The utterly dominant storyline across the media this morning is that Donald Trump is now inevitable as Ted Cruz weakens and grows desperate. These storylines are important because they become self-reinforcing in media coverage, influencing voters and donors. Only actual news, such as voting results, can change their direction, so tomorrow’s Indiana primary is doubly important because it will either disrupt the story line or pretty well engrave it in stone.
If Trump loses in an upset, he’ll point out that he still has room to attract a clear majority of delegates, which is true. But a loss would revive delegate-counting, rule-parsing speculation about a brokered convention, and politicos will re-read Friday’s column by the WSJ’s Kimberley A. Strassel arguing that the nomination is not a done deal even if Trump shows up with 1,237 pledged delegates. If Trump wins, as expected, Cruz will point out that Trump has still not crossed the finish line, which is true. But the current narrative of inevitability will become almost impossible to divert.
I’m assuming the narrative is right, and we know who the nominees will be. On that basis, polling results released Friday by Gallup become highly illuminating. The bottom line is that they’re encouraging news for Hillary Clinton.
Gallup asked 7,500 Americans to rate each of the four remaining candidates on 12 traits. What’s surprising is the extreme differences in how the candidates are viewed. Trump achieved the highest rating of any candidate on any trait – 84% think he’s “competitive” – and also the lowest rating of any candidate on any trait – only 19% think he “cares about individuals.” Bernie Sanders wallops the field on the caring measure; Clinton and Cruz do only slightly better than Trump. And only Sanders strikes many Americans as even slightly “inspiring” or “visionary;” his modest ratings around 50% beat the others by 20 to 25 points.
Those numbers are interesting but possibly not very important. As we noted a couple of weeks ago, research by Princeton neuroscientist Alexander Todorov shows that voter judgments of competence – formed in less than a second by looking at a candidate’s face – predict voting behavior with remarkable accuracy. Gallup didn’t ask about competence specifically, but a cluster of four traits forms a good proxy for it. Here’s how Clinton and Trump compare:
Trait Clinton Trump
Prepared 51% 27%
Consistent 28% 26%
Analytical 43% 29%
Focused 55% 44%
Clinton is rightly criticized as a dreary, inauthentic campaigner. But if Todorov’s research is right, those failings may not be much of a disadvantage. The research would also suggest that quite a few Republicans at least think Trump is more competent than Cruz or Kasich. Until the convention, that’s what counts.
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What We’re Reading Today
Halliburton and Baker Hughes call off $28-billion merger
The deal would have combined the No. 2 and No. 3 oil service companies (after Schlumberger), but regulatory opposition caused the companies to give up. Halliburton CEO David Lesar said oil economics also make it less attractive now. Halliburton will pay a $3.5-billion break-up fee to Martin Craighead‘s company. CNBC
Puerto Rico to default today
Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla said that it will not be able to pay $370 million in bond payments due today. He ordered the Government Development Bank not to pay because the island needs the money for essential services. Most of the bonds are held by hedge funds and mutual funds; more than $1 billion is due July 1. ABC News
Donald Trump extends lead in Indiana
New polling gives Trump a 15-point lead over Ted Cruz in the pivotal primary, with 49% support. John Kasich, in an alliance with Cruz, promised not to campaign in the state. With 57 delegates up for grabs in a winner-take-all format, a victory would give Trump a significant boost toward a majority before the convention. Fortune
Bitcoin founder reveals himself
After much speculation and years of secrecy, bitcoin creator Craig Wright has come out of the shadows. The Australian entrepreneur revealed that he’s the founder, providing signed cryptographic keys from bitcoin’s start as proof. For years he went by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. Some doubters say more proof is needed. BBC
Building a Better Leader
How you run meetings can isolate women and introverts
Shape meetings by allowing everyone time to stand out, and enforce rules such as prohibiting talking over others. Harvard Business Review
How to fail your way to the top
Cloud talent management company Cornerstone OnDemand helps employees conquer fear of failure with tools such as internal Hackathons, “where employees get to dream big and build fast,” says the company’s founder. Fortune
Risk is overrated
The CEO of Zoominfo says that every business decision comes with risk, but proper vetting with your team can mitigate it. SmartBrief
Marissa Mayer could cash in…
…if she’s ousted after Yahoo’s presumed sale of its Internet business. A regulatory filing shows that Mayer would earn $55 million if she’s replaced within a year of any sale. That, along with her $36-million pay package last year, when Yahoo performed poorly, has sparked criticism from investors. Fortune
New Delta CEO starts today
It was a long road to the top for Delta veteran Ed Bastian. He takes over from the highly successful Richard Anderson with Delta in great shape. Anderson picked Bastian partly because of his role in steering the company out of bankruptcy. He’ll be focused on increasing the airline’s international footprint. Atlanta Magazine
Documents highlight CEO’s role in Valeant drug pricing
Internal documents show that after the company bought drugs from other firms, outgoing CEO J. Michael Pearson raised prices quickly and often. Last year he urged tripling the price of a cardiac drug while other executives advised a slower increase; Pearson won. At a Senate committee hearing last week, Pearson admitted the company had been “too aggressive” with pricing. WSJ
Up or Out
SAP SE has hired Thomas Saueressig as CIO. WSJ
Fortune Reads and Videos
The world’s largest sovereign wealth fund…
…is now scrutinizing CEO pay. Fortune
Berlin’s crackdown on Airbnb begins…
…as the city battles a housing crisis. Rents rose more than 50% from 2009 to 2014. New laws require Airbnb and similar companies to remove hundreds of listings in the city in order to make more apartments available for full-time residents. Fortune
Elon Musk puts his foot down on excessive Model 3 pre-orders
Investors are concerned that the Model 3 pre-orders are skewed by speculators ordering multiple cars. But that means the car has value, right? Fortune
Radiohead is disappearing from the Internet
And it’s likely a way for the group to promote its next album. Fortune
Quote of the Day
“We will continue working to try to reach a consensual solution with our creditors. That is one of our commitments. But what we will never do is put the lives and safety of our people in danger…We need this restructuring mechanism now.” — Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla announcing that the country would default on its bond payments, and pleading with the U.S. Congress to help him negotiate with creditors. ABC News
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