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7 Mar, 2020 13:32

Bernie or Biden – doesn’t matter. Trump’s election wasn’t a glitch & the trends say he’ll beat the Dems again

Bernie or Biden – doesn’t matter. Trump’s election wasn’t a glitch & the trends say he’ll beat the Dems again

Those engaged in heated arguments over whether Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders is best placed to defeat Trump need to look at the stats, which indicate that the incumbent will be very hard to beat, whoever is up against him.

Unlike most political commenters I didn’t bother staying up late for Super Tuesday. It’s not just that I need my beauty sleep. The results really were a matter of indifference. Why? Trends, dear boy, trends. Any decent racing tipster will tell you that the best way to predict the result of big races is to take a close look at past runnings of the race. No seven-year-old has won a Grand National (Britain’s most famous steeplechase), since 1940. Now every time we get a seven-year-old lining up, we get some people backing it saying ‘this time it will be different’, but it isn’t. There’s a reason why seven year-olds don’t do well in the Grand National – they’re usually too inexperienced.

Look too at the FA Cup. The last time a non-top flight team won the football competition was back in 1980.

For all the talk of the ‘romance’ of the Cup, Premiership sides dominate – and in particular a small number of Premiership sides. Man City, Man Utd, Chelsea and Arsenal have won 11 of the last 13 renewals, and 16 of the last 19. There’s only been one final since 2006 not featuring at least one of those teams. Guess what: All four have made the draw for the quarter-finals again this year.  

What works for sport, also works for politics. Consider this. Since 1976 only two elected Presidents (Carter in 1980 and Bush Snr in 1992), have failed to be re-elected for a second term.

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If we go back further the trend is even more pronounced. Since 1932, just three incumbent presidents have failed to get elected (Ford, Carter and Bush snr). Even George Bush jnr managed to get re-elected after the debacle of Iraq. The ‘norm’, the default position, or whatever you want to call it, is that US presidents get two terms. You could say it’s almost part of the deal with electors. The incumbent has enormous advantages over the challenger. He doesn’t have to appear presidential, because he is presidential. He’s had four years to grow into the role. If things have gone fairly well in his first term he can fight the campaign on a ‘don’t let the other guy ruin it’ platform. If things haven’t gone that well, don’t worry, we need another four years to complete the task.

The challenger inevitably comes across as ‘Mr Angry’ because he is saying things need changing. To which the President counters with “Do you know what, I don’t think my opponent loves this great country. He’s always complaining, and doing America down.”

When an incumbent president hasn’t been re-elected (or elected in the case of Gerald Ford), there’s usually a stand-out reason. In 1932 the Great Depression did for Hoover. In 1976, Watergate did for Ford. He was up against a candidate (Carter) with Mr Smith Goes to Washington appeal, the genial peanut farmer from Georgia who couldn’t tell anyone a lie. But Carter himself only served one term because of the Iranian hostage crisis and the fall-out from the Soviet entry into Afghanistan. The Republicans were able to say that both these came about because Carter was perceived as weak, hence bolstering the appeal of old Cold War hawk Ronald Reagan.

In 1992 Bush senior lost partly because he broke his ‘Read My Lips‘ pledge on taxes but also because the Republicans had held the presidency for 12 years – and voters quite understandably felt it was time for a change.

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None of these factors apply to The Donald. The impeachment was a damp squib which, if anything, only boosted his ratings. His aggressive stance on Iran means he can’t be labeled an ‘appeaser’ and it’s still only four years since we had a Democrat president. Rather than being a glitch, Trump is actually a ‘normal’ president (if we ignore his orange colour) – so the usual rules and trends apply. His victory in 2016 was no freak, actually the stats predicted it.

You have to go back to the Roosevelt/Truman New Deal era to find the last time the Democrats won more than two successive presidential elections, so the odds in any case were against them four years ago. As they are again in 2020.  

In the same way that in Britain the Tories have a better electoral record than Labour, so too do the Republicans have the upper hand over the Democrats. Since 1950, the Tories have been in government for roughly double the amount of time that Labour have. Over the same period the Republicans have held the Presidency for 40 years, the Democrats 30. Like them or loathe them, the Tories and the Republicans are election-winning machines.

Bernie supporters say their man (who is around 16-1 to be the next President), is best placed to defeat Trump because he’s not part of the Clinton/Obama establishment and will mobilize those who didn’t vote last time. ‘Biden his time Joe’ supporters say that their man (who is around 13-8 to make it to the White House), will hoover up ‘moderate’ votes from those who are frightened of both Trump and the ‘communist’ Sanders. Yet both Bidenites and Bernieites are arguably underestimating what their preferred candidates are up against.

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Trump isn’t unbeatable; only that, for him to be beaten, something out of the ordinary must happen.

There’s still time for that, of course, with eight months to polling day, but the likeliest scenario from where things stand at present is that ‘form book’ trends will be followed. That means no seven-year-old winner of the Grand National, another FA Cup win for Man City, Man Utd, Arsenal or Chelsea and four more years for Donald Trump.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.