The primary season is over. With New Hampshire handing President Donald Trump a decisive win and clear polling in his favor ahead, it’s time for Ambassador Nikki Haley to concede the inevitable and step aside. Er, wait a second… I haven’t voted yet!
I understand the thinking of those who make the argument that Haley should concede. If all that is ahead for the former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador is a drubbing by the certain GOP nominee, a responsible partisan would get out of the way. Trump supporters would say letting the previous president focus on his real competition — the current president — is important because a vicious primary is doing the work of the bad guys of the other party for them.
There are several problems with this, however. First is as simple as what I wrote at the beginning: I, and the vast majority of Americans, haven’t had an opportunity to vote yet.
To argue that Trump is the presumptive nominee requires one of two paths, neither sensible. Either Iowa caucus-goers and New Hampshire voters must represent the pulse of the nation so well that hearing from everyone else is an unnecessary formality or one must be dependent on polling data that shows the rest of the race in Trump’s decided favor.
Neither Iowa nor New Hampshire represent America as a whole. Neither are viewed as bellwethers to the electoral whims of the country and even the bellwetheriest states have missed in recent years.
It’s one thing if a given candidate comes out ahead on “Super Tuesday,” where a broad swath of states from different regions vote at the same time. That can make it virtually impossible for the underdog to catch up mathematically. This is not that. Given a month of campaigning to go in a newly two-person GOP primary race, there is a small, but real chance the dynamics could change.
Keep in mind that in 2020, then Vice President Biden’s campaign looked like a replay of his past, fruitless attempts to grab the nomination. Gov. Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Bernie Sanders were the early victors. That changed in South Carolina and beyond.
Thus we land on the second, even worse reason for taking the race as finished: polling data.
Polling does indeed look like it favors President Trump. Polling has tracked well with the results, but polling not that long ago also would have put Haley in third place or worse. That’s true beyond this primary: polling regularly misses the outcome of elections.
While it can provide a sense of how the wind is blowing and grows closer to reality (usually) as it nears Election Day, we can’t and shouldn’t want it to replace voters voting. This isn’t about whether or not the result changes an iota from current polling. It isn’t about whether Trump or Haley prevails in the end. It’s simply a matter of principle about actually letting votes count — they can’t count if pollsters are given coronation power to determine the winner when only a tiny sliver of America has had the opportunity to cast a ballot.
Consider the irony of the rapidly emerging argument from Trump supporters that Haley should concede because of what Pollsters have reported. Most polling showed Trump losing to Biden in 2020. The same folks depending on the polling to argue that Haley accept defeat for future primaries are frequently the same people who continue to argue against what both polling and certified election results said happened four years ago.
Polling aside, one of the major reasons people question the certified results of actual votes is because some of those were cast by mail-in ballot. Never mind demonstrating fraud, the argument simply takes as a given that mail-in balloting equals fraud.
Keep in mind that mail-in ballots are still tied to voter registrations. If they can be used to perpetrate “stealing” an election, do we really want to now make a decision using mere polling data collected by who knows who?
No doubt in 2020 and every election prior there has been a certain level of fraudulent activity. But at least there’s a significant paper trail and intimidating penalties for anyone caught. Neither is true of voter polling data. If you can’t trust highly regulated elections, you do not want to replace those with unregulated educated guesses.
(And, again, if we did, then Biden won in 2020 before a single vote was cast.)
Yes, Trump (and Haley) will be damaged by a tough primary campaign. Yet, tough primaries can turn out better candidates, assuming the electorate takes in what is revealed during the process and chooses wisely. Haley will be tough on Trump, but the Biden campaign will be tougher and better funded in its efforts. If one’s favorite candidate cannot make it through a primary season without being overly damaged, he or she won’t make it in the general election, either.
So, the process needs to be allowed to work with the required patience as it does. Let Trump and Haley make their cases. Let the American voters casting votes, not guestimates of how people might feel, decide who wins.
May the best man (or woman) cross the finish line, not just be handed a victory based on someone’s best guess. We’ll all be better for it.