As we head into the most consequential election in our republic’s history, you can listen to what you want to hear, or what you need to hear.
Understandably, most of the American electorate knows little to nothing about the science of winning elections. Though I profess no expertise myself, I do know much more than most political armchair quarterbacks, primarily because of having studied the 2016 data obsessively.
Hillary Clinton was far closer to winning than most people realize, and whichever liar or crazy person Democrats nominate for 2020 will have the identical advantages Clinton enjoyed. Further, much of the electioneering rhetoric now espoused by our Trump nationalist side comes close to mirroring what Democrats said circa 2016; as Yogi Berra once quipped, it’s déjà vu all over again.
Democrats three years ago:
Make history; shatter the glass ceiling; there are more of us than of you (Republicans); 50-state landslide; we’ll win Texas; Republicans will vote for Clinton.
Republicans in 2019:
There are more of us than there are of you; we’ll win 480 electoral votes; we got this; majority of minority voters will support President Trump; what time is the buy-one-get-one early-bird dinner special?
Most of the Republican electorate thinks elections are won in a contest over policy and ideology. Wrong.
Democrats view elections in shades of black and white; there’s a winner and a loser. Republicans view elections in shades of gray, meaning: let’s be all things to all people, and then somehow, we’ll garner enough votes because we’re appealing to everyone. This, of course, is the exact opposite of how elections are won, especially considering that red states no longer exist; they’re only blue or purple. Democrats have always understood that electoral politics and political influence are about bodies.
It is vastly more difficult for a Republican to win 270 or more electoral votes than a Democrat. A Democrat only needs a combination of a few swing states to win the presidency; Clinton received 85 percent of the 270 electoral votes she needed from 19 states and Washington, D.C. She won 227 electoral votes, leaving her 43 shy of victory.
If we include Arizona and Texas in our tally, we start out with 70 percent of the electoral votes needed, totaling 185.
Let’s look at the electoral vote count in each of the seven swing states we won; states listed in descending order of votes, with percentage margin of victory (rounded down or up, for simplicity):
- Florida: 29 electoral votes; 1 percent
- Pennsylvania: 20 electoral votes; .75 percent
- Ohio: 18 electoral votes; 8 percent
- Michigan: 16 electoral votes; .25 percent
- North Carolina: 16 electoral votes; 3.5 percent
- Wisconsin: 10 electoral votes; .75 percent
- Iowa: 6 electoral votes; 10 percent
Let’s remove Ohio, North Carolina, and Iowa out of the equation. That leaves 75 electoral votes, and Clinton only needed 43 of those. How might she have gotten to 43: Florida and Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin; or Florida and Michigan.
So if Clinton had won any of the above combinations (meaning, she truly only needed two or three states), we would have lost.
Let me repeat: Clinton only needed two or three states out of 50 to win. And the next Democrat nominee starts the game with the mathematical advantage of slightly more than Texas’s and Iowa’s electoral votes.
And can our re-election team finally acknowledge that Texas is now a purple state and no longer red? Have you noticed that the Democrats and the DMIC (Democrat Media Industrial Complex) have been eerily quiet about Texas? Expect the Democrats to go Battle of the Bulge on the Lone Star State next year; if they turn Texas blue, and win just one of the seven swing states, the Republicans lose.
Trump received a smaller percentage of cast votes than Mitt Romney did in 2012 in Texas, and he didn’t actually receive all 38 Texas electoral votes: one faithless elector voted for former Ohio Governor John Kasich, and another for former U.S. Representative Ron Paul (an added absurdity is that one elector voted for Carly Fiorina for vice president).
Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson received approximately 1 million votes in the aforementioned seven swing states (he received a nationwide total of 4.5 million). Yes, had Johnson’s name not been on the ballot, our margins of victory would have been higher in each of the seven. In 2020, we won’t have a third-party candidate to pull votes from our tally, but, conversely, millions of Democrats who didn’t vote in 2016 will be eager to cast bloodthirsty anti-Trump votes. And why did most of those Democrats stay home? Because, I suspect, they thought Clinton would win in a landslide.
I see essentially the same scenario playing out next year.
Underestimating the Enemy
What many on our side don’t comprehend is that Democrats today are who they’ve always been.
Obama has always believed what today’s Democrats believe. When he was running for president, however, he understood that elections are shades of white and black; it was John McCain and Romney who saw the elections in shades of gray. Obama, remember, admonished immigrants to get in line and learn English. Did Obama really believe that? Not at all; but he understood that what he wanted was irrelevant; what was relevant was the messaging that would get him the most votes. Obama knew he was going to win 2008 no matter what, but he played like he was trailing, and he played to annihilate the GOP—and he did.
Last month, I attended a talk by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition, a national nonprofit. I hold Gingrich in high esteem; his speech—with topics ranging from the threat from China and the threat posed by the Democratic Party—was, as usual, spot-on, except for his Trump re-election projection of 480 electoral votes (to obtain 480, we’d need to win every state, save for California).
I heard Gingrich say that we’re embroiled in a culture war, and that the Democrats are cuckoo crazy . . . but Trump will win as many states as President Reagan won in his historic 1984 re-election. I doubt that Gingrich truly believes this; he was telling us what we want to hear, because we prefer to hear what we want, rather than what we need.
My admiration for Gingirch notwithstanding, he is incorrect, and is doing us no favors. We can’t win a war if we’re unaware that we’re at war. And if we’re aware, we can’t win if we don’t understand that the war will be long and arduous. The Democratic Party is the most dangerous group in the history of our republic, foreign or domestic; more than the Islamic supremacists, more than the Nazis, more than the Soviets and more than the communists. Yes, the aforementioned groups all posed (and some continue to pose) existential threats to the U.S. and the West, but the Democrats embody the enemy within.
Confidence is necessary, and we should expect to win big. Hubris, however, is the cardinal sin in sales and winning elections. We have an opportunity to win 35-40 states, but only if we convince ourselves that we’re losing 35-40 states.
I’ve asked dozens and dozens of Republicans to show me the pathway to a landslide, and none has been able to do it. Winning teams always play scared; urgent with a sense of urgency. It’s not that Democrats are merely motivated; they’re in a Mansonesque and Jim Jonesian trance-like state of hatred toward Trump and his deplorable voters. I see a president who recognizes that politics is sales (promises made, promises kept), understands innately that nothing is guaranteed, and every win is hard fought. Hillary Clinton actually believed the landslide balderdash that came out of her mouth and the mouths in the DMIC.
On the bright side, at least our side isn’t publicly asking why we aren’t 50 points ahead.