Against all odds: It’s Trump

Against all odds: It’s Trump
© Getty Images

It’s an outcome that few saw coming and that many Republicans still refuse to accept: Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests some states may 'pay nothing' as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran MORE is about to become the GOP nominee for president. 

Trump’s transformation from novelty candidate to presumptive nominee is astonishing, leaving experts within the Republican Party and beyond grasping for answers about how he was able to accomplish a feat without precedent in modern politics.


“The single most important thing is that Trump was so different from everyone else. Everyone else thought about issues, had their attacks planned, had their criticisms of Obama planned. But the biggest middle-finger protest vote you could register was to vote for Trump,” said Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak, who also writes for The Hill’s Contributors blog.

Washington insiders weren’t the only ones to give Trump long odds.

The Irish betting website Paddy Power first introduced Trump as a possible presidential candidate in November 2012. At the time, the betting line was 80-1 that he would win the nomination.

But those odds changed quickly last summer, after the businessman stormed the political scene by rolling out his campaign in a press conference at Trump Tower in mid-June.

“There wasn’t a whole lot of movement in the price over the coming couple of years, but that all changed in June-Aug 2015 when [Trump] went all the way from 50-1 to 4-1 to be the Republican candidate,” according to Paddy Power spokesman Féilim Mac An Iomaire.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Trump was 1-20 with Paddy Power to win the GOP nomination. His odds to become the next president, which at their longest were 200-1, have come down to 11-4.

Trump’s rise on the betting market coincided with an extraordinary surge in the polls. Just a month after his entry into the race, Trump was leading the GOP field in many surveys, even as he attracted controversy for remarks about illegal immigrants.

It was during that early stretch, when he was roundly criticized for asserting that Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainBill Maher delivers mock eulogy for Trump Hillary Clinton roasts NYT's Maureen Dowd over column CNN's Ana Navarro to host Biden roundtable on making 'Trump a one-term president' MORE (R-Ariz.) is not a war hero, that the strength of the Trump phenomenon first became apparent.   

While pundits predicted he could not survive the multiple controversies surrounding his campaign, Trump’s numbers held strong. As experts dismissed his chances, his crowds grew in size.

“He is so different from everyone else that the way we normally look at politicians, scandals and media coverage does not apply,” said Mackowiak. “You can’t shame the guy, you can’t pressure the guy. None of that works.

“All of us made the mistake of viewing him through the lens of a traditional candidate, because it simply did not apply.”

A Trump victory had seemed improbable to many because the Republican field had been considered the strongest in a generation.

But Trump’s talent for bare-knuckle politics, both on Twitter and on the debate stage, proved too much for the other 16 candidates to overcome. 

Nearly every rival at some point — Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioPPP application window closes after coronavirus talks deadlock  The Hill's Campaign Report: US officials say Russia, China are looking to sow discord in election US intelligence says Russia seeking to 'denigrate' Biden MORE,Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOn The Trail: Pence's knives come out Pat Fallon wins GOP nomination in race to succeed DNI Ratcliffe The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Negotiators 'far apart' as talks yield little ahead of deadline MORE — made attempts to bring Trump down. All of them failed. 

To Trump, “all the attacks are like spinach to Popeye,” said Tobe Berkovitz, a Boston University professor.

Even if Trump’s unique qualities are more widely appreciated than they once were, there is still deep doubt in the Republican ranks about his chances of prevailing in November over Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton labels Trump coronavirus executive actions a 'stunt' What Trump got wrong by pushing coal Trump is fighting the wrong war MORE, the likely Democratic nominee.

The skeptics point not just to the businessman’s incendiary statements, but also to polls suggesting a huge swath of the population views him negatively. In the RealClearPolitics average of polls, Trump is viewed favorably by just 28.4 percent of voters and unfavorably by 65.4 percent.

Republican strategist Dan Judy, whose firm North Star Opinion Research worked with Rubio’s now-defunct campaign, pointed to Trump’s particularly low favorability numbers among nonwhite voters and among women. 

“There are not enough white men in the country to offset winning 30 percent of women and 10 percent of nonwhites,” Judy said, adding that even though Trump had surpassed expectations in innumerable ways, winning elections ultimately “becomes a matter of mathematics.”

In light of those poll numbers, Republicans had pinned their hopes on Cruz to prevent Trump from winning the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. That would have created a contested Republican National Convention, where party insiders could potentially muscle a different candidate into the winner’s circle.

But Cruz’s hopes for stopping Trump had hinged on Indiana, which the New Yorker won in a rout.

After the defeat, Cruz suspended his campaign Tuesday evening, telling supporters the path to nomination had been “foreclosed.” 

“We gave it everything we’ve got,” Cruz said. “But the voters chose another path.” 

Mackowiak expressed “frustration” at the probability that Trump would be the nominee against Clinton, since he asserted that the former secretary of State is herself a poor candidate.

“Hillary is the weakest major-party nominee in my lifetime — except Trump,” he said. Nominating the business mogul, he added, “is the single worst thing we could have done, by far. I fear the ramifications will last a generation.”