Donald Trump is an egomaniac, a racist, a liar, and a cheat, and he has no idea of public affairs or foreign policy.
So say his critics and opponents, some of them members of the party that has nominated him for president. The media has uncovered his misdeeds, some of them possibly illegal.
If that’s true, why do the numbers crunchers find that he has anywhere from a 14 to 44 percent chance of being elected? Apparently, many people simply deny his negatives or they don’t matter to them.
There seems to be several, overlapping reasons for his unexpectedly good chances.
First, there are die-hard Republicans, who sound like the old “yellow dog Democrats.” They were said to be willing to vote for a yellow dog on their party’s ticket rather than any Republican.
These voters worry about the long-term survival of the party if it were wiped out in a national election. They may not like Trump. They only need him to do well enough not to ruin the GOP brand and harm its other candidates running this year.
Then, there are Americans who worry about the passing of the old order in which white men dominated government and the private sector. They may think equal treatment of women and minorities is merely “politically correct.” Even worse, they may be racists who believe they have at last found their public spokesman.
Trump may be a demagogue, but he sends these people signals that he would be a president who would listen to their concerns. When says he will “make America great again,” they tell the BBC that they hear “make America white again.” These are the voters Hillary Clinton ill advisedly called “deplorables.”
Estimates of the number of voters holding these views range from five to 25 percent. Add them to the die-hard Republicans and Trump can starts counting votes from a good base.
And some voters dislike Clinton so strongly they will vote for Trump as the lesser of two evils. Many of them can be found in the first two groups.
She has not reduced the problem. Clinton comes across to many as untrustworthy, mainly because she reveals so little of herself. She is far too much a lawyer, using arguments and excuses that might work in court but don’t convince voters. Trump tries to make Clinton’s greater experience work against her.
The Democrat might be more open about herself, her specific actions when in office, and her mistakes. A more revealing and humble candidate, giving off less of an aura of superiority to the rest of us, could reverse some mistrust of her.
She has a problem with the media. As Trump’s faults pile up, the media seems determined to match them with her errors. That kind of reporting is what passes for being fair and objective. Some voters accept the supposed equality of error as true.
Lacking much positive to say about Trump, the media says little positive about Clinton’s record in helping youth and serving in public office. That kind of reporting balance is inadequate and unfair. The debates may force change in how s is covered.
Finally, frustration with the failures of the federal government to free itself from total partisanship and to find compromises has led to many believing that only radical change would work.
With Sen. Bernie Sanders gone from the race, only Trump offers the prospect of such change. The news that no Fortune 100 CEO supports Trump is probably a plus for him.
Trump has no clear policy to bring about change and end gridlock. He seems not to understand that he cannot use his negotiation practices and bravado to overrule Congress or to get other countries to acquiesce in his foreign policy.
Still, the political situation seems so desperate to many voters that they are willing to give Trump a blank check. They don’t know what he would do, but they see it as a certainty that he would end Washington’s business as usual.
If Trump can avoid offending some of these voters by racist outbursts, they could add significantly to his support. With them, the polls show he closes the gap in the popular vote. Plus Trump believes that some voters will not divulge their support for him to pollsters.
Trump’s shortcomings may not matter to his supporters, and hammering on them won’t change their view. The result is this is turning out to be an election that Clinton is trying to save, but could be Trump’s to win.