Thursday, April 7, 2016

Have you ever heard...

...some Republican on TV say something to the effect that since Donald Trump has only won about 37 percent of the votes cast in the GOP primaries that about 63 percent have voted against him? Do you find that persuasive?

Damon Linker, writing in The Week yesterday, poured a little cold water on that argument (my emphasis):

There is, instead, a field of candidates, each of them campaigning for votes. Prior to Tuesday's primary, Trump had won roughly 7.8 million of them. Cruz had won about 5.7 million. Then there was Marco Rubio (still in third place) with 3.4 million, John Kasich with 2.8 million, and so forth down through Ben Carson and several other candidates with considerably fewer than a million votes each.

The #NeverTrump movement is claiming, in effect, that the combined 13 million or so votes that have been cast for Cruz, Rubio, Kasich, Carson, and the others should be considered a vote for Not Trump — and that, as the presumptive runner-up, Cruz should be the one to serve in the Not Trump role on ballots in November.

That is, quite simply, ridiculous.

Don't agree? Let's consider how this kind of reasoning would have played out four years ago.

At this point in 2012 — the day of the Wisconsin primary — Mitt Romney had won 4.6 million votes. And his opponents? If we combine the votes won by Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul, the tally for Not Romney was 6.7 million.

Now of course Romney went on to win a majority of the delegates, as Trump is increasingly unlikely to do. But we're talking about the beginning of April in both election cycles. And at this moment, Romney had earned 39.8 percent of the votes cast compared with Trump's 37.1 percent.

That's it: a total of 2.7 percentage points separating the frontrunners.

If someone had floated the idea at the time of the 2012 Wisconsin primary of depriving Romney of the nomination and handing it at the convention to runner-up Rick Santorum — who, incidentally, had won almost the same portion of the vote (27 percent) that Cruz has in this cycle — that person would have been considered mad. And the judgment would have been correct.

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