What’s next for Trump, for Trump and GOP, for Trump vs Clinton

What few expected (definitely not me) when he has announced his candidacy is happening. Donald Trump is now the presumptive GOP nominee. So what next for him and Republicans? Read few comments.

Questions:

1. Will GOP fight Trump, embrace him, or little bit of both?

2. How do you see Trump’s chances to win the White House (he probably will have to beat Hillary Clinton)?

Answers:

David McCuan, Professor of Political Science, Sonoma State University

1. Along with yourself, I, too, did not forsee a successful Trump candidacy for the GOP nomination. Few did. Let’s be honest here – Trump has thrown out the playbook on how to run for the office of the U.S. Presidency, standing political conventional wisdom on its head. In addition, Trump has done so while inciting, flaming?, popular sentiment on many controversial issues. To say that he has thrown out “red meat” to the GOP primary electorate, though, also doesn’t grab all of his pull and power. He has largely ignored the rules and been able to be as controversial as possible while growing his own support. Amazing.

Throughout it all, Trump has continued to defy political gravity – that is when his comments should bring his political fortunes back to Earth, they have only served to solidify his base of support and embolden his supporters themselves. His candidacy has given rise to the New Angry Populist Voter, who is mad as hell, wants to be heard, and yet won’t let the facts or a sense of propriety rule their support of Trump himself. It’s the Selfie Generation  meeting the Cranky Ol’ Neighbor who wants everyone to get off of his lawn!

2. Models of American electoral politics all point to a vastly different electorate participating in the Fall General Election than what we see today in the primaries and caucuses. Many of the states will vote or “fall” according to their recent history and places that we’ve seen in past elections. But this time things are different in important ways. First, we have a few more states opened up per this cycle – the Rust Belt states of OH, MI, and PA for Donald Trump  and some southern states like NC, VA, AR, and GA for Secretary Clinton. But we also have the perennial Battleground States – which includes OH, but also states like FL, CO, and NV – in the mix.

Second, there will be more women than men voting, so particularly elements of the “Rising American Electorate,” voters who are more likely to be female, younger professionals, more urban, more diverse, will drive the General  Election as well as subsequent elections in the US. This diverse set of voters currently have high unfavorables toward Donald Trump, yet will face an Election Season marked by many ads and coverage of the negative – so this will  be about Negative Mobilization and Polarization that drives voters to the polls based on fear, anger, and worry. This portends an uneven, difficult situation where our “regular” models of Presidential Approval and the State of the Economy may not be as helpful in predicting outcomes as we usually see in times past.

Third, Secretary Clinton enters with a higher base share of Electoral Votes based on the demographics and recent trends of states in the US, but The Donald is a wild one. He follows little convention, hasn’t stayed true to advice passed out by seasoned political veterans and operatives of campaigns past who have the best experience possible. Why? Because they LOST. Several times. And so, The Donald needs to embrace  data in the General Election unlike what has gotten him this far – his gut. It is that pivot to a more conventional, but still insurgent style, that is the challenge for his campaign.

So these questions remain – can he pivot? Can he alter the fundamental on-the-ground dynamic that has elected Democrats in many elections? Can he attack and provoke, using his trademark style, but also not lose it when he is attacked? Can he unite a GOP angry and beaten down, perhaps even hostile to his candidacy? And can he present a positive, unifying vision for the country and – AND – abroad that continues to reinvent American politics?

All of this challenges Secretary Hillary Clinton and the Clinton machine in an environment that can be derailed by events – such as a terrorist attack or an indictment – in an environment that fundamentally advantages Democrats. What a wild ride this is going to be over the next several weeks and months headed into November 2016. Then the winner has to actually govern. Good luck with that one.

Richard BenedettoAdjunct Professor of Journalism, School of Communication, American University

1. the first thing that Trump has to do is try to persuade those in his own party who didn’t support him to unite behind him against the Democratic candidate, most likely Hillary Clinton. That will not be easy, so he has to appeal to them in one thing that they all agree on, and that is that they did not like eight years of Obama and that Hillary Clinton would bring more of the same.

2. What are his chances of winning? Well, most of us in the media did not think he could win the Republican nomination and he fooled us. Therefore, we should not make the same mistake and write him off in the general election. He definitely has a base of supporters who are angry, passionate, tired of the old regime and eager to get out and work for his election.
Moreover, he will run a tough campaign against Hillary Clinton, calling her out on all her liabilities such as Benghazi, her emails and questionable donations to the Clinton Foundation while she was secretary of state.

At the same time, Clinton will go after Trump on his vulnerabilities – his business dealings, his temperament, his insults of various groups and his lack of government experience.

So at this point, I would rate the election as a tossup.

Matthew Eshbaugh-SohaAssistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of North Texas

1. I think that we are already seeing the GOP slowly rally around Donald Trump.  Cruz was true to his word that Indiana would be his last stand; he had hoped it would have turned out differently, and I think that the Republican establishment was also hoping a Cruz victory in Indiana would forestall a Trump nomination and send the choice to the convention.  This did not happen, and we are already seeing Republicans beginning to support Trump.  This will increase over time.

In some ways, this could be good for the Republican Party.  They may not be happy with Trump, but he will be their nominee.  Moreover, a brokered convention could have hurt the Republican Party and disaffected Trump supporters.  Now it is time for Republicans and Trump to build a winning coalition for November.

2.  As you note above, nobody expected Trump would win the nomination.  Thus, although logic and reason suggests that he will lose handily to Clinton (the likely Democratic nominee), I have learned that Trump’s unpredictability also translates into our inability to predict Trump’s success (or failure).  I think this will be a campaign to remember, one that will test the patience of Hillary Clinton, and the nation.

Eric Ostermeier, Research Associate, Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, University of Minnesota

1. It is true – journalists at almost every major media outlet dismissed and ridiculed Donald Trump’s campaign from his escalator entrance upon announcing his candidacy on June 16th of last year until mid-April when many continued to cast doubt that Trump would win the nomination after his loss in the Wisconsin primary. Even though he is now the presumptive nominee there will still be several prominent Republicans who will not endorse Trump. However, while their public disavowal of Trump is not irrelevant, it is more symbolic and less important than whether or not Trump can motivate the base of the Republican Party to vote for him to add to the new legions of voters he has brought into the electorate this cycle. Some Republicans (including many officeholders up for reelection in 2016) will attempt to negotiate a middle ground which a) does not embrace Trump’s candidacy or endorse him but b) does not publicly criticize him, in order not to alienate Trump supporters – votes many will need to win reelection. If Trump develops a more measure, ‘presidential’ tone and does not resort to unnecessary, crude personal attacks, I would expect a clear majority of Republican officeholders and party officials to eventually back his candidacy.

2. While initial polling suggests Trump starts at a significant disadvantage to Clinton, those numbers will tighten over the next month. Even though Clinton will receive enough delegates to win the nomination, she is going to lose several more primaries and caucuses to Bernie Sanders through May and June (e.g. West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, North Dakota, Montana). This will drive increased critical media coverage of Clinton’s campaign – coverage that will intensify because the Republican primary campaign now has no more drama. Add that to the fact that Trump will now be 100 percent focused on delivering his attacks on Clinton and her poll numbers should decline. I would expect polling of the race to be within the mid- to low single digits after the conventions and into the early autumn. At that point, the key for Trump will be whether or not he can perform strongly in the three presidential debates. If he does not have poor debate performances, I give him a four in 10 chance to win the presidency. If he does poorly, only two in 10. All of this assumes, of course, there are no ‘bombshell’ campaign developments, such as the Clinton email scandal intensifying.

Mark Rozell, Acting Dean and Professor of Public Policy, George Mason University

1. Most Republicans will line up in support of the party nominee, as always happens. The difference this election year is that there will be a substantial number of defections by prominent Republicans and probably a larger percentage than usual of defections by party voters. But it is important to note that Trump’s support base is more personality-driven that party-based. He will have a somewhat different voter coalition than past Republican nominees. So he will lose some traditional Republican support, but he will gain other independent and perhaps even some Democratic-leaning voters.

2. The electoral math looks very complicated for Trump nonetheless. His appeal is largely white men and he is far behind Clinton among women and minority group voters. Somehow Trump has to expand his appeal to some voters who intensely dislike him right now. That will not be easy to do.

David Hopkins, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Boston College

1. Yes, Trump is now the Republican nominee. Most Republican politicians will support him, though perhaps quietly and unenthusiastically. Few will believe that he has much chance of victory, but they will be worried that Republican voters will punish them if they refuse to endorse Trump. At the same time, they will be worried that Trump’s unpopularity will rub off on them if they embrace him.

2. Trump starts the election against Hillary Clinton with little chance of victory according to public opinion polls and political experts. We would need to see a major shakeup in the race in order for Trump to have a chance of actually becoming president.

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