Monday, April 18, 2011

Why Is Trump Unlikely to Win?

A few recent polls have shown excellent results for Donald Trump, particularly an April 10th poll from Public Policy Polling (a firm affiliated with the Democratic Party): A national primary poll, it showed 26% for Trump, 17% for Huckabee, 15% for Romney and 11% for Gingrich.

Many readers have asked why these polls are not boosting Trump's chances of winning the nomination. Elephant Watcher currently gives Trump only a 1% chance of victory. Trump is ranked below several candidates who are polling much worse than he is.

In a future Elephant Watcher post, we will discuss whether and to what degree national primary polls (as opposed to polling Iowa, New Hampshire, etc.) are useful. For now, it is enough to say these polls show Trump has the capacity to make a decent showing, but not that he is likely to do so.

As explained in Trump's profile, his main weaknesses are that he is not perceived as conservative or electable. Those familiar with Trump's record are aware of his changing views, and many Tea Partiers are asking Trump "Where were you during the fight against Obamacare, the rise of the Tea Party movement, and the 2010 elections?" Early primary voters are likely to become very familiar with the record of each candidate as each election day draws near.

What do the current polls say about these weaknesses--perceived lack of conservatism and electability? The answer is nothing. They reflect Trump's name recognition, the fact that people like what he is saying (and how he is saying it), and their dissatisfaction with the other candidates.

For Trump's probability of winning the nomination to increase, Elephant Watcher will need to see evidence that voters have learned of and forgiven Trump's pre-Republican record, or that Trump's perceived electability has increased. Until then, Trump will have difficulty competing.