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'Pundits are terrified of being proven wrong by Donald Trump again. I'm not'

Larry Donnelly says he would bet a lot of money on Hillary Clinton being the next US president.

Larry Donnelly Law lecturer, NUI Galway

THE 2016 REPUBLICAN National Convention, complete with plagiarised speeches, addresses from former opponents without endorsing the nominee, the absence of many grandees, and numerous protests inside and outside the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, was something of a trainwreck.

Nonetheless, many commentators continue to opine that this is Donald Trump’s politically unorthodox way of doing things. They assert that the convention might not have been pretty, but that unnerving the establishment is what has made him so appealing.

They have a point. No one could have reasonably expected that this GOP convention would remotely resemble any other in light of Trump’s unique persona and campaign for the presidential nomination.

Republican and Democratic nominees, however, have ordinarily received a significant bounce in their polling numbers after their conventions. It remains to be seen whether Trump’s poll numbers will similarly improve over this coming weekend.

Anybody’s game

Before his stirring, if downcast, acceptance speech on Thursday night, that looked dubious. But 57% of Americans who watched the speech had a “very positive” reaction to it.

In the speech, he comprehensively outlined the forlorn situation facing tens of millions of men and women and their country and persuasively made the case for a Trump presidency.

Looking beyond the conventions – Hillary Clinton and the Democrats will have their opportunity to shine next week in Philadelphia – the dominant media narrative around the world seems to be that the race for the White House between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is “anybody’s game.”

On the one hand, Hillary has vast experience, a strong track record of accomplishment and good favourability ratings with women and racial minorities.

On the other, there is a lot of anger in the US. Trump has a capacity to garner support from Americans who would shun other Republicans. He was also written off by so-called experts at every stage during the primaries, yet still prevailed.

Some have pointed to national polls as well: the aggregate on the Real Clear Politics website shows Clinton at 44% and Trump at 41.3%, i.e., within the margin of error.

Is it really such a close race?

A few intangible, under the surface factors also contribute to this storyline, in my view.

First, media pundits are terrified of being proven wrong by Donald Trump again. There are a precious few regarded as being “in the know” politically who would have thought Trump had no chance of being a serious contender for the Republican nomination a year ago, let alone eventually vanquishing more than a dozen serious opponents and triumphing.

Second, the media, for obvious reasons, wants a competitive, dramatic presidential campaign. The last two were not close-fought contests.

Moreover, Trump draws newspaper readers, radio listeners, television viewers and digital screen gazers like no one else. Some may lament that he cheapens discourse and seeks to deny press freedom, but the fact is that Trump’s candidacy has been an enormous boon to both “new” and “old” media.

Third, while it may be an uncomfortable truth for some, particularly on this side of the Atlantic, much of the American media has a left-wing bias and is horrified at the thought of a Trump presidency. Coverage, therefore, will avoid engendering even the temptation of complacency about voting.

The only thing that matters

But all of this ignores the reality that politics is a numbers game. And when it comes to winning the White House, the only numbers that matter in the end are those from the Electoral College.

When one does the Electoral College maths, it becomes increasingly difficult to defend any conclusion other than this is Hillary Clinton’s campaign to lose.

The superb, interactive website, 270towin.com, is a good place to put abstract theories and “gut feelings” about who will win the test.

Stated simply, even if Trump were to hold all the states won by Mitt Romney, he would still need to win Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania or another combination of states, to become the next occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Even on a very good day for him, and a very bad day for Hillary Clinton, this is an extremely tall order.

“It’s the Electoral College, stupid”

A recent piece in the conservative magazine, National Review, Ready for Madame President, delves into the mathematical nuances of the Electoral College and details the advantages Democrats enjoy in 2016 and for the foreseeable future. The piece rightly points out that the Clinton campaign’s unspoken mantra is “it’s the Electoral College, stupid”, and highlights how their strategy is built around it.

They have spent a tremendous amount of money in the battleground states and plan to spend tens of millions more. In the Real Clear Politics aggregate of reputable polls taken in these states, she is ahead in them all.

Of course, Trump is a different type of Republican and will receive some votes that John McCain and Mitt Romney, the last two nominees, couldn’t have dreamed of. For instance, Trump’s scepticism about trade and the use of military force means that he should fare better than either of his two predecessors in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

That probably won’t change the bottom line, however, and could be at least partly offset by the generally pro-free trade, interventionist, “Never Trump” Republicans who will abstain, vote for Hillary Clinton as the lesser of two evils or cast a ballot for the Libertarian Party ticket.

Yes, Donald Trump could win. But his chances are very slim. No amount of speculating and theorising, albeit fascinating, about his extraordinary candidacy and what has driven it will change that.

Unlike some other pundits, I’m not afraid of being wrong again. I would still bet a lot of money that Hillary Clinton will be the next President of the United States.

Larry Donnelly is a Boston attorney, a Law Lecturer at NUI Galway and a political columnist with IrishCentral.com and TheJournal.ie. 

Read: Could Donald Trump actually win the US election?

Read: “I am proud to be gay”: PayPal founder tells fellow Republicans to let people use whatever bathroom they want

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About the author:

Larry Donnelly  / Law lecturer, NUI Galway

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