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Leslie Loftis’s America Watch: Despite New York, Trump is no shoe-in for GOP candidate

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Tuesday’s New York primary was a test day for opinion polling. It sort of passed.

Poll quality has deteriorated for years. This isn’t just an American phenomenon, as UK readers know from the 2015 general election and are anticipating for Brexit.

In the modern era, there are fewer phone landlines at home. People have busier dual work schedules, leaving fewer people at home at predictable times. In the US we have restrictions on solicitation calls for mobile numbers. Relying on home lines and online polls means that pollsters reach a narrower and less reliable subset of the population. In turn that makes their “secret sauce”, the formulas that extrapolate voter sentiment from the poll sample, less accurate.

In this election cycle, Donald Trump has underperformed — until Tuesday. He overperformed on Tuesday. We can attribute some of that result to pollsters over-adjusting their sauces to account for his underperformance in other states.

Mostly, however, New York is Trump country.

I’ve often quipped that my husband’s time in New York City counted as one of his expat postings. New York attitudes are about as far from Texas attitudes as one can get in this vast country. This all came to me again as I analysed Tuesday’s returns.

The level of anger, frustration, and plain old cynicism that must be in New York for Trump’s showing is almost foreign. (Ditto for Hillary Clinton’s showing against Bernie Sanders.)

I know of these things. The frustration exists in Texas too. But the widespread turn away from principles and to ends and means calculations — that is very foreign. Even when struggling Texas doesn’t feel like it is dying, while New York is dying.

No argument that Cruz’s January debate comment about the country not wanting Trump’s New York values hurt him Tuesday, although perhaps not as much as anticipated. But the rest of the country understood what Cruz meant.

New York does have its own values, and they do not align with the rest of the country and certainly not with a principles over policy politician like Ted Cruz. “New York has always believed in commerce and in tolerance, but has had little use for principle.

Still, for all the commentary about Trump, racism, sexism, the South, and evangelicals, Trump has only gotten 37 per cent of the popular vote outside New York.

How much of an outlier is New York? We will know more next week when other Eastern states vote. Momentum matters, and there is no doubt that New York gives Trump some momentum.

Even still, the odds of a multi-vote convention are high and neither the party players nor the majority of voters want Trump to win the nomination. The delegate pool will reflect that, and Trump did not originally intend to do more than send a message. He didn’t bother to learn the delegate system, and the Republican National Committee had so front-loaded the process that delegate selection chess hasn’t been consequential since Ronald Reagan’s failed bid to unseat Gerald Ford in 1976.

If Trump cannot win on the first ballot, then he won’t win on the second. This is why Trump has complained so much about the delegate system being “unfair”. It does not give him the result he now wants.

Interestingly, for all Trump’s complaints about the delegate system, he’s actually gotten a 22 per cent advantage from the delegate rules.

Trump now leads the Republican field with 756 delegates — or 45 per cent of all delegates awarded to date. Yet he has won about 37 percent of all votes in the primaries, according to the NBC analysis, meaning Trump’s delegate support is greater than his actual support from voters.

For each percentage point of total primary votes that Trump has won, he has been awarded 1.22 per cent of the total delegates….  After the 2012 race, in fact, the Republican National Committee pushed reforms to the calendar and rules to accelerate a front-runner’s progress. The moves were seen as a way for party bosses to dispense with a protracted primary when a candidate like Mitt Romney was in the lead — never imagining they would help an insurgent like Trump.

For months I’ve been saying that Trump is the price that the GOP paid for forcing Mitt Romney upon us. I meant Romney’s weak stew of policies and ideology. But we can also thank the GOP elite for logistically supporting Trump’s candidacy with their failure of imagination.

I am quite sympathetic to the retort that the GOP made this bed, and now they must lie in it. I do not, however, want to be obliged to join them, especially since “If it is Clinton vs. Trump, then Clinton has the advantage.”

(Image: Gage Skidmore)

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Leslie Loftis
Leslie Loftis
Leslie is a once and future American expat, most recently in London. She is also a lawyer and former local political campaign operative turned freelance writer. She currently lives in her hometown of Houston with her husband and their four children. Find her on twitter @AHLondonTX.

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