I guess I’m pretty much a blue collar guy by nature and get something of a perverse delight in watching self-proclaimed authorities brought low by events that it seems that were pretty obvious. The latest example is this from National Review: The Establishment Thinks the Unthinkable: Trump Could Win the Nomination:
It began as whispers in hushed corners: Could it ever happen? And now, just three months from the Iowa caucuses, members of the Republican establishment are starting to give voice to an increasingly common belief that Donald Trump, once dismissed as joke, a carnival barker, and a circus freak, might very well win the nomination.
“Trump is a serious player for the nomination at this time,” says Ed Rollins, who served as the national campaign director for Reagan’s 1984 reelection and as campaign chairman for Mike Huckabee in 2008.
Rollins is not alone in his views. “Trump has sustained a lead for longer than there are days left” before voting begins in Iowa, says Steve Schmidt, who managed [mc_name name=’Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000303′ ]’s 2008 presidential campaign. “For a long time,” Schmidt says, “you were talking to people in Washington, and there was a belief that there was an expiration date to this, as if there’s some secret group of people who have the ability to control the process.”
But for Trump, a dip in the polls after the second debate that many predicted was the beginning of the end has arrested; and for nearly four months, he has remained at the top of the polls. Now, long-time GOP strategists who were expecting Trump’s act to wear thin a couple of months ago worry that he can’t be stopped, or at least that he has a significant chance of winning the nomination.
That these clowns are surprised is a symptom of the problem.
Let’s review the bidding.
In two election cycles, 2010 and 2014, the GOP base was wound up by promises that a GOP Congress would get rid of Obamacare and all manner of other things. Instead we got the flaccid leadership of [mc_name name=’Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’B000589′ ] and the neo-Quisling regime of [mc_name name=’Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000355′ ]. We saw the GOP establishment pull out all the stops to defeat solid conservatives and prop up senile adulterers. Then, in this election year, they tried to tell us we could vote for anyone we wished but the nominee was going to be Jeb Bush. If there was any decision that demonstrated more concretely just how out of step with reality the GOP establishment is, it had to be the anointing of Jeb Bush.
When Trump burst on the scene, three things were immediately clear to even a casual observer. First and foremost, the share of vote owned by Trump-Carson-Fiornia was substantial and there was no way those voters were heading to Bush or Kasich. Second, Bush’s support collapsed at a rate unseen by any major candidate in the modern era. Third, Trump could largely self finance and had name recognition that eclipsed really good candidates like Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, and Scott Walker.
The GOP establishment was smart enough to realize that Trump was in the race for a while and didn’t care about their opinions and so then they set about attacking Trump’s supporters as idiots. This is a strategy that fails every time that it is tried an it is virtually guaranteed to lock in support rather than erode it because people tend to stand by their own decisions especially when they are mostly visceral. All in all, every step the GOP establishment has taken to marginalize Trump has simply served to increase his following and to make that following more loyal (my early takes here | here )
Add to that a sea change in the electorate and you have an interesting combination:
“I know all of us dismissed Trump, early on, all of the so-called experts,” Fox News’s Chris Wallace said Sunday. “‘Summer fling,’ ‘momentary amusement.’” But Wallace, who interviewed Trump late last week and aired portions of the interview on his show Sunday, said he finds himself feeling differently now. “As I watched that interview and I heard what he had to say . . . I am beginning to believe he could be elected president of the United States,” he said.
Poll after poll this election cycle has registered the distaste of Republican voters for political experience; they prefer an outsider with a fresh approach to a battle-tested veteran. Wallace was struck by the sheer force of Trump’s personality, but there are other reasons to think he has a real shot at the nomination. Poll after poll this election cycle has registered the distaste of Republican voters for political experience; they prefer an outsider with a fresh approach to a battle-tested veteran. For instance, the latest survey from the Pew Research Center, published in early October, shows that by more than a two-to-one margin, Republican and Republican-leaning voters prefer a candidate with new ideas to one with a proven record. That’s a change: Republicans have traditionally preferred governors to senators, for example, because they prized their executive experience. And Pew notes that this is a shift in attitude that coincided with Trump’s ascension. “Just five months ago,” the polling company writes, “GOP voters valued experience and a proven record over new ideas, 57 percent to 36 percent.”
In fact, on FoxNews Sunday, George Will made a startling admission. The GOP establishment’s prediction of a Hispanic Armageddon might not be correct:
WALLACE: I have to tell you, in the time I’ve spent with him, I don’t think he’s the least bit tired. He flew up for an event in New Hampshire on Friday. He was down in Virginia, not just to do the interview, he was making a speech in Virginia.
George, I know you’re going to just look at me and shake your head. The voters are angry, they are fed up, they want something different, they want somebody to knock down the pillars of the temple, he’s their man.
WILL: I know someone who is a real political seasoned veteran, who saw a gathering of Hispanic businessmen in Virginia, half the room of Hispanic businessmen, this veteran estimated, were for Trump.
I still think that Trump’s focus in the race is destroying Jeb Bush for reasons known best to him. How long he’ll stay in the race once he gets bored it definitely a subject for discussion. Having said that, the GOP establishment needs so come to terms with the fact that Donald Trump has gone from a flash-in-the-pan to a real contender. They also need to come to terms with the fact that this is no one’s fault but their own.