Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. A Generic Republican vs. Hillary: What If?

 

romney-clintonMuch talk before the election was given to how much better another candidate (insert generic Republican here) would have been doing against Hillary Clinton. Such a debate is of course unnecessary now since Donald Trump has won (bigly even). But, the question still has cropped up if someone else would have done better than Trump has done. Such a question of course is impossible to really answer in any kind of objective way. Too many counterfactuals and possibilities exist to be able to account for them. Yet, one possible option to test this hypothesis, has occurred to me, and I decided to put it to the test.

The Hypothesis: Mitt Romney is the quintessential generic Republican candidate. If he ran again in 2016 vs. Clinton and received all the same votes he did in 2012 would this allow him to beat Clinton if she received all the votes she got in 2016?

The experimental design is very simple. I went on a state-by-state basis comparing in each state the vote totals between Romney in 2012 and Clinton in 2016. Who ever had the most votes won the state (I didn’t factor in the Nebraska and Maine splitting because I was just too lazy to be that detailed). There are numerous problems with this kind of straight-up comparison, the biggest being that it assumes that Romney could not in 2016 get more votes than he got in 2012, that there is no overlap in voters between the two candidates, and that no new voters would turn out to vote for either.

In 2012 Romney got 60,933,504 million votes and in 2016 Clinton got a total of 59,938,290 (at least so far; there are still votes being counted even now). This means that generic Republican Romney wins the popular vote which is better than what Trump has done (Trump is currently trailing Clinton by about 230,000 votes. But, the popular vote means squat. How does this translate into electoral college votes? 

Romney would have won the following states against Hillary: AL, AK, AZ, AR, CO, GA, ID, IN, KS, KY, LA, MS, MO, MT, NE, NC, ND, OH, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WA, WI, WY. This would have resulted in 255 electoral votes and a loss. So while generic Romney would have done well in a popular vote battle, he would have failed to win the actual election, because he would have failed to get Florida. The Sunshine State is one of the few in which Clinton outperformed Obama as compared to 2012. Trump outperformed Romney in battleground states like MI, OH, PA and FL. In fact, Trump got 400,000 more votes in Florida than Romney. This is what gave him the victory.

So while there are numerous caveats to this analysis, I would conclude that no generic Republican could have done much better on an electoral vote level than Trump did. This is because the generic Republican would have had to win the same states as Trump, which he did through a massive turnout of blue-collar whites. What the generic Republican of this test offered over Trump is just a more narrow loss in deep blue states with one oddball pick up of Washington state. Perhaps the generic Republican could have achieved the same electoral vote results as Trump but with a different set of voters. There is no way to test this though.

There are 60 comments.

  1. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member
    Misthiocracy grudgingly Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I gotta comment on the idea that Trump won “big”. This was just as much a 50/50 election as any of the other elections of the past 24 years.

    You gotta go back to 1992 to find an election that wasn’t basically a 50/50 split.

    • #1
    • November 10, 2016, at 8:34 AM PST
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  2. Valiuth Member
    Valiuth Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    well he won big electorally, and perhaps its magnitude is also enhanced by its surprise. Obama won very decisively in 2008. So I am not sure what you mean. This election certainly wasn’t a Reagan 1980 win.

    • #2
    • November 10, 2016, at 8:43 AM PST
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  3. Profile Photo Member

    Trump’s victory was interesting in the states he brought into play. It was noted in election night coverage that Hillary was so over-confident in Wisconsin that she did not visit there at all. I had a similar thought on election night (though I was more lazy and did not look into it at all) thinking, what states would have a different republican won? Being from Pennsylvania, I do not know if any of the other candidates would have won PA. Probably not Wisconsin or Michigan either.

    • #3
    • November 10, 2016, at 8:45 AM PST
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  4. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member
    Misthiocracy grudgingly Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Regarding the central question of the OP, this graph may be illuminating:

    graph

    It’s true that the election was more about a Democratic Party collapse than it was about a Trump ascendancy.

    On the other hand, there are simply too many variables in play to say that Trump had nothing to do with it.

    Assuming that Wikileaks isn’t actually a plot of the Russian government, it’s probable that the email releases would have happened regardless of which Republican was on the ticket. If Wikileaks is a plot of the Russian government, it’s way less likely they would have released the emails if someone like Mitt Romney was the nominee, considering what he said about Russia in 2012.

    Would all of Hillary’s faults been highlighted nearly as well with a nominee other than Trump? If the Republicans had nominated another gentleman, would that candidate have attacked Hillary with as much vigour that Trump did?

    It’s highly possible that a “generic Republican” would have been too afraid of offending folk to really go after Hillary. Chivalry might have lost the election.

    Trump treated Hillary the same as he would have treated a male Democrat – militantly. A gentleman Republican, on the other hand, might have fought harder against a male competitor than against a female one.

    I propose this axiom: Trump treated Hillary as an equal. The thing is, Trump really hates his equals.

    • #4
    • November 10, 2016, at 8:47 AM PST
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  5. A-Squared Inactive

    Misthiocracy: I gotta comment on the idea that Trump won “big”. This was just as much a 50/50 election as any of the other elections of the past 24 years.

    And it was a race to the bottom between two of the worst candidates in history. The Democrats nominated the only person that could have lost to Trump and the Republicans nominated the only person that could have lost to Hillary, so it’s not surprising that it was a close race.

    The worst thing about this election is that one of these two had to win.

    The worst thing about this country is that the next two nominees for President from each party (whenever that is given Trump will presumably get the nomination in four years) will undoubtedly be worse.

    • #5
    • November 10, 2016, at 8:48 AM PST
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  6. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member
    Misthiocracy grudgingly Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    A-Squared: The worst thing about this country is that the next two nominees for President from each party (whenever that is given Trump will presumably get the nomination in four years) will undoubtedly be worse.

    I’m not convinced of that. I’m more apt to believe that future candidates will be the normal run-of-the-mill sort of lousy.

    • #6
    • November 10, 2016, at 8:51 AM PST
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  7. ctlaw Coolidge

    From the beginning, it appeared any winning Republican would need one of two likely strategies:

    1. Trump’s rustbelt strategy of flipping one, if not more, of PA, MI, WN.
    2.  a latino strategy involving taking NM, NV, CO (basically the Bush 271 trading NH for NM to make 272).

    Kasich or a Scott Walker might have pulled off 1 if they campaigned properly. Rubio might have pulled off 2.

    Kaine was a good choice to counter either strategy. Had Rubio been the nominee, taking VA from him would have made strategy 2 impossible. It also meant that strategy 1 would require flipping 2 of PA, MI, WN. My guess is that Walker could not have flipped Michigan due to unions and probably not PA, leaving him with insufficient WN. Kasich was unlikely to hit trade hard enough to distinguish himself from Clinton and would have suffered a similar fate.

    I doubt any of the 17 other than Trump would have won this.

    • #7
    • November 10, 2016, at 8:54 AM PST
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  8. A-Squared Inactive

    Misthiocracy:

    A-Squared: The worst thing about this country is that the next two nominees for President from each party (whenever that is given Trump will presumably get the nomination in four years) will undoubtedly be worse.

    I’m not convinced of that. I’m more apt to believe that future candidates will be the normal run-of-the-mill sort of lousy.

    You are more optimistic than I am. The level of evil in both parties candidates have steadily increased over the last 30 years, I see nothing that will change that trend. What we learned this cycle is that no matter how evil your party’s nominee is, they will still get 60 million votes.

    I see no incentive now to nominate someone less evil when the mantra is to unthinkingly accept that every election is a choice between the lesser of two evils, and everyone from the other party gets an automatic 100 on the evil meter and everyone from your party gets an automatic 20 point deduction on the evil scale. So, we people with the good letter next to our name have to abandon our principles and band together to fight the people with the bad letter next to their name or else the country will be destroyed. This is what a large majority on Ricochet said for the last six months. The only substantive difference between what was being said here and what was being said on the left was the letters.

    • #8
    • November 10, 2016, at 9:04 AM PST
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  9. Paul Dougherty Member

    Warning, Opinion from a Never-Trumper:

    It occurs to me that the Democrats will now be forced to eventually do a post-mortem and may even learn something insightful and start retooling. Republican Party is stuck to play this out.

    • #9
    • November 10, 2016, at 9:10 AM PST
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  10. DocJay Inactive

    Our country has transformed, for better or worse, and the Karl Rove formula is one of failure.

    • #10
    • November 10, 2016, at 9:40 AM PST
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  11. Hoyacon Member

    You acknowledge the caveats involved, but IMO they overwhelm the broader point. Romney’s vote totals in’12 were against Obama. There is simply no way of knowing whether Romney/Generic Republican would have received more votes running against Clinton than the popular incumbent Obama, but it seems very likely to me that he would have. Toss in the increase in the voting age population over four years, and the Generic Republican totals from ’12 work even less well.

    • #11
    • November 10, 2016, at 10:00 AM PST
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  12. Valiuth Member
    Valiuth Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    ctlaw:From the beginning, it appeared any winning Republican would need one of two likely strategies:

    1. Trump’s rustbelt strategy of flipping one, if not more, of PA, MI, WN.
    2. a latino strategy involving taking NM, NV, CO (basically the Bush 271 trading NH for NM to make 272).

    Kasich or a Scott Walker might have pulled off 1 if they campaigned properly. Rubio might have pulled off 2.

    Kaine was a good choice to counter either strategy. Had Rubio been the nominee, taking VA from him would have made strategy 2 impossible. It also meant that strategy 1 would require flipping 2 of PA, MI, WN. My guess is that Walker could not have flipped Michigan due to unions and probably not PA, leaving him with insufficient WN. Kasich was unlikely to hit trade hard enough to distinguish himself from Clinton and would have suffered a similar fate.

    I doubt any of the 17 other than Trump would have won this.

    They certainly could not have gotten a better electoral collage result I think. What is interesting is that Romney had as many votes as Trump in WI. Which means option 2 might actually have been more viable assuming Hillary could not do any better than she did in those states, because she might have lost WI anyway. I wonder though if Trump stole democrats in WI but lost ardent Republicans, to come up with the same number as Romney.

    • #12
    • November 10, 2016, at 10:19 AM PST
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  13. Valiuth Member
    Valiuth Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Hoyacon:You acknowledge the caveats involved, but IMO they overwhelm the broader point. Romney’s vote totals in’12 were against Obama. There is simply no way of knowing whether Romney/Generic Republican would have received more votes running against Clinton than the popular incumbent Obama, but it seems very likely to me that he would have. Toss in the increase in the voting age population over four years, and the Generic Republican totals from ’12 work even less well.

    I believe you are right, the caveats are very big obviously. A question to ask is how much worse could Dems do? Does Hillary Clinton represent their bottom in these states? So that a generic Democrat would actually have beaten Trump. It is tempting to say yes. Does Obama in 2012 count as a generic Democrat? I was thinking of doing the same thing but with Kerry vs. Trump. But I worry that the further back I do the more influential the size of the voter pool becomes. After all Trump probably got more than Reagan did in 1980. But Reagan did way better. Is 2004 too far back? Well according to Wikipedia Kerry got 59 million vote back then. Which is is line with today’s numbers.

    • #13
    • November 10, 2016, at 10:27 AM PST
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  14. Valiuth Member
    Valiuth Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Paul Dougherty:Warning, Opinion from a Never-Trumper:

    It occurs to me that the Democrats will now be forced to eventually do a post-mortem and may even learn something insightful and start retooling. Republican Party is stuck to play this out.

    I don’t know if anyone will learn much. The Republican post mortem in 2012 said to do the exact opposite of what Trump did. The Democratic one will probably say to be nicer to working class whites. But, I bet doubling down on their millennial, and minority strategy might work just as well for them, if they can just suppress white votes with a really nasty campaign and gin up minorities. Trump won most of his key states with really narrow margins. Get 20,000 more African Americans/Collage students in MI and WI and those states flip back. PA and FL are harder but if you can depress some of the white Trump voters enough you can make up the gap again with in a similar manner. How many African Americans stayed home in Philly that had voted in 2012 and 2008?

    • #14
    • November 10, 2016, at 10:34 AM PST
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  15. Mr. Conservative Inactive

    Good work, Valiuth. Very helpful thanks. This should go on the main feed and I recommended it to be.

    • #15
    • November 10, 2016, at 11:33 AM PST
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  16. lowtech redneck Coolidge

    ctlaw:I doubt any of the 17 other than Trump would have won this.

    I suspect that a generic Republican would get more votes than Romney did, and with less Democrat turnout. But as was said, its all counterfactual and moot.

    • #16
    • November 10, 2016, at 12:48 PM PST
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  17. Austin Murrey Inactive

    Hopefully you used FEC numbers for your analysis and not the numbers from the New York Times like Tim Alberta did!

    • #17
    • November 10, 2016, at 2:41 PM PST
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  18. MarciN Member

    The issues have changed. The extent of the failure of ObamaCare was not known in 2012. Plus, gay marriage was a huge issue during the 2012 election. Like immigration this year, it had split the party.

    I believe in 2016 Romney would have won against both Trump and Clinton.

    I’m really sorry he ran in 2012.

    This is the election I believe he would have won.

    The contrast between irresponsible Hillary Clinton and Romney would have been profound.

    And Romney is way better on foreign policy than Clinton, Kerry, or Obama. It would have been very obvious in the presidential debates.

    • #18
    • November 10, 2016, at 2:44 PM PST
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  19. Franco Member
    Franco Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    You are right, there’s no way of knowing.

    We don’t know if the Dems had dirt on other Republican candidates either, or if they would have made a mega-gaffe – or one the media would fashion into one and the R candidate unable to defend well (which happened in the last several elections)

    I became convinced that DJT was the only one who could win based on several factors: he fights, he attacks, he had a fresh message that he obviously believed in, and he mud wrestled primary opponents- and they folded – he at all times was a warrior and confident.

    BTW he’s saying “big league “

    • #19
    • November 10, 2016, at 2:48 PM PST
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  20. Stina Member

    Dems are already discussing moving out of their democrat strongholds to infiltrate red states…

    So be careful. We won because they are heavily concentrated in few places.

    • #20
    • November 10, 2016, at 2:48 PM PST
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  21. David Guaspari Member
    David Guaspari Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Those numbers don’t tell us much. Among other things, a decent generic Republican would have known how to make the case against Hillary. Trump had no idea how to make an argument. You can’t just shout “crook” and “liar” — you have to explain how and why. That’s a compelling reason to believe that Romney’s numbers would be higher than they were and hers lower.

    • #21
    • November 10, 2016, at 2:51 PM PST
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  22. Franco Member
    Franco Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    MarciN: I believe in 2016 Romney would have won against both Trump and Clinton.

    He would have been easily dispatched by Trump. Too nice. Trump would have pointed out how badly he botched the 2012 election and his failure to stand up to Candy Crowley.

    It would have been devastating. Unless Romney has changed dramatically and learned how to fight, and he’d still lose Vs. Trump.

    • #22
    • November 10, 2016, at 2:54 PM PST
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  23. MarciN Member

    Franco: Trump would have pointed out how badly he botched the 2012 election and his failure to stand up to Candy Crowley.

    That’s true.

    I’m very grateful he didn’t run this time for that reason.

    I’m saying I wish he hadn’t run in 2012 and had waited until this year. Of course, he couldn’t because he was worried about four more years under the Obama administration. He quite clearly foresaw where we are today.

    • #23
    • November 10, 2016, at 3:27 PM PST
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  24. ctlaw Coolidge

    MarciN: I believe in 2016 Romney would have won against both Trump and Clinton.

    How?

    Against Trump, absent discouraging almost all of the other candidates to enter he ends up as much road kill as any of them.

    One-on-one, things do not look much better. Trump might have gotten many of the Carson and Christie votes, plus any anti-Mormon votes, and won with a majority! Romney’s only chance would have been to be a fundamentally different candidate than he was in 2012 by stealing Trump’s issues and then beating Trump up on them.

    Against Hillary, what states would Romney have carried that he did not get in 2012? Would he have lost any states that he carried in 2012?

    • #24
    • November 10, 2016, at 3:28 PM PST
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  25. Valiuth Member
    Valiuth Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Austin Murrey:Hopefully you used FEC numbers for your analysis and not the numbers from the New York Times like Tim Alberta did!

    It had not even occurred to me that there could be two sets of numbers until I saw that on Professor Rahe post. The numbers I used for the 2012 race were in fact the FEC numbers compiled into an excle file for the press (you can just google search for it), while the 2016 numbers come from the google app that reports the results by state. Since the current race isn’t technically all tabulated yet I had to manually check the 2016 result for each state on google, which is kind of a pain.

    • #25
    • November 10, 2016, at 3:29 PM PST
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  26. Valiuth Member
    Valiuth Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    MarciN:The issues have changed. The extent of the failure of ObamaCare was not known in 2012. Plus, gay marriage was a huge issue during the 2012 election. Like immigration this year, it had split the party.

    I believe in 2016 Romney would have won against both Trump and Clinton.

    I’m really sorry he ran in 2012.

    This is the election I believe he would have won.

    The contrast between irresponsible Hillary Clinton and Romney would have been profound.

    And Romney is way better on foreign policy than Clinton, Kerry, or Obama. It would have been very obvious in the presidential debates.

    I would like to think that he would have won too. But, if he did win I don’t think it would have been anymore decisive than what Trump got. Which is really the heart of the someone other than Trump would have done better. I personally think Romney should have tried for a third run. Unlike anyone else other than Trump he would have had the most clear message, “I told you so”. Pretty much everything he said would happen in 2012 has come to pass. But he didn’t run.

    The contrast between Hillary and any other Republican would have been great, and it is imaginable that Democrat turnout might have been even lower. Though in 2004 Kerry also got about 59 million votes too. So I don’t know how much lower it could honestly get. Could Republican turnout have been higher?

    • #26
    • November 10, 2016, at 3:35 PM PST
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  27. Hoyacon Member

    ctlaw:

    MarciN: I believe in 2016 Romney would have won against both Trump and Clinton.

    How?

    Against Trump, absent discouraging almost all of the other candidates to enter he ends up as much road kill as any of them.

    One-on-one, things do not look much better. Trump might have gotten many of the Carson and Christie votes, plus any anti-Mormon votes, and won with a majority! His only chance would have been to be a fundamentally different candidate than he was in 2012 by stealing Trump’s issues and then beating Trump up on them.

    Against Hillary, what states would Romney have carried that he did not get in 2012? Would he have lost any states that he carried in 2012?

    This is an unresolvable inquiry that cannot be proven nor disproven. It’s speculation based on two unrelated data sets. Romney v Obama and Trump v Clinton have nothing to do with one another. Alberta’s original (unrevised) thesis was meaningless, as are further guesses based on similar info. Sure it’s fun to speculate, but let’s not pretend it’s any more than that.

     

    • #27
    • November 10, 2016, at 3:38 PM PST
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  28. blood thirsty neocon Inactive

    Read this before thinking any more about this question. If you look at the 10% drop in Hillary’s turnout versus Obama ’12 against Trump’s much smaller drop in turnout versus Romney ’12, you see that the result of this election fell neatly within the pattern of general elections for the past 150 years, which shows challenger turnout in races with no incumbent growing faster than incumbent party turnout. The only anomalous aspect is that usually one or both candidates increases turnout versus the previous election, whereas in this election both saw turnout drops, because both were so disliked and the election was so negative.

    I read this many months ago and just never saw any reason why Hillary, of all people, would be the one to break this long term structural trend. If anything, she exemplified the underlying reason for the structural trend: incumbent party fatigue. That’s why I thought Trump could win. The same structural trend was not in play in ’12 with Romney.

    • #28
    • November 10, 2016, at 3:39 PM PST
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  29. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member
    Misthiocracy grudgingly Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    A-Squared: You are more optimistic than I am. The level of evil in both parties candidates have steadily increased over the last 30 years, I see nothing that will change that trend.

    Well, how about because the level of evil in both parties decreased between FDR and LBJ, after having risen between Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson and then decreasing with Harding and Coolidge.

    These things come in waves. There is no mythical golden age.

    • #29
    • November 10, 2016, at 3:43 PM PST
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  30. Valiuth Member
    Valiuth Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Franco

    BTW he’s saying “big league ”

    I know, but as I have said before I like “bigly” better.

    As for the reasons he won, you are probably right. Certainly his strengths are his combative nature and self assurance. These though are also his weakness I think. I am a strong believer that there is always more than one way to skin a cat. In the end though the cat is skinned. The open question for me before the election was if Trump’s method of skinning would work. It has, and I am fairly convinced it is as good a method as any that could be tried. The question is would it have worked as well against Obama if he somehow ran again in 2016? It certainly worked against Hillary, but we its continued success against a more charismatic and less tainted opponent is still up for debate.

    • #30
    • November 10, 2016, at 3:43 PM PST
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