How Hillary Could Win in a Landslide

How Hillary Could Win in a Landslide

Why you should care

Madam Secretary might not just win, but win big. 

We never say never, especially not when it comes to Donald Trump. While a host of prognosticators think Hillary Clinton has already sewn this race up, The Donald might yet have a comeback in him.

With that in mind, let’s take a moment to ponder: How could Hillary grow her lead and win in the first true landslide in more than 30 years?

The feat would be formidable, given that most one-sided contests have featured popular presidents running as incumbents: Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Even if she surges ahead, Clinton will have to avoid the pitfalls of a seemingly sure thing, as ’88 nominee Michael Dukakis discovered, painfully, when he lost to George H. W. Bush despite polling 17 points ahead just months before the election.

Disclaimers dispensed, a clean sweep is possible. Here’s how it could happen:

A Disastrous Convention

Say Trump were to have a fiasco of a convention — a poor VP pick, a mishandled schedule or even a more over-the-top Clint Eastwood moment. Many lifetime Republicans might move across the aisle. We’ve seen it before: In 1972, the Democratic Convention fell apart when nominee George McGovern took the stage. McGovern had desperately courted Ted Kennedy for VP and held out for an acceptance that never came. So he extended an offer to Sen. Thomas Eagleton from Missouri, who had a soon-to-be-discovered buried history of mental health issues. Time magazine and many others caught wind, calling the choice McGovern’s “first crisis.

Organizational missteps at the convention could doom The Donald too, especially among voters seeking a display of competence and strength. Back in ’72, McGovern’s VP shenanigans delayed his speech until nearly 3 a.m., far too late for the nation to watch the broadcast. The question reverberated: How was this man fit to be president?

Economic Fresh Air

If the economy were to have a summer swoosh and really rev up, it could help the nominee of the incumbent party. Imagine unemployment dropping further, near 4 percent, and the stock market going up by 15 percent. President Obama’s positive approval rating could provide a tailwind and would make a strong argument for sticking with the Dems.

Of course, such a swoosh is unlikely, given recent job numbers (less than sterling) and the continuing tremors of Brexit, which, if they last, could sink international markets just as the candidates begin reaching the final stretch. The flip-side scenario, in which the economy tanks, could spell disaster for Clinton.

An Internal Split

In 1964, like today, leaders of the GOP openly attacked their own party’s nominee, Barry Goldwater. Nelson Rockefeller said Goldwater would “spell disaster … for the country.” Those quotes formed the basis of LBJ’s media campaign. When LBJ said Goldwater was extreme and unfit, the fact that some of his own “teammates” agreed meant that the Democratic former schoolteacher–turned–Texas politician won by a 20-plus-point margin. Hillary has both the quotes for attack fodder and plenty of money to disseminate the ads.

The Smoking Gun or Outright Scandal

In 2012, Romney almost mortally wounded his campaign when the 47 percent tape leaked. Had Obama made a stronger impression at the first debate, it is conceivable that he could have won that election by nearly double digits instead of a roughly four-point win. Similarly, the VP scandal in ’72 surrounding Eagleton paved the way to Nixon’s landslide. Russia has already hacked whatever Hillary’s campaign dug up, and much of Trump’s dirty laundry seems to have been aired (Trump University, Trump Steaks, bankruptcies, etc.). But perhaps Hillary’s much larger staff now has something else up its sleeves.

Comment

OZY2016

The route to the White House: news, stories and analysis from on and off the presidential campaign trail.