The Drive-By Media and even some in the conservative media are so excited they can barely stand it because of the latest polling data, both nationally and in Iowa.  And depending on which networks you watch, you Trumpsters out there better prepare yourselves, because today it’s over.  Trump has peaked and your best days are behind you.  You better face the fact.  That’s what you’re gonna be dealing with in the Drive-By Media all day today, through the Republican debate tomorrow and whenever the next set of polls come out…

[T]he key to this is the establishment’s gonna think that they are making all of this happen.  This is true of both establishments, Democrat and Republican.  They do not think that you or anybody else in the public really makes up your own mind about anything.  You’re all the product of influence…

But you’re never, ever thinking on your own.  And since they believe that, they’re going to believe that it was their outside influence and whatever they have been able to arrange in the media, anti-Trump, that has brought this about.  They’re not gonna conclude, for example, that people on their own have tired of Trump.  Now, they may say that in public, because they want you to think that they have a lot of regard for you, in this decision.  When you make a decision or do something such as vote or respond to a poll in the way they want, they will praise your intelligence to the end of the world. 

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A prevailing narrative is that Trump is leading in the polls by appealing to the far right. That’s an oversimplification. Trump is offering Republicans something no other candidate can: An insider’s knowledge of the elite combined with a mischievous determination to upend it and an unorthodox set of policy prescriptions—running the gamut from immigration to campaign finance to Social Security—that aim to achieve that goal. In this year’s contest for the Republican nomination, that platform has proven to have staying power…

The fact that Trump is a billionaire enhances his credibility as the standard-bearer of the populist moment, suggests Steve Schmidt, a Republican strategist who ran John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “Trump is essentially saying there’s one set of rules for people like you and another set for people like me—I’ve played the game, I’ve won at the game and now I’m going to be fighting on your side,” he said…

“I think it is a mistake to evaluate his positions through a Washington prism of right versus left,” said Schmidt. “He has an issue set that meets the moment—that moment being a moment in time where trust has collapsed in all of these institutions.”…

“Anybody who thinks Donald Trump cannot be the Republican nominee is smoking something,” said Schmidt. He noted that Trump has led in major polls for more than 100 days—more time than is left until Iowa voters cast the first ballots of the primary—and that his path to the nomination is clear if his large lead translates to getting the most votes and delegates. “What was once described as a spring fling or a summer romance is lingering well past Halloween and into November.”

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“I feel, for the first time in my life, that I am not invisible,” said Del Casale, who decorated her campaign T-shirt with 14 large pro-Trump buttons. “For the first time, I feel like there’s actually somebody running for president who is speaking on behalf of myself and others like me.”

Del Casale is a prime example of the superfans who flock to Trump. They drive hours to campaign events and wait in Black Friday-like lines to get a spot close to the front. Many have never attended a political rally or regularly voted. Yet they devote hours each week to pro-Trump Facebook clubs and Twitter accounts and try to convince their relatives, friends and neighbors that the bombastic billionaire should be the leader of the free world…

Trump’s campaign is not like most — and neither are Trump crowds. A recent speech in North Charleston attracted a group of middle-aged moms wearing homemade pro-Trump T-shirts and carrying elaborate signs. There was also a 71-year-old woman who said she watches cable television 15 hours a day to keep up with all of Trump’s comments. An appearance in rural Massachusetts attracted a man who has wanted Trump to run since 2012, as documented in a faded T-shirt featuring a cartoon Trump telling President Obama he is fired.

At a rally in Las Vegas, Trump invited onto the stage a star-struck fan clutching a copy of People magazine featuring his face. “I love Mr. Trump!” yelled Myriam Witcher, an immigrant from Colombia who bounced with the excitement of a teenaged girl meeting a boy-band heartthrob. “I am Hispanic, and I vote for Mr. Trump!”

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An incredible 43 percent of GOP voters say that Trump is the most electable GOP candidate. In a distant second place, Ben Carson trails Trump on electability by 27 points, while Jeb Bush — whose entire rationale for his campaign is electability — trails Trump on electability by 30 points. Since the same poll found Trump with 32 percent support, that means even GOP voters who do not support Trump still believe he is most likely to beat the Democrats in 2016. A new Associated Press-GfK poll confirms this, finding that “Seven in 10 Republicans and Republican-leaning registered voters say they think Trump could win in November 2016 if he were nominated; that’s the most of any Republican candidate.”

This perception of Trump’s electability perplexes the GOP establishment, which is certain he would lose to Hillary Clinton. But Trump has closed a 24-point gap in June with the presumed Democratic nominee (though the Real Clear Politics average still shows Clinton leading Trump by 2.5 points). Trump’s protectionist trade message and his attacks on China and Mexico resonate with Reagan Democrats in states such as Ohio and could give him crossover appeal in a general election. Whether he can actually win is an open question, but so long as GOP voters believe he can win, then “electability” is not going to be the pin that pops the Trump balloon.

Republicans also see Trump as the only candidate who can truly shake up Washington. In a CNN/ORC swing-state poll, 60 percent of Republican primary voters in Nevada say that Trump is “most likely to change the way things work in Washington” while in South Carolina he is seen as the best agent of change by 58 percent. No one else in the GOP field even approaches those numbers — except for Carson, the rest are in single digits.

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Assuming Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, some inside the Beltway believe there is a possibility that she might win states like Indiana, North Carolina, Missouri, and Montana, which Obama won or only narrowly lost in 2008. But with Trump in the race, all of those states—which are more red than they were in ’08—are likely out for Democrats. Swing states like Colorado and Virginia are clear toss-ups. There are few states that Romney or McCain won where Trump, as the Republican nominee, wouldn’t be in the running, and an analysis of other key states shows that Trump’s in far better position than his detractors would like to admit…

Donald Trump also has two secret weapons, and it remains to be seen if he will be able to use them effectively. The first is the ability to write a multi-million-dollar check for his own campaign. So far, Trump has worked a minor miracle—running for president, leading the polls for three months, and doing it all on the cheap. He raised just under $4 million last quarter, putting him ahead of his favorite “loser,” Rand Paul, and his largest expenditure was $400,000 on hats and T-shirts. Wisely, he is not spending money where he doesn’t need to. But when and if he does need to spend, particularly if he’s leading and winning, it’s highly likely he will. We’ve never had a true billionaire as a major-party nominee, and the campaign value there cannot be understated.

The second secret weapon Trump has at his disposal is an underrated potential to turn out massive numbers of new voters. Trump truly is “yuuge.” He has an audience that follows him from network to network, and he’s seemingly gotten more people to tune into debates than ever. Almost every time he appears on a TV show, the program experiences a massive ratings jump. He gave Jimmy Fallon one of his highest-rated episodes since his debut. While very few real celebrities (sorry, Clay Aiken) have run for office, those who have possess a compelling track record: Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura, Al Franken, Sonny Bono. Trump would, in fact, be one of the best-known celebrities ever to run for public office (as of July, Trump’s name ID was 92 percent, roughly the same as Clinton’s)…

While I’m not predicting Donald Trump will win the presidency, it’s time for us all to realize that President Trump is not only not implausible—it’s very possible.

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Strength isn’t just something President Trump would employ to scare Putin or China, it’s how he gets elected, how he pushes an agenda, and how he intimidates his primary opponents. It transcends foreign policy, and defines his very existence. This is why people have no problem calling him a strongman…

In this regard, the word “strength” is like the word “change.” Barack Obama inspired the masses with promises of change, without ever noting that change can be positive or disastrous. Likewise, the attribute of strength does not denote virtue or freedom. George Washington was strong — but so was Napoleon. Winston Churchill was strong — but so was Mussolini.

So how did we come to fetishize strength? In a world where politicians seem weak and effete and impotent, a sizable chunk of voters seem willing to toss the dice on a guy who makes things happen. (It hardly matters what things he makes happen.) An incompetent, corrupt, or anemic government sets the stage for public passions to be swept up by an inspiring figure who can restore a nation to its glory days. Thus, Mussolini can pretend he’s remaking the Roman Empire — just as Churchill can talk about defending Christendom and western civilization.

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Napoleon’s enemies were not just the corrupt royal class and the freebooters who had betrayed the Revolution, but ostensibly a gang of opportunist foreign countries like Great Britain, Russia, Prussia, and Austria that all wanted to take advantage of French chaos by stealing their borderlands or their trade, and their preeminence.

Napoleon also never spelled out an agenda on how to make France great again because his own spectacular success was prima facie evidence that whatever he had done for himself he could easily do for his country. Success need not be defined, simply professed.

Obviously the wheeler-dealer Trump is not the general Napoleon, and we are not France of 200 years ago at war with Europe. But he appeals to a similar depressed public that feels the chaos of continual economic and social upheavals — and lawlessness — can easily cease and be replaced by a new national triumphant consensus, if only led by a dynamic man on a horse.

For now, Trump’s bluster, promised action and boldness apparently inspire more voters than his incoherence turns off. He is a would-be Napoleon in similarly Napoleonic times that pundits and critics likewise cannot quite figure out — they are attracted to him even as they dismiss him as a buffoon.  Yet a millionaire flamboyant reality-TV host is no more unlikely as a self-proclaimed savior of his nation than was an obscure Corsican artillery corporal promising to make revolutionary France “great again.” Unfortunately, republics, ancient and modern, do not have a good record of inviting in outsiders to save themselves from themselves.

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It is working because Trump has a base.  Secular, more moderate, working class voters who believe they are being left behind by the globalization of both our economy and our culture. These people form the basis of the cause…

These folks are not hard to find. During the week, they work shifts on the factory floor to support their families. They cheer their kids on Friday night at the High School football game.  On Saturday they line Main street for the Veteran’s Day parade or attend local festivals and events. On Sunday morning they may be in church, but you might just as easily find them up in a tree stand, down in a duck blind or out in a bass boat.  So when Trump comes to South Carolina and mentions trade, immigration, support for our vets, gun rights and Clemson football, people shouldn’t be stunned when an auditorium of thousands of people roar with approval.

Not long ago, these people were celebrated as the backbone of America. But today, they get the impression they are a malignant tumor that a wealthy, educated class of new American elites would excise and discard. They not just disrespected, but in some circles mocked, “flyover” people whose values and way of life are not only irrelevant, but distasteful.

The irony that a chauffeur driven New York billionaire has given voice to their concerns is not lost.  But Trump has spoken of their concerns with more clarity and strength than any voice they’ve heard echo their thoughts since Reagan.

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Earlier this month, reporters kept asking Trump what it would take for him to drop out of the race. It seems to me what they were really asking was, “When will things get back to normal?”

The hard truth: They just might not get back to normal.

But let’s assume the skeptics are right and Trump eventually goes away. What then? To listen to some of the consultants and graybeards, all will be right with the world. They will say, “See, you freaked out over Trump for nothing.” That strikes me as exactly the wrong response. Whether or not Trump is a flash in the pan, what worries me is what his candidacy says about the pan. If you survive a heart attack, that doesn’t mean you should go back to the diet and lifestyle that gave you the heart attack in the first place.

Whether or not he gets the nomination, Trump should be seen as a wake-up call. His entirely cynical exploitation of immigration — Trump criticized Mitt Romney in 2012 for being too harsh on immigration — tapped into an entirely sincere dissatisfaction with the status quo. His brilliant leveraging of his celebrity for political gain reveals much about the calcified state of American politics. Trump may fade away, but the forces driving Trumpism are more enduring and must be taken seriously.

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ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Do you think Trump can win New Hampshire?

FMR. GOV. JOHN SUNUNU: I think Trump can win anywhere if the electorate doesn’t wake up.

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Via RCP.

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“Trump has basically run rings around him all summer. Every time he says he’s low energy and then Jeb lashes out, Trump goes ‘now you’re high energy. I like that.’

“He gets him talking about his brother for the whole of the autumn. Now he’s — again, this remark about oh, now he’s run back to mommy and daddy in Texas to seek their advice because the big school yard bully is beating up on him. If he can’t stand up to Trump, does he have to go back to mommy and daddy when Putin says no to him or when the Ayatollah Khamenei says death to Bush. At the heart of Trump’s low grade insult is a very subtle strategy for undermining his opponents.”

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“I do know this, and I’m going to offend a lot of people here. If Donald Trump somehow happened to be president of the United States and get elected, he would know what to do.”