Donald Trump’s nomination as an unintended consequence of Citizens United

April 17, 2017
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(This article was originally published at Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science, and syndicated at StatsBlogs.)

The biggest surprise of the 2016 election campaign was Donald Trump winning the Republican nomination for president.

A key part of the story is that so many of the non-Trump candidates stayed in the race so long because everyone thought Trump was doomed, so they were all trying to grab Trump’s support when he crashed. Instead, Trump didn’t crash, and he benefited from the anti-Trump forces not coordinating on an alternative.

David Banks shares a theory of how it was that these candidates all stayed in so long:

I [Banks] see it as an unintended consequence of Citizens United. Before that [Supreme Court] decision, the $2000 cap on what individuals/corporations could contribute largely meant that if a candidate did not do well in one of the first three primaries, they pretty much had to drop out and their supporters would shift to their next favorite choice. But after Citizens United, as long as a candidate has one billionaire friend, they can stay in the race through the 30th primary if they want. And this is largely what happened. Trump regularly got the 20% of the straight-up crazy Republican vote, and the other 15 candidates fragmented the rest of the Republicans for whom Trump was the least liked candidate. So instead of Rubio dropping out after South Carolina and his votes shifting over to Bush, and Fiorino dropping out and her votes shifting to Bush, so that Bush would jump from 5% to 10% to 15% to 20% to 25%, etc., we wound up very late in the primaries with Trump looking like the most dominant candidate to field.

Of course, things are much more complex than this facile theory suggests, and lots of other things were going on in parallel. But it still seems to me that this partly explains how Trump threaded the needle to get the Republican nomination.

Interesting. I’d not seen this explanation before so I thought I’d share it with you.

The post Donald Trump’s nomination as an unintended consequence of Citizens United appeared first on Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science.



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