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“Consolidating His Bracket”: An Explanation For Why Trump Is Ahead Right Now

After the second Republican debate, I saw something happening among GOP voters that I attempted to define as the difference between Trump supporters and what I called “Goldwater Republicans.” Then, along came John Judis with his description of the former as Middle American Radicals (MARS). Ultimately, what this is all about is the difference between blue collar and white collar Republicans. When it comes to actual voters, rather than the candidates or their degree of experience or their connection (or lack thereof) to the establishment, or even their religious affiliation, this is the difference that matters when analyzing the current contest for the Republican presidential nomination.

Apparently Ron Brownstein (with an assist from GOP pollster Glen Bolger) has come to the same conclusion.

The blue collar wing of the Republican primary electorate has consolidated around one candidate.

The party’s white collar wing remains fragmented.

That may be the most concise explanation of the dynamic that has propelled Donald Trump to a consistent and sometimes commanding lead in the early stages of the GOP presidential nomination contest.

Here is why that is important.

That disparity is critical because in both the 2008 and 2012 GOP nomination fights, voters with and without a four year college degree each cast almost exactly half of the total primary votes, according to cumulative analyses of exit poll results by ABC pollster Gary Langer. With the two wings evenly matched in size, Trump’s greater success at consolidating his “bracket” explains much of his advantage in the polls.

You might recall that Judis pegged the number of MARS voters at approximately 30-35% of Republican voters and 20% of the electorate.

For those who are either convinced of Trump’s eventual demise or think that he can’t be beat, here’s what it comes down to:

Bolger predicts that upscale and white collar Republicans will eventually unify around a single alternative to Trump after the early voting culls the field. “Given how much Trump is dominating the campaign, the fact that he does so much worse with college graduates underscores that they are not buying into either his message or persona,” Bolger said. “That’s not who he is targeting his message to.”

But because so many candidates are running competitively with those voters – including Carson, Fiorina, Rubio, sometimes Bush, Kasich, Christie, and Trump himself – they face the common risk in the race’s early stages that they will splinter the white collar vote so much that they can’t overcome Trump’s blue collar support. If that pattern allowed Trump to win not only Iowa, which has frequently favored conservatives, but establishment friendly early states such as New Hampshire and South Carolina, a more centrist opponent may find it difficult to reverse his momentum.

In other words, either white collar Republicans coalesce around a Trump alternative soon, or he starts winning primaries and becomes difficult to beat. How’s that for pinpoint political prognostication? It might not be terribly definitive. But it just so happens to be spot-on when it comes to the Republican presidential nominating process right now.


By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 19, 2015

October 21, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Voters | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“MARS Voters Vs Goldwater Republicans”: The Definitive Description Of Trump Supporters

As I speculated previously, now that the media’s obsession with Trump-mania has been interrupted by actual news, “the Donald” continues to fall in the polls. It’s not that Trump has changed his tune. He continues to say inflammatory and ignorant things. But with the Pope’s visit, Boehner’s resignation (followed by the chaos that’s about to ensue in the House leadership elections), and the shooting in Oregon, we actually have some other things to talk about.

And so it’s interesting to note that, just as all that is happening, John Judis writes what is likely to become the definitive description of Trump supporters. Referring to a 1976 book by Donald Warren, he calls them Middle American Radicals (MARS).

“MARS are dis­tinct in the depth of their feel­ing that the middle class has been ser­iously neg­lected,” Warren wrote. They saw “gov­ern­ment as favor­ing both the rich and the poor sim­ul­tan­eously.”

I would simply note that it would be a more accurate description of MARS if we added one word: “MARS are distinct in the depth of their feeling that the white middle class has been seriously neglected.” Also, since the 1970’s we have increasingly made the distinction between blue collar and white collar middle class – the former being what we refer to as “working class,” who are the heart of the MARS demographic.

Judis suggests that these are the voters who supported candidates in the past like George Wallace, Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan. Where this is especially helpful in understanding the MARS voters of today is that Judis explains the ingredients that contribute to a burst of Middle American Radicalism: (1) “a widespread sense of national decline,” (2) “pronounced distrust of leadership in Washington,” and (3) a leader to play the catalyzing role.

What many have been noting for a while now (including me) is that the conservative sense of national decline is fueled by the fact that the white male patriarchy is dying – both as a domestic force and around the world. The fact that our President is African American and their Republican leaders have failed to stop him has inflamed their sense of distrust in Washington. Along comes Donald Trump to tap into all of that.

But when it comes to the candidacy of Trump, here is where Judis provides some optimism: MARS voters tend to make up 20% of the electorate and 30-35% of Republicans. That reality is demonstrated by this chart from a recent Pew poll (note: they polled registered voters rather than likely voters, which is probably wise this far out of a general election). Trump’s support peaks with non-college educated voters who make less than $40,000.

What’s also interesting to note is that the number of registered voters who are undecided at this point is about 25%. Among those who have decided, support for Rubio and Fiorina peak among college educated voters who make $75,000 or more. That tends to support what I’ve said previously about “Goldwater Republicans.”

The wild card in all this are the Carson supporters – who are pretty evenly dispersed (except for the fact that he gets less support among those who make less than $40,000). If there comes a time that Carson overtakes Trump in the polls (as he did recently in an IDB/TIPP poll), he will likely come under more scrutiny by the media and other Republican candidates. That’s when we’ll learn whether or not he has staying power or is the 2016 version of Herman Cain (my money is on the latter).


By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 6, 2015

October 6, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Republican Voters, White Middle Class | , , , , , | 1 Comment


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