The Election No One Can Win

I am sure you have heard by now that Donald Trump cannot win the presidential election in November. It simply is not possible. But have you also heard that Ted Cruz cannot win? And neither can Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush. On the Democratic side it looks no better. Bernie Sanders absolutely cannot win a general election, but neither can Hillary Clinton. The thing is though, someone has to win.

This time of the election cycle is usually filled with the media and voters discussing, debating, and arguing over who should be our next president. In any democracy, these conversations are important, worthwhile, and hopefully productive most of the time.

In 2016, however, we are having fewer discussions of who should be president, and devoting an annoyingly huge amount of time on who can be president. As the above links demonstrate, there are a whole host of people willing to write articles and go on the airwaves to confidently announce that a particular candidate “cannot” win. And most of these forecasters are not even couching their beliefs with qualifiers such as “probably” or “most likely.” Many of these pundits will claim to “know” what is going to happen.

People who want to make these certain or near-certain predictions are forgetting a key thing: 2016 is a lot different from prior election cycles. The landscape is already littered with the carcasses of pundits who have been proven wrong. Actually, that last sentence reflects a hope as opposed to reality. We all know there is no cost to making wrong predictions in the political world. Fact is, bold predictions generate a lot of clicks, and getting proven wrong later is a detail most people don’t care about.

To demonstrate just how impossible it is to predict what is going to happen in 2016, keep in mind that Nate Silver—who most consider to be the most reliable political forecaster—repeatedly said back in August and September that Trump would “lose the nomination.” Silver gave Trump just a 5% chance of winning his party’s nomination, and a much lower chance of winning the general election. Silver also repeatedly compared Donald Trump to flash-in-the-pan candidates like Herman Cain and Michelle Bachmann who held the lead in the 2012 GOP primary for a week or two before flaming out. Now that Trump has been leading in the polls for more than six months, Nate Silver is predicting Trump to win the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire primary—a feat no Republican has ever accomplished who not already president. Looks like Mr. Silver got a little too sure of his own powers of prediction.

If Nate Silver can get it wrong, so can you. And so can your preferred pundit.

People looking for a real assessment of a candidate’s chances of winning the White House in 2016 should look to bookies—you know, people who actually put their money where their mouth is. For instance, if you want to place a bet on this election, you can go to a site like Below are the odds paddypower gives the six candidates listed above of winning the White House?

  • Hillary Clinton – 47.6%
  • Donald Trump – 25.0%
  • Marco Rubio – 14.3%
  • Bernie Sanders – 12.5%
  • Ted Cruz – 5.3%
  • Jeb Bush – 4.8%

I realize these odds do not add up to exactly 100% because they are betting odds, but it gives you a sense of how Vegas assesses these candidates’ chances, and I have a whole lot more faith in them than I do someone looking to get noticed on CNN (not that I have much faith even in Vegas in a year like this). Moreover, no one knows with any certainty what is going to happen, as I explained in detail a few months ago. Looking to all of the pundits who wrote the political obituaries for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump six months ago, my assessment on this point has not changed.

In 2016, shut-out the ever-droning pundits who want to click-bait you to death with their predictions. Vote your conscience—at least in the primaries.



4 Responses to “The Election No One Can Win”

  1. I have a bet with my friend C in Florida, we made it in November — his chocolate is on Jeb and mine’s on Rubio for the nomination. Increasingly I’m wondering (like the post says!) if neither of us will win. Because of the deep, deep flaws of each Republican, a brokered convention grows more and more likely by the day. Cruz? Not likable. Trump? Not electable. But they’re both going to win tons of early delegates.

    • A bet on Jeb in November? I question your friend’s political acumen. 🙂

      I will weigh in on the predicting game, but will do so with the all-important caveat that I cannot predict the future, and would put no money on these predictions.

      I think despite his Iowa win and his $50 million in the bank, Cruz is pretty much done. He will be lucky to capture 10% in New Hampshire. Cruz will win some delegates along the way, but I think the GOP side will soon be widowed down to two serious contenders: Trump and whomever the GOP establishment rallies behind. It looks like that is most likely going to be Rubio, but I see a narrow path for Kasich. I had initially thought Cruz had a chance, but I have been surprised at how quickly the evangelicals have been willing to shift to Trump. Those transitions obviate the need for a theocrat to go deep (like Santorum and Huckabee in years past).

      – Dylan

  2. Yep, way to early for any pundit to decide. I’m working on a “fictitious” political site (won’t say it here because I don’t want you to think I’m spamming). Needless to say, it is still basically my opinion. So while we’re prognosticating, here’s a prediction (of course, bearing in mind your cautions above):

    For the Dems, I think the ticket will be President Bernie Sanders & Vice-President Elizabeth Warren. As you note above, 2016 is very different from past elections. This prediction probably goes against all the educated pundits but who cares. I believe Bernie has set forth his agenda and philosophy (the development of an oligarchy, Wall Street influence, the need for education and healthcare for all, etc.). However, now that his position is known, this prediction depends upon him now being able to communicate to the American people how he will pay for it. He does have a plan (and whether one agrees with it or not, he does have a plan) but I don’t think a lot of people know what the plans are, i.e., the specifics. The initial response by the naysayers is “So how ya gonna pay for it?” Give them an answer. Specifics. Now. Make it understandable. I believe Hillary will unfortunately begin to feel the weight of the email scandals. She’ll push on but I think it will take a little toll each time. Her connections to Wall Street will also become amplified and the campaign will appear to be in panic mode. Not good for drumming up votes. I think the vote will be close but Sanders comes out in the end. Bernie’s main foe may not be Hillary per se but the DNC machine which is often perceived to be an extension of the HRC campaign. And Elizabeth Warren is simply an excellent completion to the “revolution”.

    For the GOP, I predict the ticket will be President Marco Rubio & Vice-President John Kasich. I see Rubio patiently awaiting for the Trump-Cruz to flame out. Once folks realize that these are two 9th grade adolescents squaring off on the school playground, smart GOPers are going to want someone with a little poise. Introducing Marco Rubio. You know the GOP establishment and deep pockets are pissing in their pants thinking Trump or Cruz can win. One little chink in their armor and the full force of Republican money will turn that crack into a chasm, all in the name of King Marco. I think Trump after losing a couple of consecutive primaries will find a way to “honorably” bail out, stating that he has been treated unfairly and, based on principle, he will refuse to be a part of the charade. Of course, he will exclaim how he shaped the ticket and will work hard to make sure a GOP victory is certain (then he will slowly fade back into reality TV). Kasich doesn’t seem to really have too many negatives for most folks. He’s a older than Rubio so he can provide a little fatherly guidance when needed. He’s a bit of a moderate which can yang Rubio’s yin. And of course, he has Ohio.

    Am I off base? Who knows? Who cares? Get involved! Hope I wasn’t too long winded.

    Thanks BlueBros!

    • Mark – Thank you for reading and offering up your own political prognostications. No science there, but still fun to read. I provided my own GOP analysis above.

      I think your prediction of a Rubio/Kasich ticket is very wise. I think Kasich would be a formidable opponent at the top or bottom of the ticket because he has much experience, seems moderate (but only when compared to his rivals for president), and he is from Ohio.

      On the Democratic side, I have a very different take. Bernie still has to be considered the underdog. He needs to start seeing DRAMATIC shifts in the national polls. Quinnipiac’s poll today provided some hope on that front, but that is just one poll. All the rest show him down 10 to 20 points.

      If Bernie did win, I can virtually guarantee he would NEVER choose Elizabeth Warren. Vice-presidential picks are about balancing the ticket in order to help the nominee win. Bernie is an old, white, New England liberal. He will not choose another old, white, New England liberal (Warren will be 67 on Election Day). The one really good thing about Warren is that she will fire up the base, but Bernie is already doing that. Bringing Warren onto the ticket does nothing, IMHO, to help Bernie win the presidency. And perhaps more important, I think Bernie would want her in the Senate rather than sitting as a figurehead at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

      Bernie will look to find a nominee to fill as many of these demos as possible: female, minority, foreign policy experience, young, and from a swing state. I don’t think Hillary would want the job (unless she thought she had a chance of ascending to the presidency if 75-year old Bernie kicks the bucket). My hope is that he picks Sherrod Brown. Senator Brown is a true liberal, 12 years younger, a great union guy, a great campaigner, and is from Ohio.

      Thanks for reading. And feel free to plug your page.

      – Dylan

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