Since 1964, in every single election, Republicans have consistently chosen as their nominees either the incumbent president, the runner-up in the previous presidential primary or an otherwise establishment GOP brand name. Despite the spectacular rise of Donald Trump, Republicans like proven commodities; the names Nixon, Dole or Bush have appeared on 11 of the last 14 Republican presidential tickets. Sure, they’ll flirt around a bit, but history proves that Republicans ultimately go home with the familiar—and conservative—choice.
Donald Trump’s surprising staying power has many wondering whether it could be different this time. After all, the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Trump leading the pack of 14 GOP presidential candidates at 25 percent, trailed at 22 percent by Ben Carson, another contender who has never held elective office. Compare that with Jeb Bush, the big-name establishment candidate who’s running fifth with just 8 percent. Even Bill Clinton conceded that Trump could swing the Republican nomination, telling CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that Trump is a “master brander” with a lot of “pizzazz” and “zip.” The former president said that, with so many candidates running, voters are trying to make distinctions, so putting “a personal stamp on it so people identify with who you are accounts for something, certainly in the beginning.”