Trump Wins New Hampshire, GOP Loses
By Nayyer Ali MD
With the votes still being counted Donald Trump, a man with no political experience and zero knowledge of foreign affairs or even most domestic issues, has won the Republican primary in New Hampshire. He not only won, he crushed the rest of the field, winning by about 18 points over the second-place finisher, Ohio governor John Kasich. While this is a great result for Donald Trump, it represents a disaster for the Republicans.
Donald Trump has run a campaign of fear, racism, and inflammatory rhetoric that appeals to the least common denominator among the Republican base. He pretends to be a practicing Christian in order to get votes, but knows less about the Bible than the vast majority of Americans. He makes absurd promises, like building a 2000-mile wall along the Mexican border, and getting the Mexican government to pay for it. He paints a picture of an America in chaos and decline, with everything under the sun going wrong, and the country in the grips of abject failure. This picture resonates with the diehard extreme right wing, but is not the reality that most of the country sees.
In real terms, President Obama has been extremely successful, guiding the country out of its worst economic downturn in 80 years, ending two wars, bringing the budget deficit under control, and expanding healthcare to 16 million people, who were uninsured, while lowering the cost of Medicare. He has made dramatic progress in fighting global warming and beginning the transition to a carbon-free energy future. There have been no major scandals and he has brought dignity and grace to the office.
Trump has a very clear path forward. He should easily win the next major primary in South Carolina, and then will come Super Tuesday on March 1 when a whole slate of states will be voting. So far no Republican has been able to come close to challenging him in the national polls. In the last debate they spent most of their time beating up each other and leaving Trump unscathed.
What worries Republican insiders is how badly Trump would lose in November to a Democrat. Trump will likely win the White vote, but not by the large margin Mitt Romney got in 2012, when he won 60% to Obama’s 40%. There is a significant contingent of conservative Whites who could not bring themselves to vote for the circus act that is Donald Trump. Bill Kristol, the editor of National Review, has stated he would abstain if Trump was on the ballot. The National Review, which is the flagship intellectual magazine for conservatives, just ran an issue with the cover “Against Trump” in which 22 leading conservative thinkers made the case for why Trump is unfit.
In November, Trump would likely get no more than 55% of the White vote, but then 30% of voters are minorities, and they will be almost unanimous in their opposition to Trump. He would be lucky to win 10% of minority voters. Put together, Trump would barely get 42% of the vote, losing by 16 points to the Democrat.
That kind of loss sends shivers up the spines of Republicans. There are 20 Republican Senators running for reelection, and it would be very hard for many of them to win when their Presidential candidate is getting smashed so badly. It is very likely that with Trump, the Democrats get control of the Senate back, and even the large Republican majority in the House would be at risk.
The stakes are even higher as four justices on the Supreme Court are 80 years old or more. The next President will decide if we have a liberal or conservative court for the next 25 years, making this election extremely important.
If Trump is the Republican candidate, will the establishment actually support him? How many people will fund his campaign, knowing that it is doomed to a massive loss? The party machinery may turn its back on Trump, writing him off as a sure loser. In that situation, will Trump actually fund his own campaign? To run a national Presidential campaign costs several hundred million dollars or more, and I don’t see Trump spending his own money on that sort of vanity project. The November election will feature a motivated and excited Democratic base coming out to win, and a demoralized Republican base that may just stay home, costing the Republicans seats from the White House down to local city councils.
Why are the Republicans so bereft of reasonable alternatives? They had 17 candidates running this cycle, surely there must have been one decent person among them. But in fact this crop of candidates all have some fatal flaw. Ted Cruz is a religious fanatic and right-wing zealot hated by his own party leaders. Jeb Bush is crippled by being a Bush, and has shown himself to be a lousy campaigner. Scott Walker was so vapid he gave up months ago. Ben Carson doesn’t know anything about domestic or foreign policy, and being a brain surgeon doesn’t make up for that. Chris Christie has the personality of a bully, and was fatally wounded by the Bridgegate scandal in 2014. John Kasich is the most electable candidate among the whole bunch, but he is too moderate for Republican voters and stands no chance of winning the nomination. Finally, Marco Rubio, who did better than expected in Iowa, looked to be perhaps the savior of the party, destroyed his candidacy when he showed in the debate a few days before the primary that he has no substance to him, and can only repeat canned talking points. He wilted under pressure and has no accomplishment or record to run on.