They said it couldn’t be done. First, they said Donald Trump would never actually run for president, and then he officially announced his run for president. They said his comments about Mexican rapists would sink him before he got started, and Trump promptly rocketed to the top of the polls. Then, they said his attack on Sen. John McCain‘s (R-AZ) war heroism would definitely derail the Trump train, and yet he remains at the top of all the national polls, is a close second in Iowa, and has a huge lead in New Hampshire.
Republican strategists are consoling themselves by alternately insisting that Trump will exit the race when he loses in Iowa (where he’s currently almost in the lead), and that his stands on issues will trip him up once the debates begin. Even with Trump so clearly in the lead, the media have the nerve to fret about a Trump third-party run. The day will come when they’ll be begging Jeb Bush to mount a third-party run against Trump.
What they’re all missing is that Trump is immune to all of the things they think will take him out. As Andrew Kirell noted not long ago, Donald Trump is adept at explaining away his past positions, and at avoiding some of his current ones. For example, even with all of his focus on illegal immigration, he has been studiously silent about a pathway to citizenship. Trump’s appeal has little to do with substance, and everything to do with style, and to date, the assumption has been that there’s a limit to how far that can take him. People forget how far it took him in 2011, and what it took to stop him then.
In April of that year, Trump was riding high in the polls, and had yet to even announce a candidacy. He dominated the media for months, but put most of his eggs into the Obama Birther basket. It was only by publicly humiliating Trump over the birth certificate while sending SEAL Team Six to kill Osama bin Laden that President Barack Obama was able to stop Trump’s momentum. This time, Trump has diversified, and none of his current targets have a hidden birth certificate or special ops strike up their sleeves. Trump insulted Jeb Bush‘s wife, and Bush was like, “Haha, okay, knock it off, Biff.” Over the weekend, when it was reported that a fundraiser for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker called Trump “DumbDumb” in a fundraising email, Trump went to town on Walker:
“Finally, I can attack! Finally! Finally!”
If you thought Trump relished that opportunity, wait until the primetime debate on Fox News next week. Anyone who thinks that Chris Christie or Rick Perry are going to put a dent in Trump needs to have their head examined. Christie will join Trump in slaughtering Bush and Walker, and Perry will try to land a scripted attack, and get knocked on his ass. The only Republican who has the chops to damage Trump is Rick Santorum, maybe, and he probably won’t be there.
The current theory is that as the field narrows, Trump will hit his ceiling, but when your lesser-polling candidates start dropping out, is their support going to go to candidates who can’t stand up to the guy who’s not even supposed to have a chance? Even if they disagree with Trump on the issues, Republican voters aren’t going to vote for a wuss. As long as he continues to get the privilege of busting these guys up in debates, and enjoying non-stop free publicity, Trump will continue to gain support.
Liberals and Democrats, meanwhile, are laughing all the way to the Whole Foods at the prospect of a Trump general election candidacy, but if you accept the possibility of a Trump nomination, then you dismiss his general election chances at your peril. Assuming that Hillary Clinton is the nominee (which she will be), Trump will head into the general election with the same attack-dog skills and media attention that he had in the primaries, but with the additional benefit of a clean slate on the issues. While the Clinton-hating media continues to attack Hillary with stories that don’t actually add up, don’t be surprised to see Trump outflank Hillary by, say, proposing instant citizenship to go along with his Mexican-proof fence. Once he’s got the GOP nod, The Donald can freestyle on the issues like it’s 8 Mile Road up in here.
While Trump is busy collecting Republican voters, who will turn out no matter what in order to defeat Hillary Clinton, Hillary will be turning out the Obama coalition that helped President Obama win twice, but might not be turning out the bitterly defeated Sanders/Warren wing. Then, your election will be decided by the handful of soft-headed “independents” who always decide things, and who are relentlessly being told that they can’t trust Hillary Clinton. Before you know it, there’s a CBO report on just how much it will cost to gold-plate the White House.
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