“Very few people have ever been hammered like he was hammered,” says veteran GOP strategist Ed Rollins, who says the Washington Hilton dinner—where Seth Meyers of SNL also called Trump a “joke”—was a key moment. “The message was he’s not a serious guy. It now gives legitimate journalists, not that they needed an excuse, but a reason to look at him seriously.”…
“He’s demonstrated a tremendous ability to rally the grassroots,” says Dan Schnur, who runs the political institute at the University of Southern California. “If he’s even semi-serious about running for president, it’s time for him to give a couple of semi-substantive speeches. If his only goal is to build ratings for his television show, then he’s doing exactly the right thing.”
Schnur doesn’t see Trump as having been discredited by the birther controversy because such charges appeal to a certain segment of the party. “Trump can get just as much mileage out of a crusade for Barack Obama’s college transcripts, because a lot of frustrated voters out there are looking for someone who can viscerally channel that frustration,” Schnur says.
As for the butt-kicking talk, Rollins says: “It’s a macho act and not a legitimate discussion of very serious issues. But it’s out there, and he’s tapped into it.”