The idea that a celebrity, reality TV star could become US President always seemed faintly ridiculous – until Donald Trump defied the commentariat and betting odds to win the Republican nomination.
Betfair punters take a similarly dim view about his general election chances, rating him only 22% likely to beat Hillary Clinton at odds of 4.6 but could everyone be wrong again? My confident conclusion is no, for at least these seven reasons…
1. Republican primary voters are not representative of the wider electorate
While he won 14m primary votes, Trump will need nearly five times as many in November, tapping a very different pool. The type of swing voter that determines national elections always differs from those motivated to turn out in primaries. They are less partisan, hold a more balanced worldview and often only engage the process during the final few weeks.
In this extreme case, they are miles apart. Even in the key states where Trump performed best – Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida – he is trailing Clinton by big margins. By enthusing a substantial minority with his maverick candidacy, he changed the maths and make up of the GOP electorate, but that does not reflect a wider change in US opinion.
Consider this one simple measure. President Obama usually records an approval rating above 50%. By definition, Trump needs to win some of these voters, despite repeatedly smearing Obama and declaring his era a disaster. Having laughed off Trump’s infamous ‘birther’ theory, Obama is now on the front foot, labelling Trump ‘woefully unprepared’ and calling on Republicans to dump him.
2. A head-to-head with Clinton is far less suitable for Trump than the 17-strong GOP cage fight