While we've ended up on the opposite sides of many a political fight, there are few people I respect more in the business than Mac Stipanovich. In many ways, Mac is the original GOP operative of the modern Florida political world. While he is a proud member of the GOP establishment, few people have been more disruptive in Florida than Mac.
One of the things I admire about him, he is a patriot more than a partisan, and while frankly only an idiot would question his GOP credentials, no one is going to tell him what to do either. Mac's support is earned, not assumed. Frankly, it is a place in life that I aspire to reach myself. And in this election, Mac is firmly #NeverTrump.
After 20 years in the business, there are a few things I've found consistent. One of them -- to steal a phrase from ESPN's Chris Berman is "no one circles the wagons like the Republican Party." Time and time again, the GOP have driven the car off the edge of the Grand Canyon in a primary, only to somehow get the thing to land on four wheels stronger than when it started. Frankly, I wish my side was more like that.
My personal history tells me that, notwithstanding the principled stands of guys like Mac and my buddy, chief #NeverTrump agitator Rick Wilson, that we should assume the GOP will rally behind their guy, because when it boils down to it, power and the White House -- for most -- will trump all else (pun intended).
But what if it is most, but not all of the GOP base, goes to Trump.
What if the Mac's and Rick's add up to enough people that Trump earns 2% less of the GOP vote than Romney. What if they are 5% or even 8%? What does that really mean? Put more simply, how many Mac's and Rick's can Trump lose and still stand?
Let's start by looking at 2012.
According to the exit polls, Romney and Obama got nearly the same percentage of the partisan vote. Obama got 90% of Dems, Romney 91% of Republicans. Obama won the NPA vote by 3, and the net result was an Obama 0.9% win.
Now the exit polls were based on self party ID -- 35% considered themselves Democrats, 33% Republicans and 33% NPA. The good news, if we weight the exit polls to actual turnout, 40.3 D, 38.7R, 21 NPA, the party weights land at an Obama 0.7% win -- essentially the same as the exits. So that model works pretty well for this exercise.
So let's start with how do we get Trump to a win?
Actually, all things being equal (chill out twitterverse, I know they are not -- this is just an exercise) if Trump wins the same share of the vote among Republicans as Romney (92%-8%), and Clinton got the same as Obama (90%-9), for Trump to win, he would need to carry the NPA vote by 1% (50-49%), compared to Obama winning them 50-47 in 2012. The margin would be very tight, but he'd still win.
Now in reality, this alone is a huge climb for Trump. More and more Hispanics and Blacks (both AfAm and Caribbean voters) are registering NPA, so the NPA pot is getting more diverse, hence more Democratic in a Presidential year turnout. Because of this, a far more likely scenario is Trump on his best day losing NPAs by 3-5 points.
But for fun, let's assume that happens, and that Trump wins the NPA vote by a point.
So we start here:
If Trump and Clinton both win/lose exactly same share of their own party as Romney and Obama, and Trump wins NPA by 1%, Trump wins the election by about 0.2%
But what if the #NeverTrump movement keeps the GOP from unifying...
Let's assume, #NeverTrump leads to a 2% reduction in GOP party loyalty -- or more specifically, rather than winning Republicans 92-8 like Romney, Trump wins them 90-10.
In that case, Clinton wins the state by 0.5%. And to make it back up, Trump would need to win NPA by a 54-46 margin (Again, Obama was +3).
What if that number rises to 5%, that #NeverTrump leads to Trump winning 87% of Republicans, not 92% (87-13)
In that case, Clinton wins the state by almost 4% if they all go to her. Under this scenario, he'd need to win NPA by 20 points to make up the difference.
Even if none of them go to her -- they all just sit out (ie 87-8-5), she wins by 2%. Under this scenario, he'd still have to win NPA by 10 to make it up.
And lastly, what if the #NeverTrump number is 8%, the Trump share of the GOP vote is 8 points lower than Romney got -- in other words: 84-16 Trump/Clinton:
In this case, Clinton would win Florida by the largest margin of any candidate since Bush beat Dukakis in 1988 - well over 6 points. In this case, he'd have to win the NPA vote by 31 points to make up the difference (65-34)
And even if not a single one of them voted for her -- so all 8% just sat out (84 Trump, 8 Clinton, 8 Don't Vote), she still wins by 3 points. To make it up, he'd need to win NPA by 15 points.
Again, this whole thing starts with the assumption he can win the NPA vote by a point, which I think is a massive uphill climb. It also assumes that Clinton wins the same share of the vote among Democrats that Obama did in 2012. Thanks to Trump, I am pretty confident of this.
In other words, Trumps path to victory is almost entirely dictated by his ability or inability to unify his base and turning #NeverTrump into #OKIGuessTrump. And he has a lot of votes to earn. Right now, Trump's popular vote total is about 18% of the total votes that Romney won in the 2012 general election. That is a lot of people for bring into the tent.
For Republicans like Mac, who believe that his party needs a post-Trump reset, the path to stopping Trump in a place like Florida is pretty simple, and it starts by just convincing a few of their partisan friends to follow their lead.