Want to make a political scientist's head explode? Explain to them how Donald Trump is a winner because he is leading polls and winning crowded primaries.
In the back of their mind, the political scientist is thinking "he's 'winning' because the vote is fractured," and resisting the urge to say "the worst way to pick someone for office is to just take the person with the most votes, but not a majority." Or, as Natalie Jackson put it last fall in evaluating Trump as a frontrunner, "not so fast."
In that spirit, we want to talk to you about an obscure 18th century philosopher, Nicolas de Condorcet. The Marquis de Condorcet was a French mathematician was concerned with fair systems that preserved majority rule. He thought a good voting system picked a candidate from a crowded field (three or more candidates) who would beat any other candidate in a head-to-head contest. Back last fall, Gaddie blogged that "For Trump to be a definitive frontrunner, he should be able to defeat any other candidate head-to-head, absent other choices. ... One way to tease out Trump's Condorcet potential is to ask voters to consider every potential trial heat." A Condorcet winner can consistently lose in a crowded field. But, because they are everyone's second choice, they beat any other opponent in a head-to-head contest (this has been the Rubio/Kasich argument throughout the primary season.)
A Condorcet loser can consistently win with pluralities. This is the problem for Republicans and Mr. Trump -- he's not a Condorcet winner. We now have evidence in national polling of Republicans that Trump is not the Condorcet winner, and, in fact he's the Condorcet loser. Donald Trump is a loser. New polling from the Washington Post and Gary Langer at ABC shows Trump clearly losing to both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Trump's an especially powerful loser among evangelicals and core conservatives. (No test number for Kasich was made available). Ted Cruz is the strongest candidate against Trump in this test.
It's just math, but it's powerful math that demonstrates a critical flaw in our modern party nominating processes that they can pick the candidate who is least preferred by most voter.