Reason #1: Momentum.
Politics is a sport of momentum. Sometimes one candidate seems unbeatable and then you wake up one morning and can’t believe you ever thought they could win in the first place. Losing in Iowa killed Trump’s momentum. In politics, unlike in sports, once the air goes out of the sails it’s very difficult to get it back. This is especially true when your support is “soft” to begin with.
Reason #2: Money
Despite leading in polls, Trump has lagged in fundraising with only $13.6 million raised in 2015 Q4, trailing both Ted Cruz ( $20.5 million ) and Marco Rubio ( $14.2 million ). Of course, Trump is a billionaire and doesn’t need to depend on donations to sustain his campaign. Yet, the willingness of supporters to donate money can be a proximate indicator of passion and commitment to the cause. If Trump were indeed leading a movement as he alleges, one would expect fundraising numbers closer to the $33.6 million Bernie Sanders has raised over the same period.
Side note: Curiously, Trump’s purse has been a little tight compared to the other candidates, even though he has a sizable personal fortune to invest. This could be because Trump has not had to fight for attention or support. It could also be a sign of his own lack of commitment to the cause.
Reason #3: The Ground Game
Donald Trump has not invested a ground game. Instead of hiring political professionals and precinct captains and volunteer coordinators, he’d prefer to rely on large scale arena events that look great on TV and create a sense of the inevitable. It’s no surprise the arena approach appeals to Trump, not only can he feed his enormous ego, but he can save tons of time and money by reaching out to 10,000 voters at a time. Most candidates have to work 10 times harder for half the voters. It’s unclear, however, that this wholesale TV-centered approach is more effective than the old-school retail politics. In politics, as in life, you get what you pay for.
Directly related to Reason #3 is the corollary that the New Hampshire voter very much enjoys retail politics. They feel it their privilege and right to get serious face time. Trump, despite the do-or-die nature of the upcoming primary, spent considerable time this week outside the state of New Hampshire, holding rallies in places like Arkansas and Alabama. I suspect this unusual choice did not go unnoticed.
I specifically titled this post reasons Trump “should” lose in New Hampshire. The overall fragmentation of the GOP field and the Rubio’s ass-kicking at the hands of Chris Christie over the weekend, may leave enough indecision to enable Trump to pull off a win.
But if he wins it will hardly be a “movement.” Trump is fundamentally a weak candidate surviving only on his celebrity status and the general chaos in the Republican party.