Tuesday, May 24, 2016


Since Donald Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee for President he also has seen an impressive surge in head-to-head polling versus Hillary Clinton.

Here is a graph showing the Real Clear Politics polling average since the beginning of the year.

Of course, you can attribute some of this effect to the fact that Trump now has an uncontested path to the nomination while Hillary is still dealing with pesky Bernie Sanders. At the same time, Trump is now also taking aim at "Crooked" Hillary on a daily basis. Look no further than the precipitous drop in Clinton's poll numbers over the last couple of weeks to see the toll that all of this has had on her polling numbers.

The fact still remains that a Clinton-Trump matchup presents many voters with a choice they would rather not have.

A Fox News Poll that was done last week shows that 56% of registered voters view Trump unfavorably. Hillary is viewed unfavorably by 61% of voters. There has never been a Presidential contest in my memory where both candidates were viewed so unfavorably.

In fact, there is a general rule in political polling that if a candidate's unfavorable rating is greater than 40% it is very difficult for that candidate to win. We now have both candidates above that threshold by large margins.

If this is the eventual matchup (and I still think there is a 50/50 chance that Hillary may not be the nominee) I believe it presents some very interesting challenges for pollsters.

How many voters will decide to just sit it out rather than make a choice?

Will the election be decided more by votes for or votes against a candidate?

Will the 18-29 age group turnout to vote and who will they support?

I think the last question is particularly critical when you look at the results of the last several elections.

67% of this age group supported Barack Obama in 2008 and he retained 60% of the Millennials in 2012 against Mitt Romney.

However, while they were motivated to vote for Obama in the Presidential election years, they did not show up to vote in the mid-term elections in 2010 and 2014. This was a significant reason that the GOP made such historic gains in those elections.

Here is a graph of the 18-29 age vote in the last four national elections. Young voters were motivated to come to the polls to support Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. However, they did little to support Democrats in the mid-term elections that followed.

You can see how big this effect is when you look at the actual vote totals from these elections. Compare the total votes cast by 18-29 year olds compared to voters who are 60+ over those four elections.

Voters aged 60+ have reliably showed up at the polls in each of the four national elections in consistent numbers. In fact, the number actually grew in 2014 as more Baby Boomer voters aged into this demographic. On the other hand, young voters have been hit or miss.

Why is this important?

Consider the fact that Mitt Romney won the age 65+ vote by 56%-44% in 2012 and still lost. He also won the 45-64 age group 51%-47%.

Or consider the fact that in the 2014 mid-term elections that the GOP dominated, 77% of the voters were age 45 or older.

Quite simply, Barack Obama would not be President without those younger voters. And the Democrats would never have lost control of Congress if those same young voters had voted in 2010 and 2014.

What will young voters do in 2016?

I cited a Fox News poll in March that outlined the significant problems that both Hillary and Trump have with young voters. In that poll, 67% of voters under age 35 had an unfavorable view of Hillary Clinton. Trump was even worse---75% of younger voters viewed Trump unfavorably.

By comparison, 56% of these younger voters currently view Obama favorably! There are still some things that are simply inexplicable. For perspective read my blog post, "Will History Be Kind To Millennials".

In last week's Fox News poll, Clinton is favored over Trump by under age 35 voters 46%-35%. However, Trump is ahead overall 45%-42% largely due to a enormous 55%-36% margin with voters ages 35-54. Interestingly, Trump is losing the 65+ age group 46%-41% that Romney won.

What is it going to take for Trumpmentum to continue?

Right now he is showing impressive strength with middle age voters. However, he is weak with both younger and older voters.

My guess is that older voters see his act and antics beneath the dignity of the Office of President. These voters lean GOP so if he is going to win he needs these votes. Can he find a way to be both disruptive and diplomatic at the same time? This is the needle I think he needs to thread with these older voters.

On the other hand, Trump does not have to carry the 18-29 vote to win. He just needs to keep the margins closer than Romney did. He also needs to make sure he does not energize this voting bloc to come out to vote against him. It is probably too much for Trump to activate this group for support, his goal is simply for them to be apathetic and say, "Why vote when these are our choices"?

At this point I put the odds at 33% that Trump will win the Presidency. I believe that it is 50/50 for him in a head-to-head match with Hillary. However, as I stated above, I also believe that there is a 50/50 chance that she will not be on the ballot in November. Her legal troubles combined with her clear weakness as a candidate could combine for her to be pushed from the race. Wayne Allyn Root puts together a plausible scenario on how this might unfold.

Trump's odds probably drop to 25% against Sanders, Biden, Warren or another Democrat with much lower unfavorables than Donald.

Who would have thought a month ago that the Democrats would have all the remaining drama in this race?

And who would have also thought that I would even be writing a blog titled "Trumpmentum"?

Stay tuned. Who knows what lies ahead. All I really know for sure is that the next six months promise to be very, very interesting.

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