Finally: Voting on the Horizon

Some thoughts and questions as we finally hit the start of the process. (And the return of the Toast-o-Meter)

votingAfter roughly a decade about a year of speculation, we are finally at that moment at which actual votes will be cast (although, really, the votes in Iowa, and New Hampshire for that matter, are given a lot more significance than should be the case, but one analyzes the process one has, not the one one might like to have).

Since I have not had a lot of time to write of late, I will take this moment to note that, yes, Trump is doing better than I thought he would be at this point when I wrote about the contest some months ago.  I still am not convinced he will be the nominee, but that possibility has become far more real as we reach the beginning of the actual nomination process.

Here are some questions I have going into Iowa and New Hampshire:

  1.  Iowa Mobilization?  Will Trump be able to mobilize Iowa caucus voters?  We know that Trump is currently ahead in the polls in Iowa, but we also know that polling for this event in tricky.
  2. New Voters?  Trump is drawing a lot of support in those polls from demographics that are not known to turn out in large numbers (and in some cases, polling indicates that Trump could be appealing to voters who usually don’t vote at all). Will these voters show up in Iowa (and later?).
  3. Second Place?  Who comes in second in Iowa, and by what margin?  If it is Trump it will have to do with lack of mobilization of new voters (and could damage his current aura of front runner).  If it is Cruz is that enough to make him the Not Trump?  This question is going to play out again in New Hampshire, because if Trump wins there, the second place finisher is going to try and grab the mantle of Not Trump.
  4. Winnowing?  The biggest question to me is:  who quits and when?  There is still a sizable chunk of support dividing among a number of candidates.  Is there a viable Not Trump in that group?  I still think Rubio has a shot at that role, but some of the others have to bow out to help test that hypothesis and Rubio himself has to do well in NH.  The bottom line remains that candidate support in the GOP field is still such that more voters polled prefer someone other than Trump to Trump.  Indeed, that split is 64-36 as of this writing in the RCP average.  And as we look at Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina we see a similar breakdown.  I understand the impulse to crown Trump, and I will admit that his nomination looks more plausible at this point than I expected, the math remains the math and we really won’t know where we stand until some of these candidates start to quit and some will quit as early as this week while others will start to fall after their New Hampshire fantasies are crushed.
  5. Kasich?  I will confess that I have long discounted Kasich, but he is putting all his chips on NH and at the moment is in second in the polling of that primary.  If he could come in second (or even a solid third) this could help make him a viable possibility (at least in the media narrative, and that matters) to be the Not Trump.
  6. Bern out?  How long does it take for the media to decide that Bernie is done?  I am guessing that the narrative will go like this:  IA and NH will produce results that will fuel the narrative that maybe, just maybe, Hillary is not inevitable.  Nevada and South Carolina, however, will go heavily for Clinton and then by the end of vote counting on March 1, any real Dem drama will be over and the media will be able to shift to the Trump v. Not Trump story line in the GOP that will have coalesced by then.

To pull out the old Toast-o-Meter (which only long-term readers of the now defunct PoliBlog will recall), I would roughly handicap things as follows.  And this, my friends, political science at it finest:  making educated guesses using bread-based metaphors and puns.  As I used to say, if Larry Sabato can have a Crystal Ball, I can have a toaster.  Since I decided to go this route on the fly, we will have to use the old, not-OTB logos.

The idea here is to provide my impressions of the state of the race right now based on available polling data and knowledge of the general process with the acknowledgement that subsequent contests could reshuffle the loaf, so to speak.  So now we go into the loaf looking for the two who will be the matching pair in November:

Toastometer logo










I cannot, at this moment declare any of the Republican candidates Wonderbread, although it is wholly fair to note that Trump in in the lead.  Wonder-fulness will require answering some of the questions above (like #1 and #2) as well as dealing with the math of #4.  How likely are the voters supporting candidates like Bush, Christie, etc. likely to shift to Trump or how likely are they to coalesce around the Chosen Not Trump (role to be cast as a later date).


At the moment, even with some initial competition on the horizon with Bernie, I have to say that Hillary’s road to the nomination is in the Wonder-ific realm.







I would place four of the GOP loaf are in the white bread category (yes, other jokes do present themselves here, but I shall refrain).  Trump is the freshest slice and is the closest to Wonder Bread in the group.  Cruz, likewise, is doing quite well at moment, but one wonders if his act doesn’t get stale fairly quickly.  At a minimum many of his co-partisans seems to find his personality more than a bit crusty. The only other two candidates I can put in this category at the moment are Rubio and Kasich, but neither are exactly impressive and could quickly get burnt by the process. Of the Not Trump candidates who isn’t crusty Cruz, Rubio is hovering in that third/fourth place spot and is a potential beneficiary when the loaf get smaller.  Kasich, as noted above, could also take a bite out of that space if he manages, somehow, to maintain his current second place in the polls on election night (a third place finish might keep him untoasted until SC).


Since I do not see Sanders as being competitive after New Hampshire, I can’t put any Democratic candidates here.







The only candidate to put in the toast category is Bush.  Mostly I think he is actually burnt toast, but he has a ton of money and therefore could persist longer than some of the others.  Still, I cannot see him being a viable candidate for Not Trump.


Bernie is toast, but maybe, just maybe, something could turn to let him back in the race.  This is doubtful, but it is enough of a possibility that I will put him here.









Carson, Christie, Fiorina, and Paul are all unequivocally burnt toast ready to be tossed in the trash because there is no hope of salvaging them.  Really, they are all crumbs at the bottom of the toaster, but let them have one pass at the Toast-o-Meter as at least burnt toast, just for kicks.


None:  see next category.







Can anyone tell me why Gilmore ran in the first place?

Also:  go ahead and put Huckabee and Santorum here, as old burnt toast from 2012 has to be crumbs by now.


Oh, Martin O’Malley, you will barely make viability at most (if not all) of the individual caucus meetings in Iowa tomorrow.  You are beyond done.


FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. ernieyeball says:

    Well, Trump may not be toast. But he sure is sh!t on a shingle!

  2. mike shupp says:

    Off-topic strictly, but it’s a thought I’ve been having:

    At the end of the day, maybe six or ten months from now, Republican politicians and party officials may have to start discussing “Are we satisfied with our supporters? Are we comfortable with their economic sophistication, their views on racial equality, their understanding of foreign affairs? Do we need to accommodate lower standards than we’ve expected of our supporters in the past? Do we need to educate voters to bring them to a more mature position?”

    And I can imagine some religious organizations having meetings to discuss pastoral teachings and the actuality of “Christian” behavior during recent events.

    There might even be some discussion amongst politicians and intellectuals of whether Congress is being effectively run and whether the people as individuals or the nation as a whole deserves something better in coming years.

    I.e., it strikes me Trump (and Cruz) are presenting the country with a major WTF? moment which might set off some sort of 21st Great Awakening, and I’m wondering how much stomach there is out there for such a phenomenon?

  3. irondog says:

    @mike shupp:

    I have been hoping for something like that to happen for years, but a self-awakening like that increasingly seems like fantasy. After years of the conservative media complex promoting a knee-jerk, emotional reaction (rather than a thoughtful, logical analysis) to everything out there, it’s become impossible to reason with anyone on the right – you reap what you sew. I think this anti-intellectual, anti-establishment mindset – used in the past a resource for Republicans to whip up a fury of support – has now evolved simply into furious voters that are a liability now leading the party into serious turmoil (both spiritually and politically).

    My thought is that the party needs to nominate Cruz to satisfy the conservatives consistent cry to nominate a “conservative that can win” rather than a “moderate that continuously loses”. He’ll get crushed in a general election, and (ideally) the party would begin to reconcile with the truth that it needs to embrace and promote a different stance on the issues. Like a forest fire, burning the party to the ground would fertilize the soil for new and potentially better growth.

    I was born into a Democratic household, but have drifted more into the world of the Independents. Still, I continue to vote Democratic PRIMARILY because the Republicans can’t provide a viable platform or candidate that is even close to being palatable to an educated and emotionally stable person. I’m going to have to plug my nose and pull the lever for Hillary this fall. Thanks, Republicans.

  4. Mikey says:

    @mike shupp:

    I.e., it strikes me Trump (and Cruz) are presenting the country with a major WTF? moment which might set off some sort of 21st Great Awakening, and I’m wondering how much stomach there is out there for such a phenomenon?

    I would hold some measure of hope for this to actually happen, but then I also hold out hope Sofia Vergara will dump this guy and get with me instead.

    Actually, that’s probably more likely than any sort of “awakening” among the current generation of Republicans.

  5. gVOR08 says:

    @Mikey: I would like to say you’re wrong. Mikey. I would really, really like to say you’re wrong.I would really like to say the Republican Party represents a sober, pro-business point of view and will return to a Camelot of Romney the Elder, and Rockefeller, and maybe even Eisenhower before their current irrationality destroys the country. I can’t tell you how much I’d like to be able to say that. But I can’t.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @mike shupp: Dreamer.

  7. de stijl says:

    Iowa Mobilization?

    Trump will likely underperform his polling numbers because he has a lot of support from folks who’ve never been to a caucus before. He’ll still win handily. Same for Sanders (the underperforming part not the winning handily part). Cruz will likely hit his mark and Rubio will likely overperform his final IA polling.

    New Voters?

    More interesting question for NH and SC and NV as you noted. A caucus state like IA is going to naturally dampen new voter turn-out because of the nature of caucusing.

    Second Place?

    Wrong question. Third place is the money question. For the the Ds it doesn’t matter, but for the Rs third place is the crux. Second place will be Cruz as a rock solid lock. Rubio needs to finish third – and strongly so. This is not 2012 where Romney owned the Establishment lane from the get-go with a small blip from Perry’s push, and the Not-Romney’s were fighting over who got to be the Insurgent wanna-be / eventual loser.

    If it is Cruz is that enough to make him the Not Trump?

    Cruz wouldn’t be the not-Trump, he would be Trump Jr. / Trump Mk. II. Cruz would inherit the Trump voters and not steal votes from Rubio / Bush/ Christie / Kasich leaners. Those are two entirely different camps.

    In 2016, the battle is to see who can be the Establishment not-Trump with the hope that R voters will later come to their senses at some unspecified time in the future and not nominate a guaranteed loser for the general election. Rubio is the likely not-Trump.


    Bush has (or had) a big war chest so he’ll hang around until at least NV or later, but he’s toast. Christie, Fiorina and Paul are gone after NH if not before. Carson is gone after IA, but really isn’t worth mentioning. Some of them may hang on just to see the river card in case they hit the improbable flush or straight – it’s their only chance so why not hang on as long as you can?


    He has no chance. An R primary voter is not likely to vote for John Kasich. His high water mark will be NH. He’d do better in the general election than 90% of the R primary field, but this is primary season, not general election season. Pragmatic realists who will vote for electable candidates are not the sweet spot for your average R primary voter in 2016. He is this cycle’s Huntsman. If Trump and Cruz and Rubio and Bush and Christie were all killed in a plane accident, Kasich still wouldn’t win the nomination. He is untrusted and thought to be a RINO.

    Bern out?

    Like you, ~ March 1.

  8. Tyrell says:

    This looks like a prime election for a third party. There are a lot of people dissatisfied with the probable candidates. Bloomberg is considering running. Others who would be interesting possibilities are Gates, Powell, Cuban, and Dempsey.
    Schwarzenegger would also be popular, but can’t run.

  9. gVOR08 says:


    Schwarzenegger would also be popular, but can’t run.

    Didn’t stop Cruz 🙂

  10. Neil Hudelson says:

    If the Bush Clan really is serious about saving the GOP from itself, at what point will Jeb!–who I still maintain never wanted to run in the first place–be allowed to bow out? If he could release his donors and Super Pac to Kasich, they still have a fighting chance.

    Unfortunately, the Bush Clan is more probably more concerned with being the Republican Kennedy, and holding their paterfamilias position for the upcoming 4th generation than truly saving the party (George P. Bush just won the powerful Texas Land Commissioner position).

  11. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    I have to agree that I can’t see Cruz as the not Trump. If Cruz is, genuinely the not Trump, that may mean that there really isn’t any not Trump at all.

  12. Boyd says:

    I just want to say I really enjoyed your toast posts back in the day.

  13. Ben Wolf says:

    @mike shupp: You think the elites will dissolve the people and elect another?

  14. @de stijl:

    Cruz wouldn’t be the not-Trump, he would be Trump Jr. / Trump Mk. II. Cruz would inherit the Trump voters and not steal votes from Rubio / Bush/ Christie / Kasich leaners. Those are two entirely different camps.

    There is a scenario in which the race becomes a two way race between Trump and Cruz (which would literally make Cruz the choice who is not Trump). But yes, he would be a different kind of Not Trump than the others.

    Still, regardless of what one thinks of Cruz, he is a sitting US Senator from a large, politically significant state. That makes him more mainstream of a candidate than Trump.

  15. @Boyd: Thanks.

  16. @mike shupp:

    I.e., it strikes me Trump (and Cruz) are presenting the country with a major WTF? moment which might set off some sort of 21st Great Awakening, and I’m wondering how much stomach there is out there for such a phenomenon?

    The problem here is that the reason Trump and Cruz both are where they are is because they have a decent amount of support in the electorate (exactly how much for sure we will find out over the next several weeks). Hence, rather than trying to change the public, politicians will simply try to tap into that public if it is an sizable as it appears at the moment. So the real questions are: 1) what is the real strength of the pro-Trump wing of the part, and 2) is it an aberration or is it part of a new normal?

  17. Ben Wolf says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: @Steven L. Taylor: Yes, I think it’s important to understand electorates don’t change politicians and politicians don’t change electorates. The two always act symbiotically and syngergistically which is why we get unlooked for surprises like Trump.

  18. gVOR08 says:

    @Ben Wolf: I do believe the Conservative Entertainment Complex has changed the electorate. I see the electorate, the GOP pols, and the CEC as engaged in a positive feedback loop driving each other rightward. Or extreme-ward, or ozone-ward, or alternate-universe-ward, or wherever they’re going if you don’t want to say they’re becoming more “conservative”. I would have thought they’d have reached The Wingularity by now, and maybe with Trump they have.

  19. al-Ameda says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Still, regardless of what one thinks of Cruz, he is a sitting US Senator from a large, politically significant state. That makes him more mainstream of a candidate than Trump.

    Plus, the ‘mainstream’ high voter turnout crowd is dominated by angry White voters. So, Ted Cruz is definitely part of that discounted ‘mainstream.