Thursday, March 10, 2016

Donald Trump ‘near certain’ to defeat either Democrat in November, says forecaster

THE science is settled: Trump can’t be stumped. The controversial billionaire has an 87 per cent chance of defeating Hillary Clinton in November, and a 99 per cent chance of defeating Bernie Sanders.

That’s according to the Primary Model, a statistical analysis model developed by Stony Brook University political science professor Helmut Norpoth, which has correctly predicted the last five US elections since it was introduced in 1996.

It comes as voters in Hawaii, Idaho, Michigan and Mississippi have their say in the US presidential nominating race, with Trump picking up the latter two states.

The Primary Model relies on the presidential primaries and the election cycle as predictors of the vote in the general election, and Professor Norpoth says early primaries are a leading indicator of electoral victory.

Trump won the Republican primaries in both New Hampshire and South Carolina, while Clinton and Sanders split the Democratic primaries in those states.

“What favours the GOP in 2016 as well, no matter if Trump is the nominee or any other Republican, is a cycle of presidential elections,” he wrote on The Huffington Post.

“After two terms of Democrat Barack Obama in the White House the electoral pendulum is poised to swing to the GOP this year. This cycle, which is illustrated with elections since 1960, goes back a long way to 1828.”

Professor Norpoth says in a match-up between Trump and either Democratic contender, the Primary Model predicts Trump would defeat Clinton by 52.5 per cent to 47.5 per cent of the two-party vote. Against Sanders, Trump would take 57.7 per cent versus 42.3 per cent.

Importantly, Professor Norpoth says that result even factors in Trump’s outrageous comments.

“Winning early primaries is a sign that a candidate has a favourable image,” he wrote in a recent question-and-answer session on reddit. “Whatever past gaffes or scandals might affect a candidate have been absorbed into that image by then.”

Trump was accused of dragging the presidential race into the gutter last week with a reference to his penis size, after rival candidate Marco Rubio made a suggestive comment about Trump having “small hands” at a rally.

“Trump has held pretty steady in the 30s,” Professor Norpoth says. “He does not seem to slip in approval for any stupid, silly, outrageous and offensive remarks. That alone is a new thing.”

This all assumes Trump, who has been hit with an onslaught of attacks from both rivals and the Republican establishment, wins the nomination.

Over the weekend, a secretive meeting of billionaires, tech CEOs and high-ranking Republicans — which included Apple’s Tim Cook, Google co-founder Larry Page and Tesla’s Elon Musk — put their heads together to work out a plan to defeat the real estate mogul.

And in an unprecedented attack last week, former Republican candidate Mitt Romney blasted Trump as a “fraud”. However, a new poll suggests that attack may have actually helped Trump, finding 31 per cent of Republican voters are more likely to vote for him because of Romney’s speech.

Professor Norpoth says he can’t predict the outcome of nomination contest. “But ask yourself, who has not got the nomination in at least the last 60 years who racked as many wins in the primaries as Trump? I can’t think of any,” he said.

In January 2012, Professor Norpoth predicted Barack Obama would defeat Mitt Romney with 88 per cent certainty, and around the same time in 2004 that George W. Bush would be re-elected with more than 95 per cent certainty.

The model pulls in data from every presidential election going back until 1912 — the year the primary system was introduced — to estimate the weight of primary performance.

“That year the candidate who won his party’s primary vote, Woodrow Wilson, went on to defeat the candidate who lost his party’s primary vote, William Howard Taft,” Professor Norpoth writes.

“As a rule, the candidate with the better primary performance, as compared to his or her strongest rival, beats the candidate with the weaker primary performance.”

Applied retroactively, the Primary Model has correctly picked the winner in every presidential election going back to 1912 except for 1960, when John F. Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon.

Professor Norpoth remains cautious, however. “I agree with Mark Twain,” he wrote. “Prophecy is good business, but it is full of risks.”



Michael Needham was stoking fear in Republicans long before Donald Trump

Before Donald Trump began terrorizing the Republican establishment, there was Michael Needham.

The 35-year-old conservative prodigy has spent six years instilling panic in Washington Republicans as head of Heritage Action for America. But instead of pitching himself as the solution to D.C.’s problems, Needham conducts his own slash-and-burn campaign to rid Congress of policies and players he sees as insufficiently conservative — many of them fellow Republicans.

His strategy at Heritage Action is deceptively simple: identify votes that should be important to the conservative base, then grade lawmakers on where they stand. The result has been chaos and gridlock on Capitol Hill, as Republicans rush to side with Heritage Action and avoid the friendly fire of the 1.9 million grassroots conservatives in its network.

Needham, a native New Yorker who has never worked on Capitol Hill, is unapologetic about leading one of Washington’s most feared advocacy groups.

“The anger [from voters] comes from a place that is profoundly right,” Needham said in an interview, referring to Trump’s political success. “I think we [Heritage Action] have landed exactly where the mood of the electorate is. I think that is why politicians are channeling our message. A Trump election or nomination is a complete vindication that Washington needs to change.”

Washington Republicans might panic at the thought of a Trump presidency, but Needham says he does not. He believes that underneath the bluster, the businessman is malleable on specifics — specifics that Needham and his team could provide.

“A President Trump who tries to find policies that address the themes he’s been addressing would be a fantastic opportunity for us to shape the policy agenda,” he said.

Needham has been channeling Trump-style anger at the nation’s capital and his own party since 2010, when he founded Heritage Action, an independent sister organization of the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation. His group isn’t endorsing in the presidential race, but it is known for its close ties to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who shows a similar dedication to breaking Washington from the inside.

Though Heritage Action has failed to achieve some of its larger goals, such as stopping ObamaCare, Needham’s work has had a profound impact on how business is conducted in Washington. The fact that legislative brinkmanship is now routine is no accident: the near-misses on funding the government, raising the debt ceiling and approving must-pass bills are all but ordained in the Heritage Action playbook as ways of extracting policy concessions.

At the moment, Heritage Action is pressuring Senate Republicans to block President Obama’s eventual Supreme Court nominee and House Republicans to lower federal spending targets in their next budget. Both battles will help determine the group’s influence in the final year of Obama’s presidency, and set the temperature of Heritage Action’s relationship with new House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

 More HERE


The Seen and Unseen

By Walter E. Williams

Claude Frederic Bastiat (1801-50) -- a French classical liberal theorist, political economist and member of the French National Assembly -- wrote an influential essay titled "That Which Is Seen and That Which Is Not Seen." Bastiat argued that when making laws or economic decisions, it is imperative that we examine not only what is seen but what is unseen. In other words, examine the whole picture.
Americans who support tariffs on foreign goods could benefit immensely from Bastiat's admonition. A concrete example was the Bush administration's 8 to 30 percent tariffs in 2002 on several types of imported steel. They were levied in an effort to protect jobs in the ailing U.S. steel industry.

Those tariffs caused the domestic price for some steel products, such as hot-rolled steel, to rise by as much as 40 percent. The clear beneficiaries of the steel tariffs were steel industry executives and stockholders and the 1,700 or so steelworkers whose jobs were saved. But there is no such thing as a free lunch or a something-for-nothing machine. Whenever there is a benefit of doing something, there is a guaranteed cost.
A study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, predicted that saving those 1,700 jobs in the steel industry would cost American consumers $800,000 per job, in the form of higher prices. That's just the monetary side of the picture. According to a study commissioned by the Consuming Industries Trade Action Coalition, steel-using industries -- such as the U.S. auto industry, its suppliers, heavy construction equipment manufacturers and others -- were harmed by higher steel prices.

It is estimated that the steel tariffs caused at least 4,500 job losses in no fewer than 16 states, with over 19,000 jobs lost in California, 16,000 in Texas and about 10,000 each in Ohio, Michigan and Illinois. In other words, industries that use steel were forced to pay higher prices, causing them to have to raise prices on what they produced. As a result, they became less competitive in both domestic and international markets and thus had to lay off workers.
Tariff policy beneficiaries are always seen, but its victims are mostly unseen. Politicians love this. The reason is simple. The beneficiaries know for whom to cast their ballots and to whom to give campaign contributions. Most often, the victims do not know whom to blame for their calamity.
Here's my question to those who want to use tariffs to fight cheap imports in the name of saving jobs: Seeing as back in 2002, the typical hourly wage of a steelworker ranged between $15 and $20, in addition to fringe benefits -- so we might be talking about an annual wage package averaging $50,000 to $55,000 -- how much sense did it make for American consumers to have to pay $800,000 in higher prices, not to mention lost employment in steel-using industries, to save each job?

It would have been cheaper to tax ourselves and give each of those 1,700 steelworkers a $100,000 annual check. Doing so would have been far less costly to Americans than the steel tariffs, but it would have been politically impossible. Why? The cost of protecting those steel jobs would have been apparent and hence repulsive to most Americans. Tariffs conceal such costs.
When Congress creates a special privilege for some Americans, it must of necessity come at the expense of other Americans. Then Americans who are harmed, such as the steel-using auto industry, descend on Congress asking for some kind of relief for themselves. It all reminds me of a passage in a Negro spiritual play written by Marcus Cook Connelly, titled "The Green Pastures," wherein God laments to the angel Gabriel, "Every time Ah passes a miracle, Ah has to pass fo' or five mo' to ketch up wid it."

"I think Congress ought to get out of the miracle business and leave miracle-making up to God.



Socialism in action


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