Thursday, April 28, 2016

GOP Primary Voter Surge Doesn't Necessarily Translate to Winning General Election

If GOP nominee doesn't organize get out the vote effort in key states it won't matter how many millions of new voters come out nationally!

The headline on the Drudge Report was dramatic: "Trump most votes in Republican history" and linking to a story in the New York Post describing how Trump is on the path to secure the most primary votes ever cast for a candidate in GOP history. Brietbart, which backs Trump proudly proclaims that GOP turnout is up 8.7 million votes, a whopping 60 increase. But does this mean Trump has an easier path to actually winning the general election if he is the GOP nominee? Not so much.

The previous record holder for most Republican primary votes was George W. Bush in 2000. Remember how close that election was? As reported in the political blog 538 studies indicate that larger primary turnout is no guarantee of success in the fall:
In four of five elections in our data set, the party with the larger raw vote increase in the primary lost the national popular vote in the fall. For the Electoral College, the party with the larger vote increase lost three of five times.
Trump's big vote score isn't bad news. But unless it's apportioned to the key states that determine the win in the Electoral College it won't matter how many more votes Trump gets over Hillary. This might be news to Trump supporters who may be paying attention for the first time, but you have to score enough victories state by state to be elected President.

In 2012 Obama won the Electoral College with 332 votes to Romney's 206. It takes 270 to win. Below I list the ten closest races offering 130 E.C. votes. Obama took nine of these. Romney only won North Carolina and it's 15 E.C. votes. It's likely that these states will also be very close in 2016. Flip enough from Obama's win in 2012 to a GOP win in 2016 to take away 64 votes without losing other Romney states and 2016 is a GOP victory.



While encouraging, the chart above showing a huge surge in primary isn't necessarily decisive for the general election this fall. I call your attention to the final stat on that chart which explains how Obama was able to squeeze razor thin margins out of these key states. Fairvote.org used Federal Election Commission reporting by the presidential campaigns to determine the number of field offices each campaign had in the key states above. Notice something? Obama out-organized Romney in these states by opening dozens of field offices staffed with professional, paid employees. In too many instances Romney relied on volunteers.

After Romney's loss in November 2012 the GOP engaged in what it called an "autopsy" to find out what went wrong. There was a great deal of hand-wringing that somehow the Party had not done enough to reach out to minorities who traditionally vote Democrat. But Obama didn't worry about reaching out to voters who typically vote Republican. He used field offices to mine votes in areas where their strength was greatest. Full time paid staff driving voters to early voting centers banked tens of thousands of votes that were key to victory in the states above.

Republicans were aware that Obama had hired a large staff. They just didn't seem to figure out what they were doing. From a December 2012 report in the Boston Globe:
Rich Beeson, the Romney political director [] said that only after the election did he realize what Obama was doing with so much manpower on the ground. Obama had more than 3,000 paid workers nationwide, compared with 500 for Romney, and hundreds of thousands of volunteers. “Now I know what they were doing with all the staffs and offices,” Beeson said. “They were literally creating a one-to-one contact with voters,” something that Romney did not have the staff to match.
Trump is fond of telling anyone who will listen that he's smarter than this bunch. Yet his campaign got smoked by Ted Cruz in a number of these state conventions were delegates were assigned. And with the Democrat Governor of Virginia signing a recent order granting over 200,000 felons the right to vote the dead in cemeteries in key states can't be too far behind as the new swing voters for 2016.

And when members of Trump's own family fail to vote for him because they forgot to register I can't be too assured that Trump and his reality show team understand the mechanics of winning in the fall. This is one time I would love to be wrong. It just doesn't happen very often!

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