Donald Trump (24 percent) leads a fractured Republican field in the race for the GOP nomination in the latest national CBS News Poll. Behind him are Jeb Bush (13 percent) and Scott Walker (10 percent).
Trump leads among a wide array of Republican primary voters. He appears to have tapped into public anger toward Washington: he holds a large lead among Republican primary voters who say they are angry. And 79 percent think Trump says what he believes, rather than what people want to hear, far higher than the other candidates tested…
Trump and Bush are also seen as the most electable in a general election. At this early stage of the campaign, 26 percent say Trump has the best chance of winning in November 2016, and 23 percent pick Bush as having the best chance. Walker comes in third here, with eight percent.
Donald Trump’s rise to a position of total dominance in the Republican presidential field has been accompanied by a dismissive snort from Beltway mandarins that Trump is merely a “fringe” candidate. The idea, in essence, is that Trump has a strong but narrow appeal to a group of mouth-breathing xenophobes and practically nobody else.
But a new Bloomberg Politics poll of Republican and Republican-leaning voters demolishes this claim. Trump not only laps the competition—he has twice the support of the second-place candidate, Jeb Bush (21 percent to 10 percent)—but he also leads among every demographic subgroup, but one (self-identified “moderates”)…
The only demographic category Trump does not win is self-professed moderate voters. But even here, Trump who is often said to horrify moderate Republicans, is a narrow second choice: Bush leads with 20 percent, followed by Trump with 19 percent. Nobody else is even close.
[C]ount me as surprised that there has been little evidence of decline in his support — and even more surprised if he has managed to pick up additional support. The likeliest scenario is still that party and media scrutiny erodes his position. But the fact remains that he has faced this scrutiny for two weeks with little effect, at least raising the possibility that he will stick around for longer than I would have guessed…
[I]t seems possible that Mr. Trump’s plausible sources of support, like anti-immigration sentiment, don’t neatly line up with ideological lines. Maybe there are a substantial group of Republican voters, ranging from conservative to more moderate, willing to support a candidate like him, with his unusual combination of populism and celebrity. His resilience certainly makes this possibility seem a little likelier…
He has Mr. Forbes’s money (more, in fact), Mr. Buchanan’s populism and more personality and celebrity than the two combined. On the other hand, he’s at the top of the polls six months ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire. There will be a lot of time for criticism to take its toll.
The anger some hear exclusively in conservative media stems from arrogance among D.C. elites about their superiority in position and especially about their expertise — girded by not a little envy over their salaries and benefits in an era of austerity.
Anyone who has actually dealt with bureaucrats, and especially with elected’s, know the former are almost always unfamiliar with the actual operation of the industries they regulate, and that the latter are just ordinary Joe’s and Jane’s, and sometimes a lot below ordinary when it comes to intelligence, experience and the qualities usually associated with success. Nothing but actual power sets the Manhattan-Beltway powerful apart from ordinary Americans — and their mistaken feeling of entitlement to it.
The anger is fueled by the arrogance and privileges of power. But the best offense against that arrogance is humor and patience, and some portion of Trumpian bluntness, bumpered by good humor and authentic humility about what American government should be: Small except when it comes to national security, and always a servant of liberty, not the messenger of its necessary eclipse.
Donald Trump could take a major chunk of his support with him to a third-party bid if the Republican Party ultimately fires him in the presidential nomination race, a Bloomberg Politics poll shows.
The national survey, conducted ahead of Thursday’s first presidential debate, shows almost two-thirds of registered voters who identify as Republican and back the billionaire would definitely or probably support him in a third-party bid…
Nineteen percent of respondents said they would definitely or probably vote for him if he ran as a third-party candidate in a general election. The real estate magnate, now leading in national Republican polls, hasn’t ruled that possibility out.
On Friday, Palin called those loyalists to action with a piece in Breitbart.com, casting Trump as the candidate of “Joe Six-Pack” Americans.
“The elites are shocked by Trump’s dominance, but everyday Americans aren’t,” Palin wrote. “Everywhere I’ve gone this summer, including motorsport events in Detroit full of fed-up Joe Six-Pack Americans, the folks I meet commiserate about wussified slates of politicians, but then unsolicited, they whisper their appreciation for Trump because he has the guts to say it like it is.”…
“Trump’s unconventional candidacy is a shot in the arm for ordinary Americans fed up with the predictable poll tested blather of squishy milquetoast career politicians who campaign one way and govern another. But it’s not just how Trump says it, it’s what he’s saying,” Palin wrote. “Trump has tapped into America’s great populist tradition by speaking to concerns of working class voters.”
The public’s love of candor explains why Trump is doing well with groups who you would expect to balk at him. He leads among Republican primary voters on both sides of the immigration debate, though he’s been criticized for his comments about Mexican immigrants and supports deporting all undocumented workers. He leads with conservatives, though he has supported single-payer health care and has given financial donations to Democrats. He leads with evangelical voters, though he was pro-choice, has been married three times, and said he has never asked God for forgiveness. Even among non–Tea Party voters, Trump is only trailing Bush by a little…
What are the non-Trump candidates going to do about their candor problem? When candidates get hot, their competitors try to copy them. In 2008, Democrats all started to talk about the poor when John Edwards’ poverty policies gained traction. When Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan became popular, all his GOP rivals had to come up with one. But that’s much harder to do when the candidate is gaining traction because of the way he behaves. Are the other candidates going to start saying things that make voters think they’re being candid? That’s dangerous and hard to do because it is a posture with which they are unfamiliar. Plus, no one is going to out-Trump Trump. The polls show that the second choice for Trump voters scatters across the other top-tier candidates. There is no heir apparent who scratches that same itch, though Govs. Kasich and Chris Christie come closest on the candor scale. So, in order to advance, perhaps candidates are going to have to hope that the race returns to the one that they took part in Monday night, a race in which Donald Trump is nowhere to be found.
In economic terms, this is called a principal-agent problem. GOP voters (the principals) have empowered elected officials (the agents) to reduce and reform government, but the latter have not done so. Is it any wonder that a guy like the Donald can thrive in this situation? He is the perfect vehicle to express the deep frustration conservatives feel. Bombastic, brash, and indiscreet, he comes across as a straight-shooter who tells it like it is. After a generation of being misled by their leaders, many conservatives find this a breath of fresh air…
This is why principal-agent problems can be so dangerous. They create leadership vacuums that any two-bit demagogue may fill, to the detriment of everybody involved. In the case of Trump, his rise to the top of the heap has been an unfortunate time suck. The party is currently too distracted by the Donald to think about the big issues or determine which candidates are of presidential mettle. Worse, Trump is prone to saying outrageous things that needlessly alienate independent voters from conservatism.
It is fair to blame Trump’s supporters for this, at least in part, for they really should know better. There are a host of serious candidates who actually could upend the status quo in Washington, but they are lost amid Trump’s clown show. Still, there is a bigger point we must not miss: Donald Trump is not the Republican party’s real problem; he is a symptom of the problem. There is a generation-long climate of distrust between conservative voters and Republican politicians. Trump is simply taking advantage of this weakness.
Some people expect you to fade away into oblivion. Presidential candidates like you have burst onto the scene and garnered a lot of attention, but burned out fast. But those were races where there were a small number of candidates. Your opponents should realize from their internal surveys that a significant segment of the Republican electorate likes it when you insult Mexicans and complain about moderate Republicans. That is the red meat they devour. You understand things about GOP voters that the news media and other Republicans don’t realize. There is a nativist wing of the Republican Party that hates immigrants and will walk over hot coals for someone who will say politically incorrect things. You are right that there is an audience for what you have to say.
You have a great strategy for a crowded primary field. Being provocative and dominating the news coverage has catapulted you out of the field into a leading position. But this is a terrible strategy for the nominating process once the field winnows down to a few candidates after Iowa and New Hampshire. It is an even worse strategy for a general election campaign regardless of whether you run as the GOP nominee or an independent candidate.
To put it bluntly, you understand what it takes to get to the semifinals, but not the championship game. Unless your goal is just to have some fun for a few months and bask in the public attention, you need to wise up. You require a strategy for moving beyond a narrow segment of the Republican vote. Think longer-term than just the next few months. That is what smart business leaders do. They anticipate the future and have a strategy for achieving their ultimate goals. You need a long-term strategy for political success.
The spasms of rage within the Republican base that have flared on and off throughout the Obama era have an ideological component and an emotional component. The two strands have been difficult to disentangle because the moments during which they’ve flared up have involved elements of both: the debt-ceiling fights, the shutdowns, the Obamacare repeals, the primary challenges against any member who had ever tried to legislate, the opposition to comprehensive immigration reform. These episodes entailed both efforts to move the party substantively rightward and to precipitate more confrontation with Obama. The current moment of enthusiasm for Donald Trump is instructive because it pulls the strands apart. Trump’s appeal reflects, in nearly singular form, the nonideological component of Republican rage. He is the candidate of affect…
Cruz has the knack for self-destructive political theater, competitive Reagan idolatry, and purer-than-pure factional infighting. But Trump has outdone him not just in celebrity appeal, but in calculated offensiveness. Trump’s crude denunciation of Mexican immigrants as criminals made him the symbol of Republican nativism in the Latino community, yet this only enhanced his appeal. The most staggering indicator of his success to date is not that he has maintained his polling lead. It is that opposition among Republican voters has actually decreased. A month ago 59 percent of likely Republican voters said they would never vote for Trump. That has fallen to one third. The attacks on Trump have actually backfired.
The amorphous fervor of the right-wing base has stumped liberals as well as conservatives. Outsiders have struggled to comprehend how Republican voters can attach themselves to an economic agenda so plainly at odds with their own interest, or whip themselves into a frenzy over a manufactured outrage (whether it is Elián González, ACORN, death panels, or the legitimacy of Obama’s birth). Trump embodies that mysterious X factor that has eluded analysts of all sides. His affect supplies his appeal — he is strong, mad, and, above all, unapologetic in a world that demands he apologize. Trump is not the spokesman for an idea at all, but the representation of undifferentiated resentment.
I suspect, though, that most of Trump’s supporters, rather like Trump himself, have put very little effort into imagining a Trump presidency, except to idly fantasize about all the ways that it would be different and awesome and better. He would be an exciting, deal-making, ass-kicker who would strike fear into the hearts of America’s enemies, and he would do this simply by virtue of being Donald Trump, in all his glorious, exciting Trumpiness.
What Trump offers is a fantasy of governance without negotiation, of economic success without policy detail, of a president who does not particularly feel the need to act presidential. It’s a fantasy of politics without politics, for people who just don’t want to think about it too much. In this view, the fact that Trump has clearly put so little thought into it himself makes him seem sensible and relatable. All of which is to say that the mindlessness and stupidity of Trump’s presidential campaign are not incidental to the candidate’s recent success. On the contrary, they are key to his appeal.
All of this is, in some sense, an outgrowth of the Republican party’s own mindlessless during the Obama era. The party has consistently refused to be clear about its domestic policy goals, and what it plausibly expects from government. And while it has not, as a general rule, fully embraced Trump levels of of vapidity, it has embraced figures like Trump, and allowed them to rise within the party…
Trump’s candidacy is what a refusal to engage with policy and its practical realities looks like when taken to an extreme. He is a mindless candidate for a party that for years has casually courted mindlessness, and is now faced with the worrying possibility that it might prevail.
The times are perfect for Donald Trump. He’s an outsider, which appeals to the alienated. He’s confrontational, which appeals to the frustrated. And, in a unique 21st-century wrinkle, he’s a narcissist who thinks he can solve every problem, which appeals to people who in challenging times don’t feel confident in their understanding of their surroundings and who crave leaders who seem to be…
Unlike past populisms, his main argument is not that the elites are corrupt or out of touch. It is that they are morons. His announcement speech was fascinating (and compelling). “How stupid are our leaders?” he asked rhetorically. “Our president doesn’t have a clue,” he continued. “We have people that are stupid,” he observed of the leadership class.
Measured in standard political terms he is not ideologically consistent. As Peter Wehner pointed out, he’s taken so many liberal positions he makes Susan Collins look like Barry Goldwater. But ego is his ideology, and in this he is absolutely consistent. In the Trump mind the world is not divided into right and left. Instead there are winners and losers. Society is led by losers, who scorn and disrespect the people who are actually the winners.
Never before have we experienced a moment with so much public alienation and so much private, assertive and fragile self-esteem. Trump is the perfect confluence of these trends. He won’t be president, but he’s not an aberration. He is deeply rooted in the currents of our time.