Could anyone but Trump have defeated Hillary?
The conventional wisdom of the GOPe before the election was “Hillary is a very weak candidate, and if anyone else were running against her, we would win, but because the stupid voters nominated Trump, we will lose.”
The post-election reality is that Trump won Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, all states which George W. Bush lost in 2000, the last time a non-incumbent Republican won the presidential election.
Does anyone think that Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush (the two most likely nominees had Trump never gotten involved) would have won those states that George W. Bush lost?
I think that without Trump rousing the prole-white Rustbelt vote, any other Republican would have had to win via the Bush 2000 route and have won the following states which Trump lost: New Hampshire, Colorado and Virginia.
Could Jeb or Rubio really have won Virginia which Trump lost by 4.9 percentage points? It’s true that W trounced Gore there in 2000, but since then, there has been big population growth in the blue DC suburbs. Obama beat Romney in Virginia by 3.88 percentage points in 2012 even without a hometown vice-presidential running mate. Would Jeb or Rubio really have done so much better in Virginia that they would have been able to make up the deficit by which Trump lost? Since 2000, Virginia has become a solidly blue state, with a Democratic governor (Terry McAuliffe) and two Democratic Senators (Mark Warner and of course Hillary’s running mate Tim Kaine).
If the Republican nominee had been anyone but Trump, winning the election would have been a longshot.