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May 12, 2016

How we got here

Ken Kellar

Let’s forget about presidential race predictions for a minute since they so often are wrong (picture Karl Rove refusing to acknowledge that Barack Obama had beaten Mitt Romney). I’d like to reflect on events and situations that may explain our present state.


How did Donald Trump win the Republican primaries? Well, the obvious answer is that more people voted for him. My theory of how it happened has three parts:

1. Candidate bins

2. Candidate access

3. Candidate positions


When we had around 17 candidates, they could be binned in several slots: governors, career legislators, outsiders, and tea partiers. We had a pile of governors: Bobby Jindal (LA), Jeb Bush (FL), Scott Walker (WI), Mike Huckabee (AR), George Pataki (NY), John Kasich (OH), Chris Christie (NJ), Rick Perry (TX), and Jim Gilmore (VA). We had a few “tea partiers:” Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz. With a little overlap we had legislators: Sens. Cruz, Paul, Rubio, Lindsay Graham, and Rick Santorum. For outsiders we had: Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Donald Trump.


Now you might bin these people differently, but I think my point might still apply with the bins you would choose. Early on, in the first polls and dozen or so primary elections, look at the way votes might be split. If a voter weighed governorship heavily, he had around nine candidates from which to choose. So, the “governor” votes were seriously divided. Legislator and Tea Party votes were also split, but not as drastically. I initially binned Mr. Trump with Dr. Carson and Ms. Fiorina, but that was mostly for convenience- I never really thought of him as belonging with any other group. So Mr. Trump started in a small bin or maybe even his own bin.


After a while, winners emerged from these groups: the governor – Kasich, the legislator/tea partier – Cruz, and the outsider – Trump. I think this analysis pretty handily explains how 14 good candidates faded away and led to the battle among the winners of each sub-group. So much for the “binning” factor.


Now on “access:” from day one, Mr. Trump called into TV shows and radio stations no matter how hostile the hosts. This was a new tactic. “Experts” would say it was a high-risk practice. However, it was free, and plentiful primetime campaigning.


On a more subtle note regarding “access,” watch or listen to a Trump interview. In my opinion, they are pretty open and conversational. Sure, Mr. Trump is elusive and sometimes contradictory, but he holds human conversations like you or I might with someone in the grocery line. Contrast that with Senator Cruz who, once again in my opinion, did not converse with interviewers but spouted rhetoric. Governor Kasich was somewhere in between.


So, on access, Donald Trump took big risks and maximized his time with the media and gave the voters plenty of access to him. And when they saw him speak, he spoke as a normal guy.


Finally, let’s look at candidate positions. Mr. Trump led the way on positions being discussed. Everyone else followed. I think Mr. Kasich hurt himself when early on he challenged Mr. Trump and others who talked tough on immigration. Mr. Cruz just never got ahead of the game and spent all his time criticizing Trump’s positions rather than positing his own stances.


So, that’s the way I see how we got Mr. Trump as the Republican nominee. Sorry for not introducing intrigue or the collapse of anything, it’s just how the election game played out. Yes, there are many other factors that can be considered such as the GOP’s ineffectiveness during recent years even with a majority in both houses of Congress. It’s a complicated formula. I find that the three factors I discussed allow me to be a bit more comfortable with the results.


In general, the party’s response to the primary results is troubling. For now, in short, get over the results if you are unhappy and look to late January 2017. There will be a new president taking the oath of office even if you do stay in bed on Election Day. There will be an open Supreme Court seat and Ruth Bader Ginsberg ain’t getting any younger. This is no time for any pouting or self-immolation. Be a citizen! Be an American! You know what to do.


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