Donald Trump is still a thing. When he took to a raucous Trump Tower in June to finally jump into a presidential race after years of teasing, even the most astute of political junkies predicted a brief Trump whirlwind before crashing out ignominiously.
However, the brash billionaire businessman has taken the presidential race by storm and, as the primaries draw closer, the lead that was supposed to dwindle has only solidified and grown. The Summer of Trump overran into autumn and is whipping up a winter storm as 2015 draws to a close.
It was not supposed to be this way, especially after a series of comments that would have been campaign-ending for anyone other than The Donald.
But where others would fall, Trump only seems to strengthen his advantages. The backlash over his policy to temporary ban Muslims from entering the U.S. in an effort to combat Islamic State would have finished lesser candidates, but the very next day, he was back on TV cruising through interviews with ease.
In his short time as a politician, Trump has shown his mastery of the media. Despite a glaring lack of specifics over the past six months, no interviewer has been able to successfully pin him down – Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly has arguably been the best at calling out unworkable policies and question dodging. Why? Because Trump answers the questions he wants to, happily wanders off on tangents, while ensuring he provides a few juicy quotes to grab the headlines.
It’s all in Trump: The Art of the Deal
As explained in Trump: The Art of the Deal, “the second-greatest book of all-time”, sensationalism sells and guarantees that “the press is going to write about you”. The Trump-coined phrase “truthful hyperbole” suggests slight exaggeration is innocent, and a “very effective form of promotion”.
These quotes help to clarify the logic of Trump’s approach, and dispel the claims that he is clueless. Most of Trump’s eyebrow-raising moments are examples of this ideology put into action. He knows exactly what he is doing.
For the media and Trump, it’s a convenient alliance – however much the two may like to despise each other. The media offers Trump copious exposure because he draws the ratings like no other. That exposure has allowed the New Yorker to keep his campaign coffers virtually full. While former establishment favourite Jeb Bush has expended $32.5 million on practically useless ads, Trump has shelled out just $216,000.
Polls continue to strengthen
The polls, as you have probably heard from the man himself, have been “beautiful”. After briefly dipping briefly due to Ben Carson’s short rise, Trump has surged once more and he now regularly chalks up 35 to 40 percent in national polling.
As there is no national primary, such numbers come with a healthy dose of caution, but even in the early voting states, Iowa appears the only obstacle – the Hawkeye State sees Trump locked in a battle with fellow anti-establishment candidate and Republican buddy Ted Cruz. In New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada he leads handily, and has done so for much.
Consider too that the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses have picked the eventual nominee just two times out of six, failing to win the Midwest state wouldn’t spell doom. However, if Trump does win Iowa, his overall strength suggests he could indeed “run the table” and cruise to the nomination.
The biggest hurdle for Trump may not come from the opposition, but from closer to home. Polls have indicated that his rise isn’t coming thanks to the GOP faithful, but from outsiders being wooed back into politics by his candidacy.
It could go one of two ways: the cold winter nights may ultimately see many decide against making the effort to go and vote, or, his vitalised base could turn out in force, much like Barack Obama’s did in 2008. If Trump’s crowds are a true measure of his support, the latter outcome seems probable.
No-nonsense Trump resonates with disaffected voters
Determining why Trump is enjoying such unprecedented domination among the GOP candidates is simple – he speaks the language of Americans utterly fed up with Washington and has the no-nonsense approach to “get things done” that the rest so sorely lack.
That he has flip-flopped on the Second Amendment and abortion – two Republican issues – doesn’t matter, nor does his past praise of likely presidential adversary Hillary Clinton. He claims to have evolved like Reagan, and says that as a businessman it was his job to buy politicians and get along with everyone.
For those not on the Trump Train, such statements obviously do not wash, but his ability to speak frankly about Washington corruption is what appeals to so many others – many Americans are overjoyed they now have somebody to voice the opinions they have held for so long – and that he is entirely self-funding his campaign helps too. Illegal immigration, jobs going abroad, shoddy trade deals to mention three, Trump is throwing out the red meat and getting the exact response he wants.
Detail has been missing, but who needs detail when you can sell a good story? Trump presents himself as a negotiator, someone who can make the necessary deals to solve America’s problems.
Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate in 2012, claimed three years ago that Russia was the country’s “number one geopolitical foe”; three years on, and the party’s current front-runner is trading compliments with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.
Those dismayed with Obama’s leadership and consider the US a waning force on the global stage see Trump as the solution to that problem. As far as they are concerned, his business has excelled and such cut-throat nous will help America do the same – especially with the strong team Trump promises his presidency would boast.
Before Trump jumped in, many pundits thought Kentucky Senator Rand Paul would be a major force with his libertarian outlook, even if he isn’t as rooted in the ideology as his father Ron is. As it has turned out, small government and liberty has been swamped by big government and “security”. If the primaries confirm that, it proves Republicans were never really searching for a reduced state, just a powerful leader.
Trump v Clinton
The prospect of a Trump-Clinton showdown is decidedly juicy, especially from the safe vantage point of across the pond. It’s a match-up that gives both sides reasons to be happy, while both cause for concern.
For the Democrats, Trump being the opposition over a smoother candidate such as Marco Rubio would be cause for early and perhaps premature celebration. The Hispanics – an increasingly important section of the electorate – US Muslims and floating voters could flock to Clinton in wake of Trump’s tough immigration stances, handing the Democrats a clear path to the White House.
But underestimating the power of Trump has been a foolhardy strategy so far. His ceiling continues to rise in spite of those deeming he has peaked, and he would likely run a charm offensive in a general election, opting for a more centrist stance. His business background would serve him well in the economic battle, and the “bringing jobs back” message could be very potent with the working class, even among minority voters.
As of now, Clinton has a solid lead in head-to-head polls versus Trump, but with more than 10 months to go until the race culminates, what’s happening now has limited relevance.
Could Donald Trump become the Republican nominee? Definitely. Could he then march to the White House next November? Definitely, maybe.