Could Donald Trump ever be president of the United States? Recent polls have him the #1 candidate for the Republican party at 22%, 12 points ahead of his closest rival Jeb Bush. Pretty scary.
The answer is an unqualified no, he’ll never be president. Here’s why.
When the party chooses a presidential candidate, they want someone with the best chance of winning the election. Hard-core Republicans will vote for any reasonable Republican candidate. And hard-core Democrats will vote against them. So to start, they want a candidate who is popular in the party.
The more important battle is over independent voters, who make up 43% of all voters. But it’s not favorability they are concerned about, because independents tend to be moderate, easily swayed by good arguments that appeal to their self-interests. No, it’s their level of unfavorability. Which candidates do independent voters hate? Which ones will they oppose and never ever under any circumstances vote for?
If we look at a history of U.S. presidential elections, we see that the candidates most likely selected to represent their parties are rated high on FAVORABLE by their own party’s voters, and low on UNFAVORABLE by independent voters.
In 2008, both the Republicans and Democrats were looking for presidential candidates. Hillary Clinton had the most support from Republican voters. But that didn’t earn her the nomination because she also had the least support among independent voters. And both parties chose the candidate favorable to their own party, and low on unfavorable with independent voters: Obama and McCain. (source)
In April 2011, there were 16 presidential candidates. Trump was rated favorable by 58% of Republicans. But he was rated unfavorable by 57% of independents – not electable. Mike Huckabee had the most support from Republican voters, but Mitt Romney had less opposition from independents and was chosen the Republican presidential candidate. (source)
And how about this year? Well, the numbers may change as we learn more about the candidates. But as of August 2015, Trump is once again in that quadrant with high Republican support but high opposition among independent voters. In fact, Jeb Bush is in that same quadrant! Even though Trump and Bush are the front-runners right now to get the Republican presidential nomination, it’s very likely that neither one has enough support to win an election.
So who are the candidates with high Republican support and little objection from independents? They are Ted Cruz, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio. Rand Paul is in the hunt as well. Carly Fiorina could also be a contender if she could get more Republican support; independents have little objection to her. (source)
And what about the Democratic party? Well, Hillary Clinton is considered the front-runner. But 60% of independent are opposed to her so she may be unelectable. The one with the right balance of support from Democrats and lack of opposition from independent voters is Bernie Sanders. (source) But he’s not a strong candidate, just outside of that magic quadrant. In fact, the Dems don’t seem to have any candidates with the right mix of high party support and low independent voter opposition.
Things are likely to change before the election. But at this point, my prediction is Bernie Sanders will be selected for the Democrats although he’s not super-popular among Dems. And notorious Tea Party trouble-maker Ted Cruz may actually be popular enough to get the Republican nod. But Trump has virtually no chance of representing the GOP. Check back in 2016 to see if I was right.
About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.