Monday, August 22, 2016

It Sure Looks Like the Same Old Electoral Map in 2016

The nomination of Donald Trump (and, secondarily, the performance of Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries) has helped to infuse media coverage this year with a pervasive everything-is-different-now attitude that has been applied to a number of campaign attributes, practices, and phenomena. In the eyes of political analysts who have become bored with the familiar red-versus-blue pattern of the two parties' contemporary geographic constituencies, one of the more exciting aspects of the Trump candidacy was its potential capacity to redraw the modern electoral map. A few weeks ago, when Trump was within striking distance of Clinton in the national polls, pundits speculated about pro-Trump white working-class voters shifting Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, or Iowa from blue to red this year. More recently, Clinton's national lead and a few favorable state polls have prompted talk that Trump's political vulnerabilities might lead to Democratic victories in the traditional Republican bastions of Georgia, South Carolina, Arizona, and even Utah.

In truth, though, it seems quite unlikely that there will be much change in the traditional partisan alignment of the states At the moment, all three models on the FiveThirtyEight website—the polls-only, polls-plus, and now-cast analyses—produce an identical map in which every state is predicted to vote for the same party as in 2012 except for North Carolina, which flips from red to blue. (Because only two states, North Carolina and Indiana, voted differently in 2008 and 2012, FiveThirtyEight also forecasts a duplication of the 2008 outcome in every state but one.)

Four years ago, the Obama and Romney campaigns concentrated their resources in ten swing states deemed by both sides to be legitimately up for grabs: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. A Politico report published on Monday suggests that the Clinton campaign is currently making advertising purchases in seven states—the exact same battlegrounds as 2012, except for Colorado, Virginia, and Wisconsin—while the Trump campaign is currently advertising only in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Clinton is also buying ad time in the Omaha television market, which encompasses the 2nd congressional district of Nebraska (worth a single electoral vote) as well as sections of western Iowa.

If there is any change in the map compared to 2012, it appears more likely that the scope of the electoral battleground will shrink further rather than expand into new territory. The Clinton campaign has indicated that it is sufficiently confident of victory in Colorado and Virginia to divert resources to other, more competitive states, but it has yet to make an open incursion into any state that was deemed safe for McCain in 2008 and Romney in 2012. Divining which states the Trump campaign views as top targets is a more difficult task for analysts, given its low rate of advertising and unorthodox candidate itinerary, but at the moment Trump is only contesting four states on the airwaves and is in no position to put any state into play that had been conceded to Obama in either of the past two elections.

We have had more than the normal share of surprises and milestones in 2016, but a realignment of the nation's political geography does not seem to be imminent. Even in an otherwise unusual presidential campaign, it will still—as the saying goes—all come down to Ohio.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Donald Trump Is a Conservative—But Not Much of a Republican

The news that Donald Trump has hired Stephen Bannon of Breitbart News to take over his campaign has amazed the political press since it broke late Tuesday night. Bannon lacks the experience in practical politics conventionally deemed necessary for a position atop a major-party presidential campaign (although it is unclear how responsibilities will be divided between Bannon as "CEO" and pollster Kellyanne Conway, simultaneously named campaign manager). Perhaps more importantly, he comes to the campaign from a website that has repeatedly cheered on Trump's candidacy since before the Republican primaries began, defending many of his most controversial actions. Trump is clearly signaling—as much of the reporting around the hire reveals explicitly—that, in his view, the main problem with his campaign is that it hasn't been aggressive enough in promoting its existing message, not that it needs a new one.

One can almost feel hearts sink across the professional Republican Party. Trump is currently running well behind in the polls while suffering near-daily media crises, and most Republican leaders are no doubt desperate for him to adopt a more traditional approach to running his campaign that would tamp down the day-to-day drama, build a strong organizational infrastructure, and appeal to wary swing voters. Instead, Trump seems to believe that he has been excessively muzzled by "establishment" Republicans—personified, apparently, by now-sidelined campaign chairman Paul Manafort—who fail to appreciate his unique strengths. "I don't want to pivot. I don't want to change," Trump told a Wisconsin TV station. "You have to be you. If you start pivoting, you're not being honest with people."

Many Trump critics, especially within the Republican Party, are fond of claiming that Trump is not a conservative, pointing to his departure from ideological orthodoxy on entitlements and international trade as well as his history of inconsistent issue positions and previous support for Democratic politicians. But whatever Trump's private political beliefs might be, he is very much running this year as a conservative—albeit a conservative whose priorities hew closer to the populist/nationalist style of Breitbart, Sarah Palin, and Bill O'Reilly than the more intellectual tradition of George F. Will, Bill Kristol, and National Review. Debates over who is or isn't a member of the club are a favorite conservative activity, but Trump is solidly aligned with key elements of the American right, not the center or left, as the Bannon hiring further confirms.

What Trump is not, however, is a loyal Republican. His personal and institutional ties to the GOP are weak, and he instinctually resists engaging in even minimal displays of partisan team spirit (as demonstrated by his ostentatiously perfunctory endorsement of Paul Ryan after previously suggesting that he would not support the speaker in his Wisconsin primary election).

Republican leaders might have hoped that Trump would proceed from now until November with some awareness that his behavior could have a significant effect on the short- and long-term fortunes of the party as a whole. But the hiring of a campaign chief executive from the ranks of the conservative media universe, where the strategic concessions usually deemed necessary to defeat Democrats in national elections are often ignored or ridiculed, suggests that Trump's high-risk behavior is certain to continue. Now it's time for the rest of the Republican candidates on the ballot this November to figure out how to position themselves with respect to their unorthodox presidential standard-bearer, who cannot be relied upon to care about the interests of anyone but himself.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

The Partisan Generation Gap Is Alive and Well

One of the more interesting characteristics of the Obama presidency has been the emergence of a large and persistent generation gap in partisan voting preferences. As recently as the 2000 election, there was virtually no apparent association between age and vote choice: according to the national exit polls that year, Al Gore won 48 percent of the vote among citizens aged 18–29, 48 percent among those aged 30–49, 50 percent among those aged 50–64, and 51 percent among those 65 or older. In 2004, John Kerry only ran 7 points better among voters under the age of 30 (54 percent) compared to those aged 65 or older (47 percent).

Four years later, Obama received 66 percent of the under-30 vote compared to just 45 percent of the 65-and-over vote—a difference of 21 points. Obama's reelection in 2012 looked a lot like 2008: he won 60 percent of the under-30 vote and 44 percent of the over-65 vote, producing a 16-point gap. But Obama seemed to be a candidate whose political style was particularly well-suited to courting younger voters (and whose race might be expected to disproportionately cost him votes among the elderly), and he ran against two Republican opponents who were 25 and 14 years his senior. It was not outside the realm of possibility that the age divide in presidential voting reflected variation in the personal appeal of the candidates among Americans of different generations as well as any disagreements over ideology or issue priorities between younger and older voters.

What if the Democrats nominated someone who was a 68-year-old veteran of the political arena and who lacked Obama's natural hipness and ability to personify "change"? What if the Republicans nominated a candidate who lacked ties to their own party's traditionally stodgy national leadership and who ran as an unconventional outsider? Might we expect to find a significant narrowing of the Obama-era generation gap under such circumstances?

Well, we might...but so far it doesn't seem to be happening. Two post-convention national polls this week suggest that the Clinton-Trump contest may well produce a large generation gap just like the Obama-McCain and Obama-Romney elections:

A Public Policy Polling survey found Clinton leading Trump by 17 points among voters aged 18–29 (with an unusually high 15 percent undecided rate, probably mostly comprised of young Democratic-leaning voters who supported Bernie Sanders and have yet to rally around Clinton) and 19 points among voters aged 30–45. Trump led by 5 points in the 46–65 age range and by 4 points among those older than 65.

A CNN poll gave Clinton a 33-point lead among voters under the age of 45 and Trump a 4-point lead among voters aged 45 or older. This poll found Trump with a 19-point advantage among voters over 65.

It's not unusual for results among specific age groups to vary from poll to poll due to sampling error; what's important here is the overall pattern of correlation between age and partisan alignment, which is apparent in both surveys. Younger voters strongly preferred Sanders to Clinton in the Democratic primaries, and her favorability ratings in Gallup polls were actually weakest among the youngest generation once the Democratic nomination contest heated up early this year. But these young voters also appear particularly skeptical of Trump, and their collective affinity for the Obama-led Democratic Party seems to be fully intact even though Obama himself is no longer on the ballot.

The relationship between age and partisanship is not merely a short-term curiosity. Political science research demonstrates that citizens often develop attachments to a favorite party during their political coming-of-age period in young adulthood that can solidify into a lifelong voting habit. For example, many Americans who reached voting age during the Great Depression and presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt were still likely to support Democratic candidates like Bill Clinton in their golden years fifty and even sixty years later. The risk taken by Republicans in nominating Trump thus does not merely encompass this year's election, but could potentially extend to damaging the party's reputation among a cohort of young voters who have decades of electoral choices still ahead of them.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Pennsylvania Is Always Purple (And Other Electoral College Observations)

Over the weekend, the New York Times published an article titled "Electoral Map Gives Donald Trump Few Places to Go," which suggested that the electoral college was effectively tilted in favor of Hillary Clinton this year. The piece referred to a "daunting electoral map" producing a "narrow" and "precarious" path to an electoral vote majority for the Republican presidential ticket, arguing that Trump's chances of victory virtually depended on his carrying Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina—while Clinton only needed to pick off one of these four states to defeat him. Since the interaction between the political geography of the American electorate and the institutional structure of American electoral rules is a particular interest of mine, I thought I'd share a few observations based on the article, which is itself worth reading:

1. The electoral college is crucial to understanding candidate strategies, but is very unlikely to prove decisive to the outcome. The probability of a national popular vote winner failing to receive a majority of electoral votes is vanishingly small unless the popular vote margin is extremely narrow (as it was in 2000). This is because there is no significant partisan bias in the electoral college, and because individual swing states do not move independently of each other but rather collectively mirror national trends. Any analysis (like this one from the Times) arguing that Candidate X has a clear advantage in the electoral vote is thus suggesting that Candidate X is clearly ahead in the popular vote—and vice versa. Especially at this early stage of the race, it is advisable to avoid getting bogged down in trying to predict the election by gaming out various electoral college scenarios, as they will only come into play if the race is truly neck-and-neck heading into Election Day.

2. A casual reading of the Times article can leave the reader with the impression that the scope of the electoral battleground is likely to shrink significantly this year, with several states that were contested by both parties in 2012 openly conceded to one side or the other in 2016. But a more careful examination of the piece doesn't turn up any hard examples of states that fit that profile. We are not told that the Trump campaign is actually abandoning any of the states that Romney contested four years ago—only that it considers Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania pivotal to its chances and North Carolina a must-win but potentially vulnerable state. None of this should be much of a surprise; the Romney campaign was in a very similar strategic position in 2012 (except that it considered Virginia more critical than Pennsylvania). We should expect both campaigns to devote a large proportion of their resources to the first three states in any event, since they cast the most electoral votes of all the potential battlegrounds and are therefore highly likely to determine the outcome of the election. Competitive but less populous states like New Hampshire, Iowa, and Nevada are likely to be actively fought over by the campaigns as well, but they are much cheaper to contest and are less likely to serve as the tipping point that determines which party receives a majority in the electoral college.

3. The main development cited by the Times that works in favor of the Clinton campaign is the potential partisan evolution of Colorado and Virginia. In the past two elections, the results in both states closely matched the national popular vote. But if the Democrats could count on achieving slender victories in both states in the event of a very close race nationwide, the party would stand a decent chance of gaining an electoral vote majority even if it were to lose both Ohio and Florida. Note, however, that the article does not claim that either state is safely Democratic—only that Clinton is doing relatively well there based on recent polling. Moreover, these apparent trends would only make a difference in the event of a virtual tie in the overall popular vote. If Trump pulls ahead nationally, Colorado and Virginia will suddenly look quite unsafe for Clinton.

4. Because the article (justifiably) places particular emphasis on Pennsylvania's potentially decisive role in the 2016 election, it is worth noting that the state is often somewhat mischaracterized in electoral college analyses. Pennsylvania has not voted Republican for president since 1988, which prompts some writers to classify it as a dependable "blue" state or as part of the Democratic geographic "base." But this is not quite accurate. Pennsylvania is actually a competitive battleground state—"purple" rather than reliably blue—that usually sits one notch to the Democratic side of an even split between the parties. It has voted Democratic for the past six consecutive elections because Democratic nominees have won the national popular vote in five of those elections, while losing narrowly in the sixth (2004, when Pennsylvania voted for John Kerry by the same 2.5-point margin by which he lost the national vote to George W. Bush).

For this reason, Democrats should not count on Pennsylvania to be a safe bastion for their party—and Republicans should not view actively contesting it as achieving a bold invasion of enemy territory. Some analysts have suggested that Trump could outperform previous Republican presidential candidates in Pennsylvania due to the demographic composition of its electorate. Whether or not he manages to do so, it seems certain that the state will receive considerable attention from both parties between now and November—just as it has in every presidential election for the past 60 years.

Friday, July 29, 2016

In Philadelphia, the Democrats Define Their Coalition

For as long as I can remember, the two parties have each tended to rely on a favorite theme when attacking each other: the Republicans accuse the Democrats of adhering to an extreme ideology, while the Democrats accuse the Republicans of supporting extreme policies. As Matt Grossmann and I explain in our forthcoming book, there are good strategic reasons for each side to adopt its favored strategy; most Americans lean to the political right in general terms but hold left-of-center views on specific issues, so politicians respond by attempting to shift the public debate of the campaign onto turf that favors their own partisan interest.

Four years ago, the party conventions followed this pattern closely. The Republicans spent an entire evening at their 2012 convention in Tampa portraying Barack Obama as a big-government collectivist who was instinctively hostile to the private sector and individual entrepreneurship. The best-received speech of the Democratic convention in Charlotte, Bill Clinton's "explainer-in-chief" address nominating Barack Obama for a second presidential term, methodically criticized Romney's positions on a number of specific policy questions as unacceptably hostile to the interests of ordinary Americans.

But the events of 2016 have prompted both sides to rewrite their playbooks a little. There was still a fair amount of traditional conservative rhetoric at the Republican convention last week—particularly visible in the speeches of Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, and vice presidential nominee Mike Pence—but Donald Trump's acceptance address, like his campaign up to this point, relied on themes of American nationalism more than the limited-government principles ordinarily emphasized by Republican candidates, and his chief line of attack against the Democratic opposition was not that it was excessively liberal in a philosophical sense but that it was unacceptably permissive in the face of terrorism and lawlessness. Republican criticisms of Hillary Clinton, while numerous, primarily focused on the topics of the events in Benghazi and her private email server, and thus questioned her honesty, competence, and devotion to American interests more than her supposed leftism.

For Democrats, Trump's nomination presented its own novel challenge. As usual, the party's national convention this week promoted its own extensive set of policy positions, but Democrats' normal practice of characterizing Republican policies as extreme by comparison was frustrated by the fact that Trump, though he has expressed support for nearly all of the usual Republican domestic policy agenda, has not made limited government a defining theme of his campaign. Democrats who normally delight in presenting themselves as the defenders of popular entitlement programs and opponents of "giveaways" to corporations and the wealthy seem to have concluded that Trump's own personal attributes represent better attack fodder than his policy positions (such as they are). They repeatedly characterized Trump as inexperienced, ill-tempered, and divisive, with Barack Obama even referring to the Republican nominee as a "homegrown demagogue."

Most strikingly, the Democratic Party's essential nature as a coalition of social groups was on display to an unprecedented extent in Philadelphia. The Black Lives Matter cause and the Mothers of the Movement were given prominent platforms and expressions of support. Undocumented Latino immigrants spoke on Clinton's behalf, and a number of speakers, including the party's vice presidential nominee, punctuated their remarks with Spanish words and phrases. Other groups that received explicit representation from the convention stage included Asian Americans, Native Americans, feminists, gays and lesbians, transgender people, Muslims, union members, and people with disabilities. Clinton's status as the first female major-party presidential nominee and potential first female president was celebrated repeatedly during the convention proceedings—including via a video effect on Tuesday night in which a mosaic of (male) presidential portraits broke apart with the sound of shattering glass to reveal Clinton's face as she appeared live from a remote location to greet the delegates.

For much of the last few decades—especially the 1990s, when the current nominee's husband was the national leader of the party—Democrats tempered such tributes to social diversity with other gestures meant to reassure white southerners, businesspeople, and blue-collar cultural moderates that the party spoke for them too. Today, due to a combination of demographic trends, geographic realignment, and Trump's own behavior, Democratic leaders no longer feel the need to place much emphasis on courting these other voters. By nominating Trump, the Republican Party has bet heavily on a campaign message tailored to appeal primarily to middle-aged, middle-class, middle-American whites. Democrats have opted to make a different wager of their own: that the voters who will feel left out of Trump's vision for America not only represent a rainbow coalition of social groups but also a national electoral majority that can carry Clinton to victory in November.

Friday, July 22, 2016

As Cleveland Showed, The Big Republican Split Is Between Leaders and Voters

The primary purpose of a national convention—now that the actual selection of the nominee is completed beforehand by primary voters—is to foster party unity and put it on display, thus earning positive attention from the news media that will in turn engender heightened support and enthusiasm from partisan identifiers and persuadable independents in the mass electorate. It's fun to watch and kibitz over the quality of the speeches and the competence of the stage management, but most of the hour-to-hour proceedings are soon forgotten (OK, Clint Eastwood's empty chair is an exception). The big picture is what's important: what is the state of the party at the start of the general election?

It's clear from the events in Cleveland that Republicans remain a divided party. The single most dramatic moment of the entire four-day convention occurred at the end of Ted Cruz's speech Wednesday night, when the runner-up presidential candidate, building to a rhetorical peak, danced on the edge of an expression of support for Trump before exhorting his audience instead to "vote your conscience" for candidates who are true to constitutional principles, clearly implying that Trump himself did not meet this standard. The media immediately seized on Cruz's behavior as a signal not only of disunity but of political incompetence—why had the Trump campaign allowed Cruz to speak without securing an assurance that he would endorse the nominee?—and a furious Trump reignited a row with Cruz at a bizarre press conference today that defies easy summary or explanation.

The Trump-Cruz feud will consume most of the post-convention media attention, but the convention itself revealed a more fundamental, and probably more important, divide. In one camp are a majority of Republican delegates, activists, and voters, who are firm supporters of Trump (whether or not they voted for somebody else in the primaries) and highly motivated to defeat Hillary Clinton. In the other camp are the vast majority of the party's top elected officials, both past and present, who have serious reservations about the Trump candidacy and wish to limit their association with him. From beginning to end, the proceedings in the Cleveland formed a picture of a party leadership trying to cope with the fact that a presidential candidate is being forced upon them unwillingly by their own voters.

The many Republicans who harbor various degrees of qualms about Trump have responded to his nomination in different ways. One faction, including Mitt Romney, John Kasich, Lindsey Graham, Ben Sasse, Jeff Flake, and the Bush family, remains openly unreconciled to Trump; these leaders failed to appear at the convention, whether due to their preference or Trump's. A second group, consisting of many Republicans from politically competitive constituencies, is not explicitly opposed to Trump—in fact, some have endorsed him—but pointedly declined to attend the convention as a means of signaling their distance from the candidate (Marco Rubio, running for reelection in the "purple" state of Florida, recorded a brief taped message of support for Trump that was shown on Wednesday night).

That left the convention itself to be dominated by a third set of officials: the nominal Trump supporters. These politicians showed up in Cleveland to address the nation on behalf of the presidential ticket, but their speeches almost to a person spent more time attacking Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama than praising the virtues of the Republican alternatives. References to Trump, when they occurred, were brief and strikingly muted. Mitch McConnell advocated on behalf of an unnamed "Republican president" whose role would be merely to sign the legislation passed by a Republican Congress. Paul Ryan's speech mentioned the name of his party's nominee only to argue that "only with Donald Trump and Mike Pence do we have a chance at a better way." (Traditionally, predictions of future partisan governing success take a more confident tone.) Scott Walker's case for Trump rested on the premise that "any Republican" would be a better choice than Hillary Clinton.

These and other speeches communicated a message that was clear enough. Most leading Republicans view Trump as a poor candidate facing near-certain defeat in November, and they appear worried that any public expression of impassioned support for his campaign risks tainting them with political or historical embarrassment. But for many Republican delegates, activists, and voters, a Trump loss is far from inevitable and a Hillary Clinton presidency close to unthinkable. The persistence of this internal schism is likely to have implications for Republican politics for the remainder of the campaign, and may even outlast it.

As for Cruz, it will take some time before we know whether his big bet will pay off. Cruz is transparently wagering that Trump will eventually be so thoroughly discredited among Republicans that his own ostentatious refusal to endorse Trump before a national audience will be interpreted in retrospect as an honorable devotion to principle. But Cruz is sometimes prone to tactics that are too clever by half, and his own reputation among Republicans as a poor team player has cost him in the past. Even if Trump turns out to be a disaster for the party, it may turn out that the Paul Ryan approach was savvier: give a pro forma endorsement to the choice of the Republican electorate while simultaneously acting like you think it's a big mistake.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Are We Really Looking at the "End of a Republican Party"?

A new analysis by Clare Malone of FiveThirtyEight.com titled "The End of a Republican Party" takes a thoughtful, in-depth approach to addressing what is clearly the most important political question of the year: what does the rise of Donald Trump tell us about the state of American politics in general and the Republican Party in particular? It's well worth the read and contains some particularly informative reporting from within the world of the House Freedom Caucus, a group that played a key role in forcing the exit of John Boehner from the speakership last fall.

At the same time, the piece in its totality leaves me with the impression that the case for Trump as either an instigator or a product of transformational change in the Republican Party rests more on human perception than systematic data. It sure feels to many of us as if we're in the midst of a tectonic shift in our politics—and a celebrity neophyte's unexpected march to the presidential nomination of a major party, defeating a number of talented veteran politicians along the way, is just the kind of shocking development that causes observers to declare that the world has permanently changed and the old rules no longer apply. Nebraska senator Ben Sasse is even quoted as predicting the imminent end of the two-party system, expressing the view that Trump is just the leading indicator of bigger change to come.

But when I think about the evidence backing up these very strongly-felt sentiments, I keep coming up against plenty of signs that things aren't changing as fast as they seem. Here are a few specific examples:

1. Party coalitions and geography. One of the main pillars of the Malone argument, which has been echoed by many other commentators, is that Trump's rise cements a reordering of the two parties' electoral coalitions: the Republicans are now the party of the white working class, while the Democrats now represent an alliance between racial minorities and college-educated whites. To the extent that these characterizations are true, however, they are the consequences of long-term historical trends, not the products of a single electoral environment. Trump's brand of racial politics (and the Democrats' nomination of a feminist woman) are likely to further this divide, at least in the short term, but there is little reason to view this election as representing an "inflection point" of foundational party change. Compared to a number of historical cases—such as the transformation of millions of northern urbanites from Coolidge Republicans in the 1920s to FDR Democrats in the 1930s, or the migration of southern whites en masse from the Democratic Party to the GOP over the course of two generations in the late 20th century—it doesn't seem as if we are witnessing a significant realignment of party supporters in the electorate.

The article also touches on the subject of geography, demonstrating that the parts of the U.S. with the highest proportions of "non-hyphenated Americans" (mostly whites of English or Scotch-Irish descent) have shifted the farthest towards the Republican Party in recent elections. Yet this, too, can be viewed as the final stage of the southern realignment that began in the 1950s. In any case, the change described is minor in scale; the two parties' current geographic coalitions are, by historical standards, unique in their relative stability. As this figure from a forthcoming book of mine demonstrates, more than 80 percent of the states voted for the same party in each of the four presidential elections between 2000 and 2012, which is the highest level of consistency in the post-Civil War era:



Will Trump fundamentally reorder the current electoral map? So far, it doesn't look likely; the current FiveThirtyEight forecast for 2016 is identical to the final results in 2012, identifying Hillary Clinton as the favorite in all 26 states carried by Obama and projecting a Trump lead in all 24 states won by Romney.

2. The GOP's electoral standing. The steady increase in the proportion of nonwhite voters in the American electorate is often portrayed as causing an electoral crisis for the Republican Party unless and until it figures out a way to broaden its appeal to racial minorities, especially Latinos. Since 2004 and especially 2008, younger voters are also disproportionately Democratic-leaning (the two trends are somewhat related, as the young are more racially diverse than their elders). Malone writes of the Republican Party's "demographic and cultural divergence from the majority of the country," and ex-Jeb Bush advisor Tim Miller is quoted as worrying that the GOP might well "move to a period of minority status."

I've said this before, but I continue to be somewhat baffled by characterizations of the two parties' contemporary electoral fortunes that completely exclude congressional and state-level elections, where Republicans are not only holding their own but are in fact doing very well. And if we accept the very reasonable proposition that Hillary Clinton would be neck-and-neck or even running behind right now had the Republicans nominated Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, or John Kasich instead of Trump, then even the party's current deficit in presidential polling looks more like the product of a nominee with limited personal appeal than a party that is systematically unable to attract a national electoral majority.

3. Will Trumpism outlast Trump? If the Trump nomination indeed marks the closing of one era of Republican politics and the opening of another, we can safely assume that Trumpism will survive and even thrive in the Republican Party regardless of whether Trump himself is elected president. So far, however, Trump looks more like an individual political entrepreneur than the leader of a transformational movement within the Republican Party. He has has served as an effective vehicle for Republican primary voters to express support for a more aggressive stance against immigration, skepticism about free trade agreements, and frustration with the party's traditional leadership. But much of the institutional Republican Party remains either resistant to or glumly resigned to Trump as a candidate, in part because most leading Republicans view his brand of politics as electorally counterproductive. If he indeed loses in November, that conclusion is likely to stick.


I don't mean to dismiss some of the very real challenges now facing the Republican Party. But even if scholars like Tom Mann and Norm Ornstein are correct that the GOP is now in a state of dysfunction, evidence suggests that the party faces a bigger problem in governing effectively than in appealing to voters up and down the ballot. If the dust clears after this election to reveal a newly-elected President Hillary Clinton serving alongside a Congress in which at least one chamber is controlled by a Republican majority, it seems likely that the next four years will look, for better or worse, an awful lot like the last six—leaving 2016 to appear in retrospect like a moment of partisan evolution rather than fundamental change.