January 27, 2016


Sorry, Bloomberg: Trump Is Already A Third-Party Candidate (NATE SILVER, 1/27/16, 538)

Sanders, obviously, would be an extremely liberal Democratic nominee. Trump, perhaps less obviously, might wind up being fairly left-of-center for a Republican candidate. So the center-left Bloomberg would be swimming in a crowded lane.

We can visualize this using data from OnTheIssues.org, which categorizes the ideological position of politicians based on their public statements and voting records. OnTheIssues helpfully distinguishes between social and economic issues, allowing for candidates to be "populist" (economically liberal and socially conservative) or "libertarian" (economically conservative and socially liberal) rather than simply conventionally liberal or conservative. And because OnTheIssues has been around for some time, we can track how a candidate's positions have "evolved" with the political winds. The chart below shows the scores for Trump, Sanders and Bloomberg -- both where they stand now and how they positioned themselves earlier in their careers.

Today's Donald Trump is often described as a "populist." But if you define "populism" as OnTheIssues does, meaning someone who's socially conservative but economically liberal, that was more true of him back in 1999 and 2000. That's when Trump was considering his own independent bid for president, calling for a wealth tax on multi-millionaires while already emphasizing the importance of America "[controlling] its own borders." Recently, Trump's positions have become more conservative, although they remain fairly idiosyncratic. [...]

So while a Sanders-Trump-Bloomberg election would leave voters on the center-left with several plausible choices, other groups of voters would be neglected. Notably, there wouldn't be a true, Ronald Reagan-style conservative in the race. The election would also be something of a nightmare for libertarian-inclined voters forced to consider Sanders's big government, Trump's "yuge" government and Bloomberg's technocracy.

You might also notice some demographic similarities between Bloomberg, Sanders and Trump, all old loudmouthed white guys from New York. That's not exactly a diverse group in an election that had once seemed like it might produce the first female or Hispanic president.

Part of the challenge for everyone else is that Trump is more like a third-party candidate than a Republican in many respects, perhaps the closest thing to Ross Perot we've seen for a long time. Judging by his high unfavorable ratings, Trump's appeal is not especially broad, but it cuts through the political coalitions we're used to at some odd angles.

Posted by at January 27, 2016 3:38 PM