by many on the dissident/alt-right that Trump is in trouble, that he is losing support, that he is faltering, etc. As I discussed last week, in spite of such concerns and pessimism, Trump’s approval rating according to 538 is still above the psychologically important 40% level, at 41% as of writing this post. For Trump to be in trouble–as in standing a reasonably decent chance of not being reelected–would probably require his approval to fall markedly below the lower-end of the 4-point 38-42% range where it has oscillated since 2017, so perhaps below 35%, but he is still a long way from that. But I want to expand on my earlier post on why Trump’s odds are still pretty good and why his is not at high risk of losing.

A few day ago Ramz Gates Paul put out a video about how the low Tulsa turnout is indicative of possibly declining support due to Trump failing to protect his supporters from left-wing violence, and concludes that Trump will probably lose to Biden:

I completely agree that Trump has sorta hung his most ardent supporters out to dry, many whom do not have large social media presences but have put their careers or even lives on the line to support Trump. Antifa can attack Trump supporters with near legal impunity, but when Trump’s supporters defend themselves, they face jail time. Eric Clanton, the infamous ‘bike lock guy’, for example, got a 3-year probation deal for bludgeoning a Trump supporter, but in 2019 two out of 10 members of the right-wing group The Proud Boys, Hare and Kinsman, received 4-year sentences and 5 years of supervision after being arrested in a brawl, which began after a left-wing protester threw a bottle at the group during an October 2018 event hosted by the group’s founder Gavin McInnes.

Perhaps Trump should pledge to pardon anyone who has been convicted for defending themselves against left-wing violence, but it would seem Trump cares too much about being liked and being seen as respectable by the media and his circle of high-status acquaintances and friends, than taking risk in supporting people who may not have much money or status, and thus cannot return the favor, but need help anyway.

Ok enough of that rant. But I disagree that Trump’s apparent indifference to his supporters poses a threat to being re-elected, or explains the ‘low’ turnout at the Tulsa rally. It was later revealed that attendance expectations may have been inflated due to trolls creating fake reservations. It is impossible to make an inference of Trump’s popularity or lack thereof from just a single event. It is too soon to know.

Another source purports that since May Trump has lost ground with evangelicals, but only shows three months of tracking data. 9% monthly swings are not that uncommon given the high variance of such polling data.

Andrew Anglin is also pessimistic, writing:

Despite that, he himself is apparently not very popular. A recent Fox News poll has him 12 points behind Biden.

Trump has never been that popular, and Reagan was the last Republican president that could be considered ‘popular.’ Some people really like Trump, but most are indifferent, lukewarm, or loathe him. Unlike the left, the right is less about absolute turnout, but more about turnout in key states by people who are economic stakeholders, such as business owners, professionals, etc.

That’s a 2% change from May.

That is within a 1-sd variance.

When people say “national polls don’t matter, it’s all about the swing states,” this is of course true, but when you start getting into double digit leads on national polls, you’re getting into “likely to lose all the swing states” territory.

Except that national polls are a poor predictor of election outcomes for someone like Trump. Given that the electoral college works to Trump’s favor, he would probably need a 20% deficit for his reelection to be in possible jeopardy. Trump only had 25% odds on the night of the election according to 538, and we all know what happened.

Donald Trump is clearly imploding. The decision that he’s made to refuse to address BLM will be the end of his political career, I think. This is the defining event of our lifetimes, which is going to transform all of our lives, and he’s sitting it out. By the time the election gets here, it will be clear to everyone just how much of an effect this is going to have on their lives, and people are going to be extremely angry that Donald Trump stood by and let this happen.

But he is not imploding. He still has control of the narrative. Many Trump supporters know that Trump is doing the best he can given this difficult situation and that any action must be weighed against the possible consequences.

Right now, by my estimation based on several factors, Trump’s odds of winning are higher than that of Carter in 1980, of Mondale in 1984, of Dukakis in 1988, of George H.W. Bush in 1992, of Dole in 1996, of McCain in 2008, or Romney in 2012. I would estimate Trump’s odds are most comparable to Gore or Bush in 2000, meaning the election will be close and will be decided by a handful of swing states.

Such factors include:

1. Incumbency. Since 1910, the incumbent has only lost five times, those being Taft, Hoover, Ford, Carter, and Bush.

2. Low voter turnout for Biden. It goes without saying that high voter turnout is necessary for the democratic party. The data going as far back as 1960 shows that a democratic candidate cannot win without the popular vote (the closest margin was Kennedy, who tied Nixon for the popular vote). However, it seems unlikely Biden will surpass Hillary’s turnout, which was considerably lower than that of Obama in 2012. The trend since 2008 has been decreasing turnout for democratic candidates, but stable turnout for the GOP:

There is nothing about Biden that stands out or generates voter enthusiasm, unlike Obama or Bill Clinton. Many liberals are ambivalent about him, especially regarding his record on crime, which may depress turnout.

3. Trump is in control of the narrative. No matter what has been thrown at Trump–impeachment, high-profile resignations and defections, pandemic, FBI investigations, attacks on his character, etc.–Trump has always been able maintain the outward appearance of being in control of his presidency. There is no chaos.

4. Good luck. Even during the depths the Covid-19 epidemic, when it seemed Trump could conceivably lose due to recession and for not taking the virus seriously enough early on, in a stoke of good luck the stock market inexplicably made a v-shaped recovery, the US economy stabilized, and the Covid-19 infection fatality rate was drastically slashed to around .1-1% fatality rate vs. 1-5% earlier estimates, thanks to increased testing which revealed that the vast majority of people who are infected either have no symptoms or only mild symptoms. By comparison, Bush had terrible luck , such as mismanagement of Katrina and souring public sentiment regarding the Iraq War, and then the economy and stock market tanked during his final year, and unlike Trump, did not recover, costing his successor. And Carter had a bad economy and the Iran hostage crisis.

5. Party loyalty. When both sides hate you, you’re done. We saw this with George H.W. Bush when he raised taxes, and then his son in 2008 during financial crisis, in which even many conservatives had tired of him. By comparison, Trump still maintains very high approval among conservatives with the exception of the vocal but tiny never-Trump minority. There is little to nothing Trump has done to make conservatives defect or question his judgement.

6. High enthusiasm. No one was really that enthusiastic for Hillary, Dole, Mondale, Romney, or Carter in the same way some people are really enthusiastic about Trump. The Trump MAGA hat is as iconic as Obama’s hope logo.