Friday, December 11, 2015

A Political Interlude: Who Will Win the GOP Nomination?

I don't write partisan political posts anymore, in part because my allegiance to the Democratic Party was even more fleeting than my childhood affiliation with the GOP. There are real and important differences between the two major parties, and good reasons to vote with care, but either party is a rotten vehicle in which to invest one's hope or sense of moral direction.

That being said, it is fun to delve into the political horse race as a hobbyist. So here is my contrarian, too-early, and surely wrong prediction about how the GOP nomination battle is going to play out. (An aside: it's the only nomination that's interesting. Hillary will win the other one.) If by some miracle I turn out to be right in the general course of things, I will get to say I told you so. If, as is much more probable, I turn out to be wildly wrong, you may hold it over me in whatever manner you prefer. I get to have fun either way.

One of these men has a chance to win. It's not who you think.
My prediction begins with two simple propositions: First, Donald Trump will not win Iowa. Second, we haven't grappled with what will actually happen once Donald Trump has lost the first caucus.

Much ink has been spilled trying to understand Trump's appeal, which appears impervious to destruction. But a key element of his appeal has not been tested, and won't be until Iowa. To his fans, Trump is nothing if not a winner. But after facing thousands of socially conservative evangelical caucus voters in Iowa, Trump will be, literally, a loser. This will be devastating to the image he has built up among his supporters. Trump who tells it like it is and gets things done will be Trump who can't even win an Iowa caucus. The state that granted victories to Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum is not going to be hospitable to Trump in the end.

So Ted Cruz will win Iowa. Trump and Rubio will finish second and third, in no particular order. Trump, having failed to win after leading polls for so long, will see his support decline pretty quickly in subsequent states.

On to New Hampshire. Cruz's support will surge, but not enough to win in a state where demographics do not favor him. Rubio will be close. But Chris Christie will win. (I have reasons for believing this. Really I do!)

On to South Carolina. Christie now surges nationally, but Cruz leads in the polls. Rubio lingers in third. An epic battle! Rubio and Christie split the moderate/establishment vote, and Cruz wins.

After South Carolina, Bush et al drop out of the race, conceding the inevitable. There are other vanity candidates still pressing on, but their campaigns are irrelevant. The race coheres into a contest between Cruz, Rubio, and Christie.

Cruz consolidates conservative support while Rubio and Christie split the moderate/establishment vote, allowing Cruz to win the nomination. In essence, this is a replay of the 2012 nomination in reverse. Romney won in part because Santorum and Gingrich split the conservative/populist anti-Romney vote. This year Cruz will consolidate that vote while the establishment divides its energies.

There. Now you can tune out the political news for the next six months. You're welcome.

And what will Donald Trump have been doing all this time? Are you crazy? I have no idea.

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