Trump and a few big ‘What ifs’

by Williams Yamkam ([email protected]) 111 views 

guest commentary by Dr. Williams Yamkam

Editor’s note: Dr. Williams Yamkam is an assistant professor of Political Science at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith where he teaches multiple political science courses including a course on campaigns and elections. Besides the various professional trainings that he has received in campaign operations, he is a graduate of American University’s Campaign Management Institute in Washington, D.C.

Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of Talk Business & Politics or the UAFS administration.


As he prepared to launch his bid for the Republican presidential nomination on June 16, 2015, no serious political prognosticator gave Donald Trump any fighting chance to win the Republican presidential nomination let alone be competitive in the 2016 general election. So far, most political prognosticators have been dead wrong.

Trump has skillfully used his celebrity status, his marketing and branding savvy, and his politically incorrect tone to tap into the anxiety, frustrations, and anger that the Republican electorate has seemingly been harboring for some time. For the past five months, polls after polls have consistently shown Trump as the most preferred choice of Republican voters. Now that we are less than a month away from the first electoral contest in Iowa, one wonders whether the actual votes cast would match the preferences that the voters have been expressing in the polls. And if current polling results translate into real votes, the political environment would likely experience some unpredictable developments.

• What if Donald Trump won Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina?
If the polls are to be believed – and there is nothing at this point that suggests that they shouldn’t be believed – Trump has a very good chance of winning the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1. Per, Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, are locked in a tight fight to win the Iowa Caucuses. Though Cruz edges Trump with an average of 3.9 points, that edge is well within the margin of errors. It is thus quite conceivable that Trump can win the Iowa caucuses if he can effectively execute his campaign ground game plan in Iowa and get his supporters to show up in voting precincts during the Iowa caucuses.

Given that Trump already receives an overwhelming amount of free media coverage, his win in Iowa would provide him with an opportunity to freely saturate the airwaves more so than he already does, which would add to the natural momentum that the winner of the Iowa caucuses usually gets going into the New Hampshire primaries.

From my vantage point, I could see the apparatchiks of the Republican Party and their sympathizers cringe at the prospects of Trump winning the Iowa caucuses, and they could rightly point out that winning the Iowa caucuses is no guarantee for winning the Republican nomination. However, minimizing a probable Trump win in Iowa would be a sign that the Republican Party’s establishment is in denial of the consistent polling strength that the real estate mogul has shown throughout the early primary states in general, and specifically in New Hampshire and in South Carolina.

Per, in New Hampshire Trump leads the rest of the Republican presidential nomination field with an average of 26.3% – a lead of 13% on the next candidate. In South Carolina, his share grows to an average of 33.7% – a lead of 14.4% on the next candidate.

Should Trump’s support in the polls translate into actual votes on Feb. 9 when New Hampshire primary voters head to the polls and on Feb. 20 when South Carolina primary voters head to the polls, he would likely run the table on the competition and would inch closer to clinching the Republican presidential nomination.

Then what? How would the Republican establishment react to the fact that what they had initially thought of as an unlikely eventuality would have then become an unpleasant reality?

• What if Donald Trump won the Republican presidential nomination?
Now that Trump’s staying power atop the Republican presidential nomination field has sapped the not-so-secret desire of the Republican establishment to see him flame out, it may be about time for the Republican establishment and their sympathizers to come to terms with the fact that Trump might wind up as the 2016 Republican presidential nominee. It is understandable that the Republican establishment may abhor the idea of having Trump as the standard bearer of the Republican Party in the 2016 general elections; for Trump’s bombastic style and incendiary/controversial comments may hurt the image of the Republican Party and may contribute to the defeat of many congressional/senatorial and other down ballot Republican candidates.

However, the calculations are quite different from the vantage point of the base of the Republican Party. It seems for many years base voters have been frustrated by the fact that the Republican Party’s establishment has not only failed to fully deliver on the promises made during many campaign cycles but has also seemingly cozied up to the various interests of the elite (businesses, Wall Street, other lobbying groups, etc.) at the expense of addressing the main concerns of the masses (jobs, fair trade, fair and consistent immigration policy enforcement, etc.)

Through the support that Trump has so far enjoyed from a significant segment of the base of the Republican Party, it seems the base of the Republican Party is sending an unequivocal message to the establishment of their party: “For many years, you have taken our votes for granted. You have also pushed for ‘moderate’ Republican presidential nominees who went on to lose the presidential election. Now, we won’t follow your wishes and we’ll support a non-traditional politician who we can trust to do the things that you’ve failed to do. Let the chips fall where they may.”

Trump seems to have shrewdly exploited the chasm that exists between the base and the establishment of the Republican Party. It now remains to be seen whether the Republican establishment would maneuver behind the scenes to torpedo Trump’s candidacy.

Besides, one wonders what would happen if by the Republican Convention on July 18, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio, Trump has the plurality of the delegates but not the majority (at least 1,236 delegates) required to clinch the nomination. Would the Republican Party’s establishment pick a different candidate during a brokered convention at the risk of alienating Trump’s fervent supporters and risk a fatal split with the base of the Republican Party; or would the Republican establishment finally warm up to Trump so as to keep the Republican Party united in the hope of winning back the White House?

Like him or hate him, Trump has undoubtedly turned the presidential campaign upside down. Whether he ultimately wins the Republican nomination, his politically-incorrect tone and his unconventional campaign style would definitely add some value to the body politic.

If only he could refrain from the childish insults he often proffers and shy away from unnecessary controversies …