Nate Silver holds his phone as he sits on the stairs with his laptop computer at a hotel in Chicago on Nov. 9, 2012.
Photo by Nam Y. Huh/AP

Even Trump skeptics start to take a second look

Back in August, shortly before the first debate for the Republican presidential candidates, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver and Harry Enten made projections as to who’s likely to prevail in the race for the GOP nomination. Silver gave Donald Trump a 2% chance. His colleague saw that as far too generous – Enten put Trump’s chances at -10%.
Quite a bit happened over the five months that followed, and just as much of the Republican establishment changes its posture on a possible Trump nomination, so too has FiveThirtyEight. Silver, whose track record has earned him broad credibility, acknowledged yesterday that he’s “become a lot less skeptical of Trump’s chances.”
Fleshing out his thinking, Silver explained that he, like many observers, “assumed that influential Republicans would do almost anything they could to prevent [Trump] from being nominated,” and that just hasn’t happened.
[T]he textbook on Trump is that he’d be a failure along virtually every dimension that party elites normally consider when choosing a nominee: electability (Trump is extremely unpopular with general election voters); ideological reliability (like Sarah Palin, Trump’s a “maverick”); having traditional qualifications for the job; and so forth. Even if the GOP is mostly in disarray, my assumption was that it would muster whatever strength it had to try to stop Trump.
But so far, the party isn’t doing much to stop Trump. Instead, it’s making such an effort against Cruz.
Jon Chait joked, “This is the horse race equivalent of Walter Cronkite saying Vietnam is lost.”
Just so we’re clear, Silver didn’t predict a Trump victory, so much as he sketched out the conditions that have turned in the New York developer’s favor.
“Things are lining up better for Trump than I would have imagined,” he concluded, adding, “It’s not his continued presence in the race that surprises me so much as the lack of a concerted effort to stop him.”