And it’s … interesting that he’s contemplating his own political mortality this way.
“There’d be a major collapse of the race, and there’d be a major collapse of television ratings,” he said from his office in Trump Tower. “It would become a depression in television.”
Mr. Trump said that a presidential campaign without him would become so “boring” that he would struggle to pay any attention to it.
“I wouldn’t even be watching it probably, and neither would anybody else,” he said.
Debate ratings would indeed collapse. I’m not sure what he means by a “collapse of the race,” but it’s true that the hole left by Trump once he’s out wouldn’t easily be filled by anyone else, and I don’t just mean in terms of personality. Read this description of “middle American radicals,” whom John Judis identifies as the stereotypical Trump voter, and ask yourself who else on the GOP side fits this particular bill:
[Sociologist Donald] Warren called these voters Middle American Radicals, or MARS. “MARS are distinct in the depth of their feeling that the middle class has been seriously neglected,” Warren wrote. They saw “government as favoring both the rich and the poor simultaneously.” Like many on the left, MARS were deeply suspicious of big business: Compared with the other groups he surveyed—lower-income whites, middle-income whites who went to college, and what Warren called “affluents”—MARS were the most likely to believe that corporations had “too much power,” “don’t pay attention,” and were “too big.” MARS also backed many liberal programs: By a large percentage, they favored government guaranteeing jobs to everyone; and they supported price controls, Medicare, some kind of national health insurance, federal aid to education, and Social Security.
On the other hand, they held very conservative positions on poverty and race. They were the least likely to agree that whites had any responsibility “to make up for wrongs done to blacks in the past,” they were the most critical of welfare agencies, they rejected racial busing, and they wanted to grant police a “heavier hand” to “control crime.” They were also the group most distrustful of the national government. And in a stand that wasn’t really liberal or conservative (and that appeared, at least on the surface, to be in tension with their dislike of the national government), MARS were more likely than any other group to favor strong leadership in Washington—to advocate for a situation “when one person is in charge.”
Are those Ted Cruz voters in the making? Not really. Cruz hits some of the same notes about cronyism in D.C. that Trump does, but Cruz’s message is less about class and blue-collar economic anxieties than about individual liberty and anti-government “conservatarian” ideology. Entitlements, price controls, and guaranteed government jobs are not, shall we say, core planks of the Ted Cruz worldview. So if Cruz isn’t inheriting these voters, who is? Maybe they’ll go to another “outsider,” but Fiorina seems too traditionally big-business to hold onto Trump fans over the long haul and Carson’s running a campaign that’s more about “healing” and “ending political correctness” than it is about expanding the middle class’s slice of the pie. Frankly, the guys who seem best-suited to picking off these populist voters are Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, who aren’t as allergic as Cruz is to expanding government to help middle-class families, but both of them are seen as such niche social-conservative candidates, I think, that they’re not going to pull voters from outside that band of the electorate this time around. Which means Trump is right — for many of his voters, his departure from the race really would cause a sort of “collapse.”
Again, though, why is he even talking about the idea of a race without him in it? Hmmmm:
Ben Carson and Donald Trump are tied among GOP voters in Pennsylvania, a new poll finds.
Carson and Trump each receive 18 percent support from registered Republicans in the Keystone State, according to the Mercyhurst University Center for Applied Politics poll on Monday…
Mercyhurst’s poll also found that Carson is the best-liked GOP presidential candidate among Pennsylvania Republicans.
Hey, it’s just one poll, right? Not exactly: If you missed it over the weekend, IBD found Trump seven points behind Carson in a new national poll, the first time he’s trailed anyone since Trumpmania erupted this summer. Of the eight national polls taken since the second Republican debate, Trump has reached 26 percent just once. His average is down to 22.8 points, less than six percent ahead of Carson. He’s down in the early states as well. He told one of the morning shows last week that he wouldn’t hang around the race if his numbers disintegrated and he ended up polling at one or two percent, but no one’s wondering about that scenario because we all understand that it’ll never happen. Trump’s base of “middle American radicals” should guarantee some sort of floor well north of one percent — 10 percent, maybe. Maybe a bit more. The question is, though, what happens if the non-MARS segment of his base starts peeling off and he’s left with only that floor of voters? Will he hang in there even if he’s stuck at, say, 15 percent in poll after poll, or will he decide at some point that he’s gone as high as he can and now it’s time to find a reason to bow out before he starts taking actual losses as people go to vote? We’re not going to know that until we have a week or two where someone besides Trump is steadily leading in multiple polls. How eager will he be at that point to do three or four interviews with cable news each day knowing that every one will open with questions about him trailing? This is why he’s starting to think about the race without him in it — at some point, when the questions shift from “Why are you winning?” to “Why are you losing?”, this will cease to be fun. And once it’s no longer fun, that’s when I think he pulls the plug. Maybe we’re closer to that point than we realize.