Winnowing of the Minnows

Two gone: 14 to go.

Republican Debate September 16 TwoAs I noted a while ago, winnowing is coming to the GOP field—it is inexorably the case that the number of candidate has to decrease given that there is only one nomination to win.  While this is about as obvious as one can get, I still maintain that practically every single story I read or hear about the GOP nomination race ignores what 17 (now 15) candidate does in terms of understanding what can, and cannot, happen.  100% is a fixed, finite amount and the more it is divided the more one has to be careful about any given set of claims.

Now, as I write this it is clear that there remains a distinct anti-politician tilt to the GOP race given that the top two candidates in the RCP polling average have never held public office (Trump and Carson) and Fiorina has surged a bit of late.  At the moment the anti-politicians can claim 53.6% of the RCP average which gives the standard politicians 46.4%.  It seems likely that those will be the two clusters going into Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, although I would expect that as we get closer to actual voting that some of the support for the non-politicians will wane.  Simply put:  it is easier to think of Trump, Carson, or Fiorina as president in September on 2015 than it likely will be in February of 2016.  As I noted not that long ago:  Herman Cain led the GOP field in December of 2011.  The outsider, the newbie, the rookie, etc. always look better until one has to actually vote.

I remain skeptical that Trump has a real shot of the nomination.  I would note that while he remains the frontrunner, his basic polling position still puts him with over 70% of opinion going to other candidates (again:  this is a very fragmented field and people have not coalesced around their final preference yet).  The fact the Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina have risen in the polls of late underscores that a lot of what is going on here is anti-politician and not necessarily pro-Trump.  If Trump’s nomination was as obvious as some have argued, he should be dominating the anti-politician vote.  Indeed, the fact that over 70% of voters currently have Not Trump preferences indicates that despite his positioning he is far from a shoe-in to win,

The real question remains as to who the eventual mainstream candidate will be and that is going to require a lot more winnowing.  We have seen two candidates go:  Rick Perry and Scott Walker.  Perry, quite frankly, should never have run as his candidacy was doomed dating back to 2012.   Walker was supposed to be able to cash in on the Tea Party wing of the party, but that is now Trumptown.

At any rate:  two minnows have been winnowed—so no changes to the basic dynamic of the race.  Still, Walker is correct in the following advice:

“I encourage other Republican presidential candidates to consider doing the same,” he said, “so that the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive, conservative alternative to the current front-runner.”

And, of course, I will note again:  we are in the preseason.  And if anyone wants an illustration of why one cannot predict the regular season based on the preseason I would recommend giving a look at the Philadelphia Eagles.

A concluding thought on Walker:  his early exit show that even with massive financial backing (i.e., the Kochs in this case) there are numbers that are so low that one has to exit.  This demonstrates that even having a SuperPac Sugar Daddy means that the basic laws of political gravity still apply.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, 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

Comments

  1. John H says:

    Wee spelling issue in the first sentence of the second paragraph.

  2. @John H: Indeed. Thanks.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    I don’t think this is about pols vs. non-pols. If Scott Walker had been willing to deny citizenship rights to Muslims, round up 11 million Mexicans and deny that Obama is an American, he’d still be in this race.

    Roughly half the GOP wants a candidate who will vent their furious lunacy. They want things they cannot possibly have. They want things which cannot happen in reality. They don’t want to face reality, so they follow whoever will tell them the lies they want to hear.

    Trump is an entertainer, and has no problem feeding these people the bullshit they need. Carson is out of his idiot mind so he has no trouble feeding these people their b.s. diet – it’s the same as his own diet. Cruz is a psychopath so he, too, would have no trouble.

    This is not establishment vs. non-establishment, that’s a category that has meant something in the past, but that’s not what this is. This is angry losers of the culture wars pining for a restoration of a time that never existed outside their fantasies. They aren’t angry at Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio or even Mitch McConnell, their beef is with reality. They reject consensual reality and they insist on being spoon-fed lies rather than adapt.

  4. CrustyDem says:

    And the second sentence of the second paragraph, assuming “Ant-politicians” was unintended.

  5. michael reynolds says:

    @CrustyDem:

    I chose to believe that was deliberate.

  6. Scott says:

    Given the fickleness and flightiness of this particular demographic that is being polled, perhaps a better strategy is to have a low cost, low vis campaign and wait for the flameouts. I think Walker go out too soon.

  7. Davebo says:

    I think there’s more to Walker’s surrender than we now know.

    Unlike Perry, he still had decent funding. Why now?

  8. michael reynolds says:

    @Scott:

    The Kochs need a winner and Walker wasn’t going to be one. Walker’s urging of other guys to get out and allow consolidation around an establishment (Koch) candidate was so obviously dumb it likely came straight from the Koch Brothers themselves.

    I imagine the brothers are now trying to decide between Rubio, Kasich, Jeb and Fiorina. I’d guess Rubio because Jeb is just pathetic and Kasich hasn’t lit any fires. But they might well be dumb enough to go with Fiorina in the hope that one woman will cancel out another (HRC.) The Koch boys don’t really understand politics.

  9. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Davebo:

    Rumors are coming from conservative pol-operatives that he is going to be indicted in some sort of corruption charge and/or another agency will be charged with malfeasance a la the WEDC.

    Just rumors at this point though.

  10. michael reynolds says:

    @Davebo:

    His funding wasn’t his. The PAC money is controlled by the Kochs and you don’t get a lot of small donor money behind un-charismatic losers with 2 percent in the polls. That’s the problem with running to be the next billionaire’s purse dog – you can be replaced by any other Chihuahua in the kennel.

  11. C. Clavin says:

    This demonstrates that even having a SuperPac Sugar Daddy means that the basic laws of political gravity still apply.

    I think maybe this assumes facts not in evidence.
    For instance, the Koch’s may have decided they like owning the Wisconsin Governor and simply wish to purchase someone else represent them in the White House. In the Citizens United world we just cannot claim to know what is happening. Where are the Koch’s spending their $800,000 Presidential budget? No one knows. Except it’s probably not Trump as he claims to be funding his own run.
    As for Trump winning the nomination…I think the GOP’s problem goes beyond just polling. He is garnering oodles of free TV air time. Priceless TV air time. He is fwcking ratings gold. Wait and see the overnights for the Colbert show tonight with Trump as a guest. No one has a megaphone loud enough to drown out Trump. So what is going to stop the juggernaut????? When the ratings go down, maybe. But why would they? The Networks keep focusing on him. It’s a 21st century self-fufilling prophecy.
    And the poor legitimate candidates keep getting bitch-slapped by Trump…they just look weak.
    Bush looks like a tool. When did we last hear from Rand Paul? Chris Christie?

  12. Mikey says:

    @michael reynolds:

    This is angry losers of the culture wars pining for a restoration of a time that never existed outside their fantasies.

    I’m not surprised they’re acting this way. It must be dreadfully frightening, that slowly dawning realization a world that seemed “made” for you is changing so dramatically.

    Watching their privilege slipping away, their cherished beliefs challenged, their comfortable prejudices turned into badges of shame, all this must be causing no small amount of anguish. Is it any wonder they latch onto a candidate who personifies their desire for renewed dominance? They don’t want a President, they want an emperor, because an emperor can snap his fingers and make things the way they were again. Because an emperor can get around the opposition by locking them in chains.

  13. gVOR08 says:

    @C. Clavin: I believe you meant $800,000,000 Presidential budget.

  14. @C. Clavin:

    I think maybe this assumes facts not in evidence.
    For instance, the Koch’s may have decided they like owning the Wisconsin Governor and simply wish to purchase someone else represent them in the White House. In the Citizens United world we just cannot claim to know what is happening.

    The evidence of the moment would suggest that regardless of dollars, there are poll numbers that are too low to sustain.

    We shall see, of course.

  15. MikeSJ says:

    Who’s left that isn’t a Dead Man Walking?

    Rand is a half-nutter and the big money knows it. Plus there’s his dad. Nobody wants to see that crank at the White House. He’s toast.

    Christie is one donut away from an indictment and everyone knows it as well. He’s toast with extra butter and jam and syrup and more butter.

    Cruz? Look at that face. Listen to that voice. Nope.

    Fiorina? It won’t be the fact she was a terrible CEO and it won’t be the fact that she flat out lied about the Planned Parenthood video’s. It is, sad to say, that she’s a dislikable woman. That’s kryptonite. Toast.

    Carson? Please.

    So who’s left of the “real’ candidates? Jeb!, Rubio and Kasich. And Trump is looming over them like Godzilla visiting Tokyo.

    Unless Kasich ignites (as he should as he’s the best chance to beat Hillary but the clock is ticking and I don’t see any sparks yet) that leaves Rubio and Jeb!. Rubio looks like a kid to me. I just don’t see anyone over 50 thinking this guy belongs in the White House.

    So in the end it’s Jeb! or Trump.

    I don’t see how Jeb! can beat Trump in any kind of real, honest, fair competition. Not that I like Trump but Jeb! makes Romney look like Bill Clinton. So my bet is for a rigged, stacked, voter fraud driven primary that puts Jeb! over the top.

    The party bosses won’t allow Trump to win. Jeb! is it.

  16. Gustopher says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: We don’t have evidence that the dollars were continuing.

    Pataki and Gilmore are still in. Even Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum. They don’t have much money, do they?

  17. Gustopher says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I don’t think this is about pols vs. non-pols. If Scott Walker had been willing to deny citizenship rights to Muslims, round up 11 million Mexicans and deny that Obama is an American, he’d still be in this race.

    Walker’s problem isn’t that he wasn’t willing to do these things, but that he wasn’t willing to say he would do these things.

    Walker ran bland campaigns in Wisconsin, claiming this or that hot button issue was a distraction, and then immediately working to implement this or that once elected.

    He was the exact opposite of the common establishment Republican candidates who have railed against abortion and other right wing demons during the primaries, and then done little if anything about them when in power. The establishment has treated the Republican base like a bunch of rubes.

    That doesn’t seem to be good enough for the Republican base. They want someone who will not just do radical things, but say he or she is going to do them.

  18. michael reynolds says:

    @Mikey:

    I agree completely. I’ve always said that they’re scared, and they have reason to be. The changes aren’t imaginary, they’re real: women taking control of reproduction and doing jobs previously reserved for men, gays being treated as equal, Hispanics coming into considerable political power, atheists suddenly out in the open, and worst of all their own kids and grandkids endorsing all of the above. . . it’s a lot of change. And it represents a significant shift in power.

    I’m tempted to draw analogies to the dominant technology of our age: computers and the internet. Politics is becoming digital and specific, differentiated less by large affinity groups or racial or gender groups, and more by individuals energized by specific issues.

    The fascinating thing about the same sex marriage revolution is how little it was cast in ‘us vs. them’ terms by its proponents and how much it came down to issues of equity for individuals. The Right played the tradition card and tried to make it us vs. them by drawing a circle that included all married people, but much of that ‘married people’ set wouldn’t play along, seeing instead that it made no sense to keep Cam and Mitchell from getting married.

  19. C. Clavin says:

    @gVOR08:
    Right…my bad.

  20. @Gustopher: We’ll how long the bottom feeders last.

    I know we political junkies think this is prime time, but it isn’t. If people with low single digits are in it by the time we hit NH then the sugar daddy hypothesis will have more evidence to support it.

  21. C. Clavin says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    But that’s my point…we won’t see. We don’t know why Walker dropped out.
    A lot of people, with his level of polling or worse, are still in. So it isn’t necessarily the polling that did him in.
    He is/was on the Koch payroll…maybe they stopped bank-rolling him.
    Maybe…as someone else alluded to…his grifting is about to catch up with him.
    Maybe…something else.
    Who knows.

  22. @MikeSJ: On balance, if I had to lay money, I still see Jeb v. Hillary.

    However I also think that Jeb is running an incredibly anemic campaign to date which makes me wonder.

  23. grumpy realist says:

    Charles Pierce puts the whole thing down to chaos theory.

    I just keep humming Queen: “Another one bites the dust…”

  24. @Steven L. Taylor: These are things that are ultimately knowable. For example: if a scandal breaks or if he is indicted, we will know.

    We will also know what the pattern is for other candidates and how long they stay in and under what conditions (and whether they have money to spend or not and whether than money is coming from fundraising or somewhere else).

    There are plenty of factors that obfuscate matters, but this is not as mysterious or unknowable as you are making it out to be.

  25. PJ says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I’d guess Rubio because Jeb is just pathetic and Kasich hasn’t lit any fires.

    Rubio already has a sugar daddy, I doubt that his sugar daddy is just going to allow someone else to move in on what is marked as his.

  26. Guarneri says:

    “Roughly half the GOP wants a candidate who will vent their furious lunacy. They want things they cannot possibly have. They want things which cannot happen in reality. They don’t want to face reality, so they follow whoever will tell them the lies they want to hear.”

    Thank god we are finishing up the reality based tenure of a guy standing with Roman columns informing us that “yes we can” have “hope and change” because “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” That way we can have declining income inequality, an Arab Spring with bliss for all in Libya, Yemen and Syria, and most importantly, the end of racial tensions. I mean, with a track record like that we ought to give the guy a third term so we could have 100% supply of green energy or who knows, free college and beer for everyone, a $2500 reduction in health care insurance premiums and a manufacturing base that is positively smokin’. Wouldn’t want any furious lunacy goin’ ’round.

  27. @C. Clavin:

    A lot of people, with his level of polling or worse, are still in. So it isn’t necessarily the polling that did him in.

    Yes, but most at that level did not start off as an alleged top of the heap type. Walker was supposed to be in good position of IA and NH and was supposed to be able to tap into the Tea Party faction, but his stock sank and he could not get traction.

    These things are very much about expectation v. actual performance.

  28. PJ says:

    Jeb! believes that Obama is a Christian. Only 14% of Republicans do.
    Jeb! believes that Obama was born in the US. Only 29% of Republicans do.

    I smell toast.

  29. Tillman says:

    Walker burned through his entire summer fundraising doing stupid crap in Iowa. He was not likely to get further without loose money, and his donor base turned out to not be stupid enough to fund a boring prodigal.

    @PJ: Maybe taking the analogy too far? Politicians are multipimp prostitutes, always have been. 🙂

  30. humanoid.panda says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I don’t think this is about pols vs. non-pols. If Scott Walker had been willing to deny citizenship rights to Muslims, round up 11 million Mexicans and deny that Obama is an American, he’d still be in this race.

    Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum are there- and they are getting 0.5% between them.

  31. @humanoid.panda: Indeed. I think that the racial aspect is a major component about what is going on, but it is far from the only variable.

    The faction of the GOP that is amenable to the Tea Party is not big on government (or governance) and hence, I think, the appeal of non-politicians.

  32. al-Ameda says:

    I continue to believe that it will shake down to Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and maybe Kasich or Cruz (a “real conservative” to satisfy the “we hate everything” crowd.)

  33. Grumpy Realist says:

    @humanoid.panda: well, there is the lack of charisma effect. And both of these bozos give the impression of being Peeping Toms

  34. Andre Kenji says:

    @Gustopher:

    They want someone who will not just do radical things, but say he or she is going to do them.

    I think that Trump´s appeal is precisely because he is more moderate in issues like health care, spending and unions. Walker said that people should vote for him because he managed to anger Teacher´s Unions, Trump is not saying that he wants to end collective bargaining or some idiotic thing like that.

    The desire to privatize Medicare, to privatize anything, begin wars all over the Middle East, pander to Israel, to put the government in a bathtub, these are things that the Republican Elites in Washington wants, not the Republican base.

    The Republican base might not like Brown people, but they are not THAT crazy to want to privatize Medicare.

  35. michael reynolds says:

    @humanoid.panda:

    Santorum’s old news, though. And Jindal has the problem of being Jindal.

    My snark of the other day was that Walker was trying to sell weed to meth addicts and I still think that was the issue.

  36. Jen says:

    There’s definitely something off about Walker’s decision to drop out. He apparently didn’t even bother to tell his NH staff — some of whom learned about the decision through social media.

  37. gVOR08 says:

    @Jen: Apparently he also didn’t tell large fundraisers, who were willing to keep funding. There are stories that his wife called an emergency meeting of campaign staff, but unclear that Walker called it off as a result of the meeting. Puzzling. But I still think his handlers from the Koch Bros told him it was over. Probably doesn’t pay to analyze this too closely. Keep in mind that Little Scotty doesn’t seem terribly bright.

  38. Andre Kenji says:

    In the 2012 cycle most of the losers of the Republican Primary were rewarded in some way or another. Tim Pawlenty got a well paying lobbying job, Herman Cain got a talk radio host gig, Santorum got lots of speaking gigs.

    In this cycle, every Republican candidate is competing for attention and space both in the debates and in the news cycle with almost twenty people. Most of these candidates are seeing their political career being damaged, not improved, by their candidacy.

    Scott Walker damaged his career with this Presidential Bid. Maybe he could be elected again to statewide office in Wisconsin in the right circumstances. Not anymore. He is going to be remembered as a failed candidate, not as the “governor that beat the unions in a blue state”. He just intelligently sensed that.

  39. Barry says:

    @Scott: “Given the fickleness and flightiness of this particular demographic that is being polled, perhaps a better strategy is to have a low cost, low vis campaign and wait for the flameouts. I think Walker go out too soon.”

    That’s probably been helping Trump. The actual politicians in the race have likely been standing back and hoping that somebody else will take Trump down, and suffer the injuries.

  40. Barry says:

    @Davebo: “I think there’s more to Walker’s surrender than we now know.

    Unlike Perry, he still had decent funding. Why now?”

    My bet would be that the Koch Bros decided that he wasn’t going to win, and might be a problem to whomever they now wanted to back. So they told him to stop running, and to go back to ruining Wisconsin.

  41. Barry says:

    @michael reynolds:”I imagine the brothers are now trying to decide between Rubio, Kasich, Jeb and Fiorina. I’d guess Rubio because Jeb is just pathetic and Kasich hasn’t lit any fires. But they might well be dumb enough to go with Fiorina in the hope that one woman will cancel out another (HRC.) The Koch boys don’t really understand politics.”

    Rubio or Cruz with Fiorina as the ‘businesswoman’ VP. Because nominating a woman as VP will get them the woman vote!

  42. Barry says:

    @PJ: “Rubio already has a sugar daddy, I doubt that his sugar daddy is just going to allow someone else to move in on what is marked as his.”

    He has a ‘back a guy with a shot’ sugar daddy; IMHO that guy will be squeezed out as soon as it looks like Rubio is the best shot overall. The really big boys will move in.

  43. Barry says:

    @humanoid.panda: @michael reynolds:
    “I don’t think this is about pols vs. non-pols. If Scott Walker had been willing to deny citizenship rights to Muslims, round up 11 million Mexicans and deny that Obama is an American, he’d still be in this race.”

    humanoid.panda: “Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum are there- and they are getting 0.5% between them.”

    That’s the Trump effect. No matter what the bottom-feeders are willing to say, Trump says it first, last, more often, more openly and 100x as much.

    Somebody made a comment about Walker being a tough a-hole, that with Trump, Walker looked like a guy trying to sell weed to meth addicts.

    That applies to more than him.

  44. Mikey says:

    The NYT has some background on Walker’s sudden exit:

    Demise of Scott Walker’s 2016 Bid Shows Limits of ‘Super PACs’

    And also from Politico:

    Walker’s campaign manager unloads

  45. Ron Beasley says:

    @Davebo: Walkers problem was that while he had a lot of PAC money he had no actual campaign money to pay the bills and was in fact deep in debt.

  46. grumpy realist says:

    @Mikey: Reading the second article makes Walker’s campaign sound like one of those dot-com implosions.

    Walker seems to have forgotten the first, second, and third rule of entrepreneurship: positive cash flow.