Of course Donald Trump isn’t leaving the Republican primary race, at least not at this point. Who leaves with a lead? In a lengthy interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo this morning, Trump castigated interviewers who have begun pursuing a post-Trump meme in recent appearances:
Real estate tycoon Donald Trump insisted Tuesday that he was nowhere near ending his 2016 White House bid, despite slipping a bit in some polls.
“Not even a thought, not even 1 percent of the thought,” Trump said during a phone interview broadcast on CNN’s “New Day.”
“Why would I get out?” Trump asked, pointing out that he is still leading polls for the Republican presidential nomination. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Trump has suggested in several interviews that he may end his White House bid if he dropped into the low single digits, like several other candidates in the field.
Trump wasn’t terribly impressed with Cuomo’s questions either, as The Hill notes from a Trump retweet:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 6, 2015
Trump’s numbers have slipped a bit, but overall he still leads the RCP average of GOP primary polls by 5.5 points, and only trails in one (IBD/TIPP) to Carson. He also leads the RCP index in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. It’s a bit curious as to why so many interviewers are interested in Trump’s exit strategy more than, say, John Kasich’s or Mike Huckabee’s, but when you’re the media leader, you get to answer all sorts of odd questions.
That’s not to say that an exit is unthinkable in the longer run, of course. In my column for The Week today, I argue that a Trump exit wouldn’t cause a “collapse” for the GOP, and that Trump’s polling plateau may result from an act that’s getting a little stale:
Trump’s act has lost its novelty. That’s not to say that Trump has lost all of his followers, but he’s certainly not winning many new ones at the moment. Fiorina has ticked upward, as has Rubio much more quietly, slipping ahead of Bush to get into fourth place in the RCP average. Trump’s slide downward comes as the focus of his campaign has failed to shift from himself to either policy or the voters themselves. Even these musings on a withdrawal from the race focused entirely on Trump himself, his becoming bored with politics sans Trump, and how he would become accustomed to life off the campaign trail. The self-promotion appears to have gotten a little stale, and Trump so far has failed to successfully adjust.
In the end, voters want elections to focus on their lives. They want to know about solutions to their issues, how their personal and local economies will improve with a particular candidate, and feel as though a candidate has an emotional connection to their situations. Especially in some of the key areas in which the GOP must compete to win the general election, voters want to see a pragmatic problem-solver. Donald Trump is an ideologue. Without him, the 2016 GOP race might be one that actually focuses on the things mainstream voters want to hear.
The bench in this cycle has too much talent to let that desire go unmet for long. A Trump exit might refocus the GOP on the need to win a broader range of voters by focusing on solutions-based governance and optimism about the nation’s prospects. That might not be a ratings grabber for the cable news networks, but it would give the Republican Party a better chance to compete in November 2016.
Trump still has time to adjust and improve, however, and no need to look for an exit. That isn’t true for a number of his competitors.