Reading the Huffington Post, I saw this political bodice ripper and I still can’t figure out how to make the mechanics of the piece actually work in our shared reality:
Suddenly they realize, “holy shit, what if we could stop Donald Trump and keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House?”
So they run a moderate establishment Republican as a third-party candidate — 100 percent as a spoiler candidate. Worst case scenario oh, they prevent Donald Trump from winning the White House. Best case scenario they pull enough votes away from Hillary Clinton to prevent her from securing the necessary majority of 270 electoral votes.
Then the election goes to a House of Representatives ballot presided over Speaker Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s former running mate in 2012.
If neither candidate gets 270 electoral college votes, Congress picks the president. And he will be called President Mitt, the one who is laying the groundwork for this doomsday electoral scenario.
The basic theory is that a third party candidate who is Generic Republican Establishment (no not Pawlenty) would be able to do three things at the same time:
- Insure that Trump does not get 270 electoral votes
- win at least one electoral vote
- Insure that Hillary Clinton does not get 270 electoral votes
In an alternative universe, that could work, but in this universe, I am having a hard time seeing how to actually make it work with a generic Republican running as a non-Trump alternative.
I think the first part is achievable. However, the third party Republican spoiler is not needed. Continual video playback of Trump’s speeches to non-Trump fans will isnure that. If the Republican establishment decided it needed at least one electoral vote, it’s sock pocket could probably win Utah or a Congressional district in Nebraska. Worse comes to worse, an elector could be a faithless elector. I’ll concede the mechanics on this one.
The problem with this pre-emptive pants shitting is the third part.
Hillary Clinton will be running with a bit of a cushion. If we start the mechanical baseline at states won by President Obama in 2012, she can concede 53 electoral votes (or Florida AND Ohio AND Virginia plus ME-02). Those 53 electoral votes in reserve can’t all on net go to Trump. Any vote above the 53 electoral votes that transfer from Democratic to Republican have to be equally balanced by votes going from Trump/Republican to spoiler. A state like North Carolina flipping from lean GOP in a neutral no information environment to a Clinton win because the conservative/reactionary/fascist vote is split two or more ways makes the spoiler task even more difficult.
And here is where the idea goes from interesting speculation over beers to pre-emptive pants shitting.
If there was a third party candidate who get votes from voters whose clear second choice in a three-way is Hillary Clinton then this scenario could make a lot of mechanical sense. That was the entire threat of the Bloomberg run. He tickles a sweet spot for some East Coast Democratic strongholds where he might not have won the state but he could flip the state from reliable Democratic to a Trump win in a 40-38-22 split where most of his voters are strongly anti-Trump votes in a two way race.
Nate Silver has some more on this:
I’ve been working on a model of a potential third-party candidacy. Because we’re writing this story on short notice, I’m going to be more circumspect than usual about describing it. But the basic conclusion is that it’s incredibly hard to find many votes for a center-left third-party candidate without eating substantially into the Democratic coalition….
Bloomberg wins about half of white cosmopolitans, along with about two-thirds of white “picket fence” voters. But he doesn’t make much inroads with the other groups, especially white evangelicals and working-class voters, who mostly go with Trump. Bloomberg takes a few black and Hispanic votes away from Clinton, but not many…
according to our model, this scenario would result in a fairly lopsided Electoral College win for Trump, with Trump getting 311 electoral votes to 181 for Clinton and 46 for Bloomberg, whose wins would be restricted to a handful of predominantly white states like New Hampshire with a high number of moderate and independent voters.
The basic third party insight in the US is that the third party hurts the electoral chances of the candidate who is ideologically closest to the third party. President Bush and Governor LePage have benefited from fractured opposition.
So in this scenario, the Republicans will have nominated Trump as their standard bearer and then are running a shadow spoiler campaign to throw the election into the House. They would be running a fairly generic TRUE CONSERVATIVE (TM) whatever that means this week as the spoiler. The problem is simple; how many voters in a three way election will vote for Generic Republican Spoiler where their preference order in a two way is Hillary Clinton>Trump or Stay Home>Trump>Clinton? Since we live in a politically polarized time, I would be there are not many voters like that.
And worse from this scenario, many voters in the Republican Party have indicated that it would be very difficult for them to vote for Trump but could vote for Generic Spoiler Republican. This would flip soft red states like North Carolina Blue and keep marginal Blue states like Florida very blue. This is what David Frum has been arguing:
Splitting the party can escalate what might otherwise by a 53-47 Hillary Clinton win into a 53-40-7 Hillary Clinton landslide. But rallying around Trump invites a turnout collapse among up-market Republicans, who will not vote Democratic, but cannot vote Trump. And such a turnout collapse will doom Republican down ballot candidates across the country. Goodbye, Senator Portman. That means that the Democratic turnout slide from 2008 to 2012 can continue into 2016—and still deliver a 1980 style sequence of wins in the Senate and in the states.
This piece of preemptive pants pissing identifies a mechanical route but then does not ask a question as to how Generic Republican takes more votes in light Blue states away from Hillary Clinton when the Generic Republican spoiler is running as a “respectable” Generic Repbulican while keeping Trump from winning an electoral majority. If the election was happening in 2010, then something like this could happen with a white, old and pissed off electorate but that is not where we are today. A Generic Republican spoiler raises the question as to whether or not Clinton hit 375 or 400 not whether or not she hits 270.