FORECASTS & TRENDS E-LETTER
by Gary D. Halbert
November 15, 2016
1. The Embarrassment Election: Few Bumper Stickers & Yard Signs
2. “Trump’s Secret Weapon: Obama” by Kimberley Strassel
3. Parting Thoughts on How Trump Pulled Off a Stunning Victory
As long-time clients and readers know, I have kept a fairly low political profile as we moved through this year’s election season, as opposed to previous years when I was an outspoken supporter for the conservative candidates.
One reason is that, like many of you, I didn’t care much for either candidate. I did go on the record a few weeks ago saying that I did not want to see the Clintons return to the White House, which made me a reluctant Trump supporter. In light of Trump’s surprise thrashing of Hillary in the Electoral College, I will offer some personal thoughts on the election today.
Following that, I have reprinted the very best analysis I have seen on how and why the election turned out as it did. This excellent article was written by Kimberley Strassel of the Wall Street Journal. Kim has become one of my favorite writers in recent years, so I trust you will enjoy her keen analysis on why the election went to Trump. (Hint: She argues that it was President Obama who is primarily responsible for Trump’s victory.)
Next I’ll add some parting thoughts on how the media got this election so very wrong. I will also add some thoughts on what we should be watching for just ahead to help us get a read on what kind of president Donald Trump may be.
The Embarrassment Election: Few Bumper Stickers & Yard Signs
In preparing today’s E-Letter, my first thought was not to say anything about the election. Yet some of my colleagues in the office felt strongly that long-time clients and readers would want to know my thoughts on this historic election. Plus, many of my friends have wanted to know what I think about the election results and how the media and pollsters got it so utterly wrong.
While Hillary Clinton had a comfortable lead over Donald Trump for most of the campaign, I noticed something in Austin in October which made me believe that Trump could win. Austin is a very political city and a liberal one at that. Normally in presidential campaigns we see thousands and thousands of bumper stickers and yard signs for both candidates, but especially for the liberal candidate.
Yet this year was totally different. I saw almost no bumper stickers and no yard signs – not for Hillary or Trump. Normally, Hillary bumper stickers and yard signs would be everywhere in this town. This told me two things: One that local support for Hillary was weak; and two that Trump supporters may have been too embarrassed to display bumper stickers or yard signs. I think that is exactly what happened in many parts of the country.
For a much more detailed analysis of the election results, I have reprinted an excellent article from one of my favorite writers, Kimberly Strassel of the Wall Street Journal. Kim believes that this election was not so much about Hillary or Trump, but in fact was a “thundering repudiation” of President Obama and his unpopular policies.
In the article, Kim breaks down just how bad Mr. Obama has been for the Democrat Party, not only in Congress but also for governors and state legislatures. You’ll definitely want to see these very interesting statistics.
TRUMP’S SECRET WEAPON: OBAMA
Not to take away from the GOP victory, but
this was a rejection of Obama’s governing.
by Kimberley A. Strassel, Wall Street Journal
In 2009, the president’s first year in office, the Democrats held 257 House seats, a majority that was geographically and politically diverse. After Tuesday the figure stands at 193, and fully one-third of these Democrats hail from three blue states: New York, California and Massachusetts.
The story is equally grim for Democrats in the Senate. In 2009 they held the first filibuster-proof majority [60+ votes] since the 1970s, which evaporated in the wake of ObamaCare. Tuesday’s vote was the best chance Democrats will have in years to retake the chamber, but they lost nearly every close race.
When Mr. Obama took office, Democrats owned 29 governorships. After Tuesday it is 15, with ballots in North Carolina’s tight race still being counted. Democrats controlled 60 of the 99 state legislative chambers in 2010. Today it is 30. Now that Republicans have won the Kentucky state House for the first time in 95 years, Democrats no longer control a single legislative chamber in the South. The party of the left will hold the governorship and both chambers in precisely five states. [Emphasis mine.]
Let’s not be chintzy: There’s plenty of Democratic blame to go around. Mrs. Clinton could have run a “change” campaign and moved her party back toward the centrism that earned Bill Clinton all those white, working-class voters. She instead catered to the progressive left. One exit poll shows Mrs. Clinton won union households by 2 percentage points, when Mr. Obama carried them by 18. Of the 207 swing counties that went for Mr. Obama only once (in 2008 or 2012), Mr. Trump won 194. This is an utter abandonment of the Democratic Party that Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton led. [Emphasis mine.]
The other obvious risk is that Mr. Trump might try to fix all of the Obama mess, all at once. That’s a recipe for a muddle. Republicans could do nothing smarter in the coming weeks than agree to prioritize a few sweeping, key initiatives—say, health care and tax reform—that would immediately boost the economy. Earning public trust with big, early victories will buy time for more reform down the road.
Republicans have been elected as the anti-Obamas. Which means they’ve been elected to make things better. If they can remember that, they have a shot. END QUOTE
Parting Thoughts on How Trump Pulled Off the Stunning Victory
Long-time clients and readers may recall that I predicted Mitt Romney would defeat President Obama in the presidential election of 2012. A few weeks before that election, Romney had pulled even with Obama in most of the polls and actually ahead in some polls. I thought he had the momentum and would win the election. He didn’t, of course.
What we learned after the 2012 election was that some five million GOP voters decided to sit out the election and not vote. That decision handed the election to Obama. Theories abounded regarding why the GOP voters stayed home. Maybe they weren’t enthused by the rich guy. Maybe it was because he was a Mormon. Whatever the reason, GOP turnout was terrible.
In the latest election, the same thing happened to Hillary Clinton, only worse. The estimates are that some six million Democrat voters decided not to vote (at least not for president) – despite the largest “get out the vote” effort in history. Many of them were in critical “swing states” which allowed Trump to win states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin and defeat Clinton by an unexpectedly wide margin in the Electoral College.
The question is, how could the pollsters and the media have gotten it so wrong? To answer that, I go back to the argument I made above – that many Trump voters would not admit they were going to vote for Trump, and this skewed the polls in favor of Hillary for the last year.
Now let me switch gears and turn from how the media got the election so wrong to what we need to be watching most closely in the next few weeks. No one knows what kind of president Donald Trump may be, but what will tell us a great deal is who he picks for some key Cabinet appointments. Here’s what to watch for.
There are two Cabinet positions that really matter in every presidential administration. First, there is the Secretary of State. Second, there is the Secretary of the Treasury. The other Cabinet positions of importance are the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, which determines who is going to get prosecuted, and the Department of Homeland Security, which is the real enforcement arm of the government.
Watch closely who gets appointed to these five positions. That will tell you the direction of the Trump administration. The other Cabinet appointments are basically “place-holders” who wield very little power in reality.
On Sunday, Trump selected Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus as his White House Chief of Staff. This is a disappointment for many conservatives since Priebus is about as “Establishment” as you can get, and he will have the most daily access to President Trump for the next four years.
And finally, don’t forget that in the last few weeks of the campaign, Trump advocated for “term limits” for members of Congress. He mentioned it again in an interview on CBS’ 60 Minutes on Sunday. Hopefully, he is serious about this even though the odds of it passing are slim to none.
So pay special attention to who Trump taps for his top five Cabinet appointments just ahead, and whether he follows up on his call for term limits. This will tell us if Trump is really an “outsider” or if he is just another politician.