Donald Trump can’t do math

Donald Trump is claiming that he didn’t actually lose Iowa. Sure, he knows that he didn’t get the most votes, nor did he come away with the most delegates. But that doesn’t mean he lost.

As he explained, the only reason he didn’t come in first was because Ted Cruz ran a dirty campaign. As he said, quoted by the Hill, “I only came in second because of the fact that Cruz took a lot of votes away from Carson that should not have been taken away.”

To be clear, Ted Cruz really did ratfck Carson on caucus night. Cruz’s campaign and surrogates misrepresented a CNN report that Carson was heading home to Florida after the caucuses were over “for some R&R,” sending emails and voicemails to supporters telling them that Carson was dropping out, and for them to pass the message along to Carson’s supporters, who were most likely to have Cruz as their second choice. During Saturday’s debate, Cruz apologized to Carson for the incident while continuing to lie about his campaign’s actions.

Donald Trump, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Donald Trump, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

However, all signs point to Trump making a much bigger deal out of this story than it actually is. He really doesn’t get why he lost Iowa, and looks to have had a really tough time dealing with not being a winner. But if Trump really does believe that he would have come in first in Iowa had Ted Cruz’s campaign not lied about Ben Carson’s supposed exit from the race, it should give us some serious pause; it would mean that Donald Trump has a hard time with basic math.

Ted Cruz beat Donald Trump in Iowa by slightly more than three percentage points, tallying 51,666 votes to Trump’s 45,427 (a margin of 6,239 votes). Ben Carson received 17,395 votes, giving him 9.3 percent of Iowa’s votes. To be clear, by claiming that the entire gap between him and Cruz (and then some) is comprised of misled Carson voters, Trump is claiming that Cruz’s dirty trick convinced at least 6,240 Carson voters to switch their votes to Cruz at the last minute.

But as shady as Cruz’s gambit was, the idea that it peeled over 6,000 voters away from Carson and into his camp is wishful, at best. For perspective, these 6,239+ missing Carson voters would have been good for sixth place in the Iowa caucuses on their own — Jeb Bush received 5,238. What’s more, Ben Carson’s 9.3 percent in Iowa was actually higher than the 7.7 percent share he garnered polling averages heading into caucus night. If he really was harmed by Cruz’s deception, one would expect him to underperform relative to expectations. Sure, you could argue that without Cruz’s “dirty tricks,” Carson would have overperformed relative to his polling average by more than he actually did, but by assigning all of Trump’s deficit to Carson you’re forced to argue that Carson’s true level of support in Iowa was nearly 13 percent — close to six percentage points higher than his polling average — and that nearly a quarter of Carson’s voters were misled into voting for Cruz. There’s no reason to believe that either of these things are the case.

Yes, Ted Cruz’s campaign has been super shady. Yes, a few would-be Carson voters probably did vote for Cruz after being told that Carson was dropping out of the race. But the idea that Cruz’s lie was the deciding factor in Iowa is downright silly.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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2 Responses to “Donald Trump can’t do math”

  1. BeccaM says:

    Trumpy went into the Iowa caucuses insisting he would not only win, he’d win “Yuuuge.” Most people would define that as double-digits ahead of the competition, not “just barely 2nd place.”

    I’ve been pointing out for days now that Trump’s math didn’t make any sense and it sounds like Cruz’s attempted (and manifestly sleazy and obvious) rat-fuckery accomplished bupkiss. Carson outperformed the polls by a couple of points, which I would contend could be taken as a sign that Cruz’s attempt did the opposite: People may be misled at times, but most aren’t stupid. A strategy like that — “Your candidate is dropping out, support mine instead” — is rather transparently obvious. I think if anything, it might’ve solidified Carson support.

    But for Trump and his people to contend that Carson would’ve pulled what? Roughly 12% rather than 9.3 is ludicrous. That would’ve put the polls as being off by roughly 50% (7.7 –> 12) which is way the hell outside the margin of error.

    Here’s the really crazy part: Cruz was awarded 8 GOP delegates. Trump and Rubio both got 7 (yes, a tie). AT MOST, even if Trump’s accusations and numbers had merit (they don’t), he’d have just one more delegate. One more delegate.

    Yet this bothers Trump to the point where he can’t just capitalize on pointing out Cruz’s sleazy tactics and leave it at that. Hell, during the Democratic debate, the moderators brought up the caucus mess and both candidates agreed that with so many delegates in play, two wasn’t worth making a fuss over.

  2. SkippyFlipjack says:

    Trump can do math. He’s just a liar.

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