The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Most Conservative Candidate Who Is Electable

In response to “Delonas” Cartoon

Ted Cruz beats Hillary Clinton nationally in recent polls, though narrowly, and in state-by-state matchups performs better than the current front-runner for the Republican nomination. Predictably, Cruz wallops Clinton in Utah, a reliably Republican state. But — this is news — both Clinton and Sanders win there when they’re matched against Trump, according to a Deseret News/KSL poll conducted March 8–15. The best evidence we have here in March, as candidates fight for the nomination, is that Trump at the top of the ticket would remove Utah from the “solid Republican” column and put it and its six electoral votes into play. In the most recent poll of how voters in neighboring Arizona would vote in November, Cruz wins its eleven electoral votes by six percentage points; Trump and Clinton tie.

And so on across the map. Trump supporters say that he would redraw it by putting putting into play East Coast and Midwestern states that have been solidly Democratic for ages, but so far the evidence is that he would redraw it in favor of Democrats. Cruz performs better against Clinton in the most recent polls in Pennsylvania and Florida. Ohio? Cruz over Clinton by two points; Clinton over Trump by six. In his home state of New York, Clinton crushes Trump — less severely than she does Cruz, but in both cases her double-digit margins are so large that any plan for the Republicans to capture the state’s 29 electoral votes would appear quixotic and ill advised if the party wanted to spend its resources to maximum effect.

Some Trump supporters and neutral observers hypothesize that he would draw new white working-class voters to the Republican party. The evidence is that he would alienate more voters than he would attract. Pro-Trump friends and acquaintances of mine are unfazed by that information: The polls are always wrong, they say breezily. Besides, people hate Clinton, they add, never mind that people hate Trump more. His unfavorable ratings are worse than hers and in fact record-breaking.

A vote for Trump in the primaries is a vote for Clinton in November, and probably for Democrats in congressional races as well. Most of his supporters seem not to care. They hate both parties, but at the moment the Republican one is nearer, like someone they’ve been trying to be friends with but is always dissing them. They relish the prospect of cutting him down to size. They’re enjoying the cathartic experience now, like the New Leftists who, gathering in Grant Park in Chicago in the summer of 1968, vented their disdain for the Democratic-party establishment of the day. It was, for all practical purposes, the most consequential Nixon rally of the campaign season. 

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