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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

The State of the Presidential Race

Kyle Kondik, Director of Communications, University of Virginia Center for Politics; and Geoffrey Skelley, Media Relations Coordinator, University of Virginia Center for Politics
Cleveland, OH
July 20, 2016

Date: 07/20/2016 Location: Cleveland, OH Description: Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics brief journalists on the state of the 2016 presidential race. - State Dept Image

12:00 P.M. EDT


MODERATOR: Good afternoon everybody. Welcome back. For our 1:00 o’clock briefing today we have Kyle Kondik and Geoff Skelley from the University of Virginia Center for Politics. If you haven’t already done so, as a reminder please turn off your electronic devices. And as a reminder, the opinions of our speakers do not necessarily represent those of the United States government. They will make some short remarks, and then we will open it up to Q&A and they are available for one-on-ones afterwards.

Kyle and Geoff work for UVA Center for Politics and Sabato’s Crystal Ball which is the authoritive non-partisan newsletter on American campaigns and elections. And Kyle just released a new book. He is actually a native son of Ohio, and it’s called The Bellwether, Why Ohio Picks the President.

So welcome, Kyle Kondik and Geoff Skelley.

MR KONDIK: Thank you for the introduction. I’m Kyle Kondik. This is my colleague Geoff Skelley. We’re just going to make some very brief opening comments and then we’re happy to just open up to questions to whatever you all might be thinking about. Thanks to the State Department for having us today. The University of Virginia Center for Politics has a good relationship with the State Department. We’ve done a lot of events together. Geoff and I did a briefing like this four years ago, maybe some of you were there for that.

Our publication, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, is kind of an election forecasting newsletter. It comes out every Thursday, typically, although we did just release an issue today because it’s convention week, kind of a different schedule. But it’s a free newsletter. If you just go to you can sign up for it. And again, it’s totally free, and that’s our latest handicapping of the election.

As of right now, our general election outlook is, we believe that Hillary Clinton is favored, not by a lot in this election, but we don’t really see this as a 50/50 kind of coin flip race. We see Clinton as something of a favorite. But historically speaking, the polls get a lot better and more predictive after the conventions are over. And so, as of early August we might have a better sense as to what might happen. Hillary Clinton generally leads in polling, both nationally and in a lot of the most competitive states in the electoral college, but a lot of the polls are closed, too. And I would say that Donald Trump has been sort of beating expectations this whole campaign, and arguably he continues to. And it’s possible that, typically both candidates will get something of a polling bounce out of these conventions, do don’t be surprised if Trump actually takes the lead over the weekend, at which point Hillary Clinton has her own convention to try to get her own, try to get her lead back.

In addition to the presidential race, we do handicapping and analysis of U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and U.S. gubernatorial elections. So, if you’re interested in the House and Senate picture of governor’s races or individual House, Senate or gubernatorial races, we’re happy to get into that information as well.

So with that, I’ll let Geoff jump in and we’ll go to questions.

MR SKELLEY: I don’t have a lot to add to that. I think Kyle gave a pretty good general outlook for things. But I will say, kind of getting back to what he said about the polls and the predictive power, there’s a lot of evidence that shows that you’ve got to get inside of about 100 days from election day for the polls to really start having a fair amount of meaning. There’s a pretty notable jump in the explanatory power of the polls relative to what the final outcome is at that point historically. So I think that’s really important to keep in mind as we look at polling over the next couple of weeks, because you’re going to see Donald Trump likely get a bounce of some kind here in the next few days, and then Hillary Clinton is hoping to basically stomp all over that by immediately having her convention right after that. And it does sound like she’s probably going to announce her VP either Friday or Saturday, which is also an obvious attempt to sort of mess with the Republicans’ edge in the news cycle.

Again, it’s one of those things where you get a lot of people saying ‘Oh my gosh, this poll says that, or that poll says this,’ and that’s why it’s really, really important to not ever look at just one poll to figure out what’s happening, because you need to take them in an aggregate form. A lot of times people reference polling averages, and that’s a very good way of looking at it. Though I mean I guess you could make an argument that if you have a ton of bad polls that’s not going to help you. But generally speaking, if you’re looking at the sum total of polls and see what they generally show, that’s just a lot more instructive. We’re not quite at the point where we can do that with too much certainty yet. And as Kyle said, we can talk about other things in relation to other elections going on here in 2016.

MR KONDIK: I believe we’re at, I think we’re 110 days out from the general election.

MR SKELLEY: July 30. Is today the 21st? No.

MR KONDIK: It’s the 20th.

MR SKELLEY: So 111 because I think July 31st is the 100-day mark.

MR KONDIK: I was going to say, which conveniently is basically the end of the convention. So, we say the polls generally become more predictive after the conventions. Also there’s this 100-day marker, and the timeframe falls out about the same date this time.

MR SKELLEY: So I guess with that, we’re happy to take questions about anything in this general area.

MODERATOR: Just a reminder, if you could state your name and which outlet you’re from when you ask a question. Anybody?

QUESTION: [Morocco]. Thank you very much. My name is Fouad.

I mean, as foreign correspondents we keep reading all the handicapping and all the specialists and the experts. I mean, yesterday I read a theory that says that if Donald Trump manages to have five percent more of white vote than Mitt Romney did last time around, in 2012 that is to say, five percent more than the 56 percent that Romney did in terms of white vote, he could do without the vote of the minorities.

I mean, walk us through that. Is this true? I mean factually true? Can he do without the vote of the minority? I mean, seriously, that’s a risky strategy.

MR KONDIK: First of all, again, we’re talking about exit polls here so we shouldn’t treat them as perfect numbers indicating the demographics, but Mitt Romney got, roughly won the white vote 60 percent to 40 percent in 2012. Again, there’s room for fluctuation there, but that’s a pretty good performance for a Republican amongst the white vote. He still lost by four points overall.

The U.S. electorate this year is likely to be - about three of every ten voters is likely to be non-white, so Hispanic, African American, Asian American, et cetera. And Barack Obama won those voters 80 percent to 20 percent in 2012; and there’s a decent likelihood that Clinton would do better with those voters, given that, frankly, Donald Trump’s campaign has been relatively hostile to, or at least non-white voters have perceived Trump to be sort of hostile to them in this election.

What’s interesting about breaking down the white vote is that it’s like which white voters, like there’s becoming an even greater kind of college versus non-college split so that you could definitely see Trump potentially doing better amongst non-college, basically whites with lower levels of education. But he may do worse with whites that have higher levels of education, at which point maybe it all just kind of cancels out, and just you know, Trump just doing as well as Romney did with white voters probably isn’t enough because, you know, Romney lost by four points.

The other thing is that of the key states in the Electoral College, the ones that are probably going to vote close to the national average and therefore potentially be the most competitive. Some of the states are whiter than the national average. Ohio is one, Pennsylvania is another. Many of the states in the Midwest -- Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa. And then some of those states are more diverse than the nation. Virginia is an example, so is Florida. Nevada is another example. So maybe Trump’s path to victory goes through the kind of whiter Midwest. But there’s also not a lot of indication from the polls we have that he has a really special kind of appeal in those places.

I’m sure Geoff can add to this, too.

MR SKELLEY: As Kyle said, I think the exit poll showed Romney won 59 percent of the white vote, but the situation in the polls currently suggests that Clinton could be the first Democrat since her husband in 1996 to actually win among white women. And Clinton is doing much better than Democrats have tended to do in recent times among college-educated whites, and worse among non-college educated whites. And I think the real trouble there is if you look specifically at some of the swing states. You’re talking about some swing states are just more diverse. But you also have a situation where there’s suburban voters in relatively, in areas with large numbers of relatively high educated white voters in places like Northern Virginia, suburban Denver. I mean, these are areas where Trump just doesn’t appeal.

So if you’re looking at swing states, you know, if you take states like Nevada, Colorado, and Virginia off the board, that greatly shrinks Trump’s path to victory and almost demands that he win both Florida and Pennsylvania to win. And that’s going to be a very difficult trick to pull off.

Pennsylvania is a state that has been routinely sort of something Republicans reach for but they can never quite grab. Now it has been trending slightly Republican, but the real problem for Republicans in that state is that the Philadelphia area is just, there are just so many votes there and it’s so heavily Democratic that it’s tended to, in the end, sort of overwhelm the rest of the state, along with the city of Pittsburgh in the western part of the state. So you end up with a situation where Trump may do better in many places in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, but those are areas that may not actually have that many voters, and rocks and trees can’t vote. So that’s sort of the situation there.

QUESTION: Hi, I’m Daisuke Nakai, from Asahi Shimbun. Thank you both for doing the briefing.

Concerning the convention, at least the first two days seem to have been more anti-Clinton than pro-Trump. A lot of the speeches have been very anti-Hillary. The delegates seemed to respond to that. What do you think that implies for electoral strategy? And also has there been a convention like this in recent years where it’s more anti-, more sort of pessimistic?

MR SKELLEY: I would say, generally, in terms of the tone of the convention, this is probably the most negative one I think anyone has seen. But it illustrates a phenomenon that we’re seeing in American politics which is this concept of negative partisanship. And it’s the idea that we may wind up having a majority plurality at least of voters that identify with the political party and they do so because they actually dislike the other side more than they like their own.

Actually, in 2012 the American National Election Study showed exactly this data point where actually a plurality of voters had a higher worse opinion, if you’re thinking about like a thermometer, 0 to 100, had, like, a lower average opinion of the other party than they had a high opinion of theirs. So, you end up in a situation where, and you’re seeing this in the polls right now. Particularly, and notably on the Democratic side where you know, in 2012 Barack Obama was running for reelection, so most Democrats were saying, ‘I’m voting for Barack Obama because I like him or I’m supporting him.’ Well, a lot of the early polls are showing that a lot of Democrats say they’re planning to vote for Hillary Clinton because they don’t like Donald Trump. In fact, in a lot of polls it’s the majority of both parties. You see the majority of Republicans saying that it’s more about voting against Hillary Clinton than for Donald Trump, and a majority of Democrats saying it’s more about voting against Donald Trump than it is about liking Hillary Clinton. Of course, this can’t be good for the tone of the campaign one would imagine, and thus explains a lot of why you’re seeing the kinds of rhetoric here at the convention and on the campaign train that we’ve seen so far and what you’re almost guaranteed to see for the next three-and-a-half months.

I don’t know if Kyle has anything to add to that.

MR KONDIK: A few other points.

One is that there is some dissent amongst Republicans about the Donald Trump candidacy, particularly amongst elite Republicans. Someone like Governor John Kasich of Ohio isn’t even going to speak at the convention, which is pretty odd for the home state governor not to speak.

And one way to project unity, I think, is to find the things that the party agrees on, and I think the party agrees that they don’t like Hillary Clinton at all, so that’s a way to sort of unify the party. Not necessarily behind your own candidate, but against the other, which I think gets to Geoff’s point about negative partisanship.

The other thing is that I do think that while - I think this convention has been pretty nasty the first two days. But I think that the Republican convention in 2012 was pretty anti-Obama and going back to 2004, I think that the Democratic convention that year was pretty aggressively against George W. Bush.

I think it might be there’s a tendency that the party that doesn’t hold the White House maybe can sound a little more shrill than the party that does. I think that you probably could have said that about Democrats during the Bush years. So I think it may be a little - I do think this is nastier than ones I’m familiar with, although my history and Geoff’s history of covering these things in a really intense way only goes back a few cycles. I mean, we know history and what have you, but this feels nastier than 2012. But these things can be pretty nasty, too, and American politics has a long tradition of pretty tough stuff.

QUESTION: Vishon [inaudible] in Montreal.

Just to follow up on this question. Can you express an opinion on how this idea of locking up Hillary Clinton might be perceived by those who are undecided or not totally committed to the Republican side?

MR KONDIK: There was some opinion polling that came out recently about the FBI’s decision not to indict Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State, and the polling was pretty negative for Clinton. There were majorities in a number of polls that suggested that people favored an indictment and that they did not trust Clinton on this issue, and so Republicans were already going to attack her over it. But I kind of wonder if the developments of the last few weeks have sort of made them, made the Republicans even more strident about that message.

You know, is this the sort of thing that’s going to decide the election? Maybe broader questions about Clinton’s trustworthiness, I think, are maybe an issue for her, but how the undecided’s react to it, it’s kind of difficult to say. But again, I think that in being super strident about this issue, I think in many ways the Republicans are following the most recent numbers which suggest that a majority of the public agrees with them, that she should have been indicted.

Now that might not be the issue that all those voters actually vote on. It might not be their top priority. So what we see in polling sometimes is, particularly going a little bit off-track here, but hopefully you’ll see the point. Democrats will claim a lot of time on an issue like gun control that, oh well, the public agrees with us on this issue. But that doesn’t mean that the public, like, really cares about it. It just means that if a pollster asks and they’re given a couple of options then they might pick the one the Democrats like, but it’s not necessarily a voting issue for them, and that might be true with this email scandal as of right now.

MR SKELLEY: I think the real great question, the one that I don’t think we can answer yet, is whether or not this, like the email scandal, is going to wind up being a giant problem for Clinton, or is it going to be more like the issue of Benghazi which Republicans have been talking about since the 2012 election cycle, and they tried to use it against Barack Obama, but at the end of the day it almost certainly had little impact on the election outcome in 2012.

Now, for Clinton, I think the fact that she is so directly tied into this means that it almost certainly has to be at least a bit more harmful than that for her, but there is always a danger of sort of overselling a point. And if Republicans, if this becomes sort of too much a part of their overall message you do have, I guess, the possibility of sort of some pushback on that and also sort of fatiguing the public with this issue to the point where if people hear about it they sort of tune out and they’re not listening anymore. So, you know, I think especially if you see Congress, Republicans in Congress try to pursue further investigations into this, you know, I think it just has the potential to polarize the issue more and make it less of a very understandable criticism of Clinton and can turn it more into just a straight partisan issue where Democrats who are, who are sort of, like, ‘Well, Clinton really screwed up there, maybe she should have been indicted,’ might start to see it differently as though, ‘Oh, Republicans are just going after Clinton because she is who she is or something to that degree.’

We can’t really answer that yet, but I feel like that’s sort of what you have to look at.

MR KONDIK: A good historical example here is actually another Clinton scandal, this time a Bill Clinton scandal with his affair with Monica Lewinsky in the late ‘90s when he was President. I think that you can make a good argument that the Republicans in Congress then, by impeaching him over this, that they over-reached and that they ended up, you know, creating, I think, some sympathy for both Bill and Hillary Clinton to the point where in the 1998 mid-terms, which were conducted under the cloud of the Lewinsky affair, the Democrats actually gained a few seats in the House which is really, really rare in a mid-term election. Typically, the President’s party does poorly, but there was some indication that the Republicans over-reached on the issue. And, given the tenor of the last two nights, I could certainly imagine, as Geoff suggested, the Republicans may be overreaching a little bit on the emails.

QUESTION: Jose Carreno with Excelsior in Mexico City.

His election appears to be the battle of the negatives in terms. And the question here would be what does this floor vote for the relationship between the White House and Congress during the next period, whoever is elected, it appears to me that Congress would be so divided and so polarized that it will get continuation of the current “do nothing,” actually.

MR SKELLEY: Yes, and I think you’re very much right in where you’re going with that which is to say, does this election actually matter? It does because the President has a great deal of power, but if there’s divided government in Washington there’s almost no way in this day and age for a party to really implement its plans.

On the campaign trail the presidential candidate who wins might have said, you know, I want to do X, Y, and Z but they won’t get a chance maybe to do any of that if government is divided. Because at the moment, there is so little area for potential compromise between the two parties, there’s almost zero overlap on issues of great importance, ideologically speaking. There’s very little common ground that can be found. And as we saw with really major attempts, like major legislative programs like the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, Democrats during that were trying to get some Republicans to vote along with them on that issue back in 2009 and ’10, and they just couldn’t get any Republicans to come along.

I think it illustrates, and I think the reverse would be true, if there were a Republican president trying to pass some really major piece of legislation dealing with something, you know, very polarizing like health care or entitlement programs like Social Security or Medicare, I mean, you can just find yourself in a position where the other party just has no interest in either compromising on certain core values that it may hold or being seen as having compromised. Because in this day and age, with polarization so strong in the American public and so many members of Congress occupying seats that are relatively safe for their party, you know, that it’s a very Republican seat or a very Democratic seat that if you are seen as having compromised, it could expose you to a challenge in your primary or a convention, no matter how your respective state and district determines the nominee for your party, it could just open you up to attacks that can be, that can work against you.

So I think there are a lot of forces at work that run against compromise right now, and unless one party controls the Presidency, the Senate and the House, they won’t have any chance of really fully implementing a presidential program. And, moreover, with the Senate the way it is, really the only way I think going forward where you’re going to see stuff pass the Senate is if the filibuster goes away, and I’d say there’s a decent chance of that just because, I’m sure Kyle would put it, we have parliamentary parties in a presidential system and it’s just creating dysfunction. So I don’t know if Kyle has something to add to that.

MR KONDIK: Well, you know, one possibility is that if in fact Donald Trump wins the presidency, it’s pretty likely that the Republicans would also hold the Senate and the House. But is a Republican - is a Washington controlled by President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress really a one-party system? Because Trump is, in many ways, a lot different than the Republican leaders in the House and Senate. So even if you would have, hypothetically, one party rule, there would probably be a lot of divisions in the parties.

We’ve seen in recent years, really since the Republicans took control of the U.S. House in 2010, it’s hard for the Republicans in the House even to reach unanimity on important issues because there’s a vast Freedom Caucus and other elements in the House Republican conference don’t really see eye to eye with leadership.

So again, even if you did have “one party rule” it might not be all that effective. And the Democrats in the Senate would still have the filibuster, so essentially requiring 60 votes on a lot of important legislation now.

You can get around a filibuster on certain things. George W. Bush and Republicans got around filibuster on tax cuts in the early 2000’s, but on big picture pieces of legislation it becomes a lot harder.

QUESTION: Thanks, I’m Morten Bertelsen from Norway and Dagens Naeringsliv.

I’m just curious about Gary Johnson, his polling [inaudible] last week. Could he decide the election? What role could it play in this going forward?

MR SKELLEY: I think an important thing to remember with Johnson and with the third party candidates in general is that we’ve seen this before where a third party candidate polls very high and then toward the end, you know, as we get closer to election day the numbers fall in the polls. That has a lot to do with strategic voting in the U.S. This is true to some extent in the UK and Canada and places with ‘first past the post’ voting, where all you need is plurality of the vote to win. You see the most votes. It doesn’t matter out of how many are cast. Obviously the U.S. has the Electoral College, as well, but still in each state the electoral votes, for the most part, are assigned by whoever won the most votes in that state. So it still functions as ‘first past the post.’

So it’s one of those things where people who may be saying they’re voting for Johnson right now almost certainly, a good number of them are going to be voting either for Clinton or Trump or not voting at all.

So I’m hesitant to assign too much potential, you know, saying that Johnson is going to really impact the election.

Another reason I say that is because so far in the polls, most of the polls seem to suggest that he’s taking pretty evenly from Trump and Clinton which causes me to think even more that at the end of the day many of those voters will wind up with Trump or Clinton because it seems to suggest that maybe some of them are Republicans who don’t want to vote for Trump, and some are Democrats who may not want to vote for Clinton. But give it a few more months. Some negative advertising. The realization that if the election is relatively close in particular, that their vote really could matter a great deal, and I think there’s a much better chance that many of them will wind up in the two major party columns.

Now, that is not to say that Johnson isn’t about to have, like, the best showing any Libertarian’s ever had. I think there’s a really good chance of that happening. I think the best one was 1980, they won a little over one percent. And Johnson last time got just about one percent of the vote. And you have to think that the Libertarian party’s in a position to have a record showing, but still every, actually very narrowly in 1996, the two major parties didn’t add up to 90 percent of the vote and that was the last time that happened. It was like 89.9 or 8, I forget exactly, and that was with Ross Perot and a few other third party independent candidates in the mix.

But since that time they’ve been over 95 percent, the two major parties, in every election. So I’m real hesitant to say that it’s going to be you know, much lower than 92 or something, or 91 between the two of them, just because of the forces at work here in terms of pulling people towards the two major parties.

MR KONDIK: Just one thing to add to what Geoff said. An important number for the Gary Johnson/William Well ticket is 15 percent, which is if a candidate is at 15 percent or more in an average of selected national polls, that candidate is included in the presidential debates in the fall.

Johnson has reached, I don’t think he’s ever been at 15 percent in any poll, but he has been in double digits in certain polls. If the bar were 10 percent, I think Johnson would have a decent chance to make it. 15’s a little harder and the thing is, if you - it’s almost like success would beget success in that you get to 15 percent, then you get in the debates, and being in the debates makes you a more credible candidate. But if you can’t get in the debates then maybe your support drops off like, as Geoff said, typically does happen with third party candidates.

Again, the Libertarian party generally is not much of a factor, you know, one percent of the vote at most. Probably will do better than that, but maybe not dramatically better.

We’ll also have a Green party candidate, Jill Stein. She was the 2012 nominee, so both the Libertarians and the Green party are likely to have the same presidential nominee as they had in 2012.

The Green party historically, in most given elections, does worse than the Libertarians. But in 2000 Ralph Nader and the Green party nominee, Nader was a famous consumer advocate who then got into politics. Nader got 2.7 percent and probably cost Al Gore the election by taking votes from him in Florida, a state that was decided by about, I think, 530-some votes.

So these candidates can matter, but at the end of the day you’re going to expect the vast, vast majority of the votes to go to one of the two major parties.

MR SKELLEY: Actually I have just one real quick follow-up to that which is to say if you see polls where they don’t actually ask Johnson or Stein by name, the percentage who volunteer their names are far lower than if they are named, and I think that’s an important thing to keep in mind. If you’re giving people an alternative option with Clinton and Trump, right now they’re saying it, but they can’t actually volunteer it because they may not even know who these individuals are or they may only have a very limited knowledge of them but they just don’t want to say Clinton or Trump right now.

QUESTION: Hi, I’m Ann Walters with the German Press Agency.

Kyle, I was wondering if you could give us a little snapshot about the role of Ohio in the election. And also how you see John Kasich’s decision not to support Trump impacting the results this year.

MR KONDIK: I’m happy to talk about a beloved home state in my new book, The Bellwether, available now. But it makes a great, I don’t know what holidays are coming up.

MR SKELLEY: End of summer.

MR KONDIK: Yeah, something like that.

Ohio is a state that always votes, almost always votes very close to the national average. My book goes back to the last 30 presidential elections. Ohio voted for the winner in 28 of those 30, which is the best record of any state in that timeframe. Some of the other states that typically vote for the winner are New Mexico and Nevada, are two pretty good ones too. But Ohio has kind of a longer tradition, and also Ohio is a much bigger state than New Mexico or Nevada and therefore is worth more in the Electoral College.

Ohio historically leans just a tiny little bit Republican, to the point where no Republican has ever won the White House without carrying Ohio. The Republican party goes all the way back to 1856, which was the election, one election before the Civil War. And so we’ve had 40 elections since 1856. The winner has carried Ohio in 35 of them. The five times Ohio voted for the loser, it was to support a losing Republican over a Democrat who was elected President.

There are a lot of reasons I cite for why Ohio is this bellwether state, the state that’s very predictive of the average. Part of it is that the state does not have a dominant city, and we have a really big urban/rural split in American politics. Ohio has three major cities, more than three major cities, but the three biggest ones are Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. But those cities don’t dominate the percentage of the statewide vote that say Chicago does in Illinois or New York City does in New York state, or even Detroit in Michigan or Minneapolis-St. Paul in Minnesota. Those states are all more Democratic than Ohio is and I think the dominance of those big cities is a major reason why.

Also, from its founding, Ohio, some called it the first American state, because if you go back to the early days of the republic, Ohio was settled by people from all across the original 13 states. So like where we are now, we used to be called the Western Reserve, it was part of the state of Connecticut. And a lot of people from Connecticut and New England settled here. Southwest Ohio, kind of around between Columbus and Cincinnati, a lot of people from Virginia, so you had Southerners down there. Then you had a lot of people from Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic states settle in the middle part of the state. So it created this kind of political-cultural equilibrium where you had a bunch of different groups with different kinds of values and none of them ever achieved dominance over the others in the state. And so the state became this reflection of the nation and it really has been ever since.

As to the Kasich question, so Governor Kasich of course ran for president himself. He only won the state of Ohio, won it pretty convincingly over Donald Trump, although Kasich did not get over 50 percent, which actually historically is kind of a poor performance for a home state candidate. But he did beat Trump here by about 10 or 11 points.

Kasich, amazingly, is the sitting Republican governor from the state that’s hosting the convention. Kasich has spent a lot of time cultivating the city of Cleveland, even though it’s a heavily Democratic area, both Cleveland and Cuyahoga County where it’s located. And yet, you know, Kasich doesn’t like Trump at all. Kasich may very well want to run for president again in 2020. Kasich will be term limited out of the Ohio governorship in 2018 so he might be pondering his next step.

But another little piece of this is that, so, a lot of Kasich’s people control the Ohio Republican party and given that Trump does not have a lot of money to spend on what we call the ground game, you know, knocking on doors and registering voters and that sort of thing, Trump might expect the Ohio Republican party to sort of do some of the lifting for him. But Trump and the Ohio Republican party don’t get along because Trump and Kasich don’t get along. But the Ohio Republican party also really wants to reelect Senator Rob Portman of Ohio. And typically turnout is generated by the top of the ticket, I think. So, if the Republicans in Ohio want to save Portman, they probably need Donald Trump to do at least okay in the presidential race. So it may be that both the Kasich and the Ohio GOP and the Trump campaign come to some sort of understanding.

But if it feels odd that Governor Kasich is not really playing a role at this convention, that’s because it is odd, I think, for someone who is, you know, you’ll sometimes have a governor who is very unpopular and therefore he doesn’t how up because he’s something of a pariah. Kasich is very popular in Ohio, and yet he’s not here. That’s an interesting thing to watch.

QUESTION: Hi, I’m Anna. I work for a Brazilian newspaper.

People are making a big deal about the absence of heavyweights in this convention such as the Bush’s, John McCain. But, I mean, do you believe this will be a problem? Because American people in general seems fed up with the old school politicians. So I don’t know if that’s like a media thing more than a real problem?

And just one more question. How do you see the role of the Trump kids in this campaign? I mean what should we expect from them?

MR KONDIK: Let me make a quick point.

I think you make an interesting observation that a lot of this can just be sort of like media talk. And I will say though, that Republicans, if you add, Republican voters are much less supportive of their own party’s leaders than Democrats are. So Republican may not care about their establishment being here because they’ve kind of become pretty anti-establishment themselves. In fact the views of the two party bases toward their own leaders really I think help explain what happened in the primary. The Republicans don’t really like their party’s leaders all that much. They don’t value experience in government as much. So they’ve selected a candidate who is an outsider who has no experience in government.

Democrats do like candidates with experience. They do generally like their party’s leadership. And here we have Hillary Clinton, who is ‘Mrs. Establishment,’ becoming the nominee next week.

QUESTION: -- at the same time.

MR KONDIK: Yeah, but the difference is Clinton won, and Clinton won pretty convincingly. Whereas, you know, now only did Trump win the Republican nomination, but Ted Cruz finished in second and Cruz was also a person who did not have any support from the establishment. So there’s a much bigger bloc of anti-establishment votes on the Republican side than there were on the Democratic side.

So does the public really care that McCain and Bush are not here? I don’t know if they do, and the one good thing for Trump is that while there seems to be a lot of elite disunity with the Republicans, the Republican, you know, self-identified Republicans in polls are still supporting Trump at about an 80-85 percent clip, which isn’t quite good enough, but it’s still pretty good for a candidate who supposedly is so weak in his own party. So actually, you know, if you have to choose between having the support of the party leaders; if you have to choose between having 80 percent of the party leaders or 80 percent of the voters, take 80 percent of the voters. And that’s where Trump is right now.

MR SKELLEY: To sort of follow up on the final point that Kyle mentioned there. You know, right now in the polls Trump is getting about 80-85 percent of self-identified Republicans and it isn’t good enough because in 2012 Mitt Romney won 93 percent of them, according to the exit polls. So again take that with at least a little margin of error there in some way. But the point is that Romney had a very strong unity vote from the party base and still lost by four percentage points. So for Trump it is imperative that he get close to that mark to have any chance of winning.

And I think that adds further reason for why you’re seeing the attacks on Hillary Clinton because it’s a useful way of unifying a party that obviously hasn’t seemed all that unified in the last few months. And so I think that’s a good way to look at it.

You asked about the use of the children. It does seem like this is sort of an unparalleled, we’ve never seen this before. Unprecedented use of the family in politics. It’s one thing to have, you know, a child speak at the convention or to have at least some public role because oftentimes the family, or, like, a spouse, is used to humanize the candidate, to sort of let you inside of what’s actually happening in a family, lets you know about the private nature of a person instead of just the public face. But I don’t think we’ve ever seen it where basically every night at the convention except I guess the last one because Trump will be speaking himself, you’ve seen you know, at least one if not two members, close relations to Trump speaking and getting a lot of attention.

I mean, last night his son, Donald Trump Jr. was almost the keynote, more or less, to some degree. And having had his wife more or less serve that role the night before, I do think that that’s unprecedented and it does speak -- and I will say actually, so far, based on their public personas, they’re pretty good surrogates for Trump. Well spoken. Do a pretty good job of presenting Trump’s case. So I think to some degree his kids and his wife can be a positive for him on the campaign trail.

Obviously, everyone has talked about the plagiarism situation with Melania Trump’s speech, and that has greatly distracted from what was probably overall a pretty good performance for her on Monday night. But I think at the end of the day a lot of Republicans don’t care. And if you’re focused on motivating the base, a bunch of people attacking Melania Trump is probably not the worst way of, I’m not saying that they engineered this, because they obviously just came out today and actually named the person who, well, that they said was responsible for this whole thing, and it’s been a great distraction from what was supposed to be pretty good night Monday night. But nonetheless, I think we have a tendency, especially in campaigns, where it’s a day-to-day, it’s almost like every day it’s a life cycle to overstate the importance of these events. So this whole thing with the plagiarism is going to be very much a small footnote in this election. So I think you have to take the overall view that for the most part it seems like Trump’s family could actually be helpful to him.

MR KONDIK: If it was not for the Melania Trump plagiarism, I think it would be pretty clear that the two most effective advocates on Donald Trump’s behalf have been his son and his wife. Now you have to say well, are they really going to say anything bad about him? They will be the most motivated to say something nice about their husband or father. But you know, we’re going to see many other Trumps speaking so far, and again, just in terms of the actual speaking they’ve been pretty effective, although the plagiarism thing just totally ruined what would have been, I mean Tuesday morning would have been, on the network, on cable television, would have been the toast to Melania Trump. I ‘m sure of it. It was starting on Monday night. It would have been totally gushing over her, but instead it turned into this unforced error basically that the campaign made or that she made or that whoever made by inserting that language into the speech.

Just kind of, that reminds me to make kind of a broader point, which is that it probably doesn’t matter all that much in the grand scheme of things, but there have been some kind of sloppy moments for this convention. The timing of things has just been off. The speakers have been arranged in such a way that the most prominent speaker doesn’t speak last, so you’ve seen a lot of people leaving the convention hall to the point where, it looked like it was empty yesterday. It’s just kind of little management things that sort of show that the Trump campaign in a lot of sort of logistical ways isn’t necessarily, isn’t running at 100 percent. However, I think it’s also very easy to overstate the importance of something like that.

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for doing this. My name is Renzo Ruf. I’m here with some Swiss newspapers.

We have been talking about politics and message. Let’s talk about messenger a little bit. How important is it for the Trump campaign that Roger Ailes might be out at Fox News at the end of the week?

MR KONDIK: That’s an excellent question. Let me give myself ten seconds to think about it.

I’ll say I’ve appeared on Fox News before, so just as a little bit of a caveat. Actually, I went to Ohio University and Roger Ailes also went to Ohio University, and there’s a building at the Journalism School named after Roger Ailes, or a newsroom named after Roger Ailes. So with all that aside, I don’t know the man myself.

But obviously Fox has a conservative slant and I think that in some ways Fox has been pro-Trump, although I would not say that that is an opinion that’s universally held by all the hosts at Fox.

I don’t know if it makes that much of a difference one way or the other, although I have to say that I don’t know the, it sounds like Rupert Murdoch’s sons are kind of the ones who would be forcing Ailes out. And I wonder A, who would replace Ailes at Fox; and B, would Fox’s editorial direction change in a significant way during the campaign and what sort of effect that might have.

But I don’t follow that stuff close enough to be able to make kind of an informed guess about that. I don’t know what Rupert Murdoch and his sons might, you know, how they might change the network if in fact Ailes is replaced. It’s kind of tricky. That’s a little bit outside of what we typically cover, although the media stuff is always pretty interesting.

QUESTION: Dagens Naeringsliv. You started out by saying that Hillary is something of a favorite, but I suppose you can see a path to 270 electoral votes for Mr. Trump too. Can you just flesh out that path and what does he have to do in order to get there?

MR SKELLEY: Sure. Kyle talked about Ohio, and it’s really difficult to see a path for a Republican winning without winning Ohio. So I said something earlier about, well, if you take Virginia and Colorado and Nevada off the table for Trump and having studied Virginia politics a fair amount, I do think that he’s a significant underdog in Virginia and I think it would be very hard for him to win that state because of the force of Northern Virginia outside of Washington, DC and the fact that percentage of the vote in that state is almost certainly going to, from that part of the state is almost certainly going to increase as a part of the state’s overall vote, and I just think it’s the area he did worse in in the Republican primary. And while you should always be careful about drawing conclusions from primary votes to a general election, I do think that illustrates an area where Trump probably is not going to be very strong. So, I think Virginia’s going to be a real tough sell for him.

But if you take those three swing states off -- Virginia, Colorado and Nevada. If you say, you know, Clinton wins those, he almost certainly has to win the triumvirate of Pennsylvania, Florida, and Ohio. And the real great difficulty there, I mean, Ohio, Kyle knows that better and I think he explained it to some extent, some of the challenges Trump is facing there.

When you talk about Florida, you’re talking about one of the more diverse state in the country. And, critically, in national polls. So this isn’t Florida-specific, but in national polls that are specifically focused at Latino voters, you know, Trump’s numbers are truly abysmal. There have been polls that have shown that 89 percent of Latinos in the country have an unfavorable opinion of Donald Trump. You have polls that have shown Clinton winning as much 80 percent of the vote against Trump. So there’s a decent chance, obviously more than decent. There’s a pretty strong chance that Clinton might actually out-perform Barack Obama’s numbers in 2012, at least according to the exit polls, among that group of voters when he won 71 percent to 27 percent over Romney. I’d say there’s a decent chance Clinton’s going to win 80 percent of that vote.

The problem for Trump there is that that percentage of the vote is almost certain to grow compared to the last few elections because you have a demographic group that is very young, and so a good number of young voters are aging into becoming voters so they can actually be eligible voters.

For instance, I think it was the state of Arizona. I was looking at numbers on this and it’s something like 40, it went from like 40 percent of Latinos, I’m trying to remember the exact figure now. Basically, it was that the eligible voting population among Latinos increased six percentage points from 2010 to 2014, so it’s probably increased by more than that, but that was just based on the last data that the Census had put out in terms of estimates. So, it’s just an example.

And in Florida, getting back to the main point here, you have, because of the trouble in Puerto Rico with the economy, with its budget, you’ve had a large exodus of Puerto Ricans and they’re already American citizens. They can vote, and they’re mainly moving to Florida. I mean that’s the number one location that they’re moving to, particularly the Orlando area. And you also have younger Cuban-Americans that have been trending Democratic versus their parents who tend to be Republican-leaning. So there’s just a lot of things going on with Latino voters in Florida that would make you think, ‘Wow, there’s a very good chance that they could vote more Democratic, and if they make up a larger share of the vote.’ You can see challenges for Trump there.

Now, Florida has a very old population. People move there, you know, it’s nice and warm. Occasional hurricane, but it’s nice and warm. That factor benefits Trump because older voters tend to be more Republican in their voting habits. So, you have sort of different forces at work there, but you can see reasons why Trump could have difficulty in Florida and Pennsylvania, a state that has been, as I said earlier, tending Republican. But there are still I think about 900,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in Pennsylvania. So even if you can win a solid percentage of the independent voters, or people registered with non-major parties in that state, it’s still, it’s a situation where you have as a Democrat in Pennsylvania a really high floor. There’s a certain percentage of the vote that you are not going to fall below because of how, of the partisan makeup of that state. In fact, Pennsylvania had the smallest percentage in the exit polls of voters who identified as independent. In the [2012] exit poll, 45 percent identified as Democrats. So if you assume that Clinton’s going to win 90-plus percent of those individuals, you’re starting from a really high floor as a Democrat in Pennsylvania, which is a challenge for Trump.

Now some of those Democrats may be old school Democrats who have been moving toward Republicans and just haven’t changed registration. But to some extent that’s been going on for some years now, and so just how many more of those voters are there I think is really difficult to say.

I think the overall message is Trump has a path, but those three states, there are reasons you can find to be at least a little skeptical of his chances. And when you combine that into winning all three, that makes it, you know, that shows why he is an underdog, I think.

MR KONDIK: A few other points just to add on,

One is that all three of them, they’re three of the, I think, seven biggest states in the country. So not only do they have a lot of people, but they also have a lot of media markets which can, you have to spend a lot of money to get sort of saturation coverage on television.

The other thing about Florida in particular is that, as Geoff alluded to, Cuban-Americans are generally more Republican, particularly older Cuban-Americans. Some of whom maybe were actually born in Cuba and came over during the communist takeover of Cuba and have been very, very Republican for basically for Cold War kinds of reasons.

But if Trump is a candidate that is uniquely bad for, or is uniquely disliked by Hispanic voters, the Hispanic vote, Democrats have a lot more room to grow in the Hispanic vote in Florida because while the Hispanic vote was close to about 70/30 Democratic in 2012, in Florida it was only more like 60/40, I think. So if there’s an even bigger swing in Florida, that’s potentially more dramatic. Essentially more dramatic in Florida than it is nationally.

Again, historically speaking, I talk about the importance of Ohio to Republicans, Florida is really important to Republicans too because if you just look at the biggest states. So California has the most electoral votes, very heavily Democratic. Texas is second, very heavily Republican. But then you have New York State, very heavily Democratic; Illinois, heavily Democratic these days. If you take Florida and give it to the Democrats, you know, almost all the big states are then going Democratic except for Texas and that’s why the math, it’s really hard to make the math work if a Republican doesn’t have Florida and doesn’t have Ohio.

So, I agree with Geoff, that probably the most logical path for Trump is all the Mitt Romney states, which make up 206 electoral votes; and then adding Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio to that which I think would get him to 273. I think if I’m doing the math right. Yeah. 273, so barely getting over. But you have to win, you know, three states that are really tough, particularly for a candidate who may not have the kind of funding that a Republican presidential nominee is used to.

MODERATOR: This is our last question.

QUESTION: This is Thomas Gorguissian from Tahir Egypt.

My question is more related to the GOP in general. What are your thoughts about when people say [inaudible] has became the party of Trump, or will be, or is becoming party of Trump? How do you see if this statement is true or false, and how it’s going to impact on the future of the party and the political scene in general?

MR KONDIK: I think the key question there is if Trump loses, does he remain a durable force in the party? My guess is no, because Trump seems very much like kind of a party of one, and I don’t know if he has much interest in party building beyond his own candidacy. You would look ahead to 2020 and the likely contenders and a lot of them are a lot of the same people who ran in 2016, plus maybe a few other people like maybe Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas who is about as down the line a Republican as can be. To the extent that Trump is an apostate on certain issues, I think Cotton is not.

So it may be that this is just an aberration and that the GOP will go back to being what it was before, but it’s also possible that the Trump candidacy could create a little bit of a realignment in the electorate. Maybe you have Republicans getting even a bigger share of kind of downscale whites, but some college educated white typically Republicans might sort of go more to the Democrats which would only compound Republican problems anyway because they’re already losing amongst the growing party electorate, the non-white part. So, maybe that’s the legacy, is that there are some voting patterns that change. But I also think it’s possible that this is just a weird, random thing that happened and that maybe we’ll go back to where it was you know, after this.

Now, if Trump wins the election, then all bets are off because then you would have a new president who really could maybe change the electorate in a more dramatic way based on how he performed.

MR SKELLEY: It’s interesting because I do think that Trump, Trump is a unique figure, obviously, in our political history and the events that led to him becoming the Republican nominee, there are many factors. You know, his unique persona, his ability to attract media attention and get $2 billion worth of free media. That’s incredible, during the primary. And also the fact that Republican voters were particularly mad at their leaders and were thus perhaps more willing to receive Trump’s message. Pretty much every primary exit poll during the Republican primary showed that a majority of voters, of Republican voters in every state said that they felt betrayed by their leaders. And then the fact that you had this huge field with a lot of politicians who were more focused on attacking others who they viewed as a bigger threat, perhaps giving Trump, you know, room to grow and to never quite become the target, in part because other Republican candidates were like oh, surely he’s going to fade at some point and I need to make sure that I don’t spend my time attacking him and maybe help one of my other opponents. So you have a lot of different factors here.

But I do think it’s really important to remember that Trump may represent in many ways sort of an awakening of what is kind of the Republican base? You know, a lot of data has shown that a lot of Republican voters aren’t as conservative as people assume based on their leaders. You have a large percentage of Republicans who want to protect their security, they don’t want to touch it. They don’t want it touched. You hear Trump saying that in - you know, he’s not going to make any cuts to entitlement programs. And I think you see that, to a large degree, you have a lot of Republicans who seem to be open to protectionism. There was actually a poll that came out the other day that more Democrats are in favor of free trade than Republicans. It’s maybe a little unexpected given Bernie Sanders and what we know about the parties.

I think it’s just, Republicans aren’t quite as conservative as we assumed, and because of that, Trump’s heterodox positions in some areas didn’t end up mattering all that much in terms of hurting him. And it’s perhaps more about his message, which I think in a lot of ways, Make America Great Again is a nostalgic identity-based message that very much appeals mainly to a certain segment of white voters who don’t feel like they recognize the country today because it has changed a great deal. It looks very different from how it looked say 30-40 years ago. And their uncertainty and discomfort with that change has drawn them to Trump.

So I do think that it’s not been just about Trump, it’s that the Republican electorate, it turns out, is a lot more receptive to those messages than I think a lot of people realized.

MR KONDIK: One final point, and that is that if you look at a state like Ohio or Pennsylvania, it seems like the places where Trump has the potential to do significantly better than Romney are in the places in those states that aren’t growing or actually are decreasing in population. Here in Ohio, for instance, a lot of people are focused on the city of Youngstown which is historically Democratic. It’s just east of here, kind of between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. And the Mahoning Valley more generally and areas, Appalachian parts of Ohio. The same is true on the other side of the border in Pennsylvania. But those are all places that are economically hurting, and you know, may very well cast fewer votes in this election than the last one.

The places where Trump may be a bad, be worse than Romney, are places like the kind of wealthy Republican suburbs. So some of the counties that around Philadelphia that may be swing counties or vote Republican. There are a lot of counties in Ohio like that. Delaware County, which is north of Columbus, Medina County, which is up here in northeast Ohio. And those places are growing.

So, Trump in some ways is taking his chances on places that are losing population against, and maybe giving up some votes in places that are growing, which seems like kind of a bad bet, but maybe for one election it could work.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much Geoff and Kyle. They’ve agreed to stay and do some one-on-ones.

Thanks again on behalf of the Foreign Press Center. Kyle is a frequent speaker, and I look forward to seeing Geoff more often here too. Thanks.

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