Who — besides Ted Cruz — predicted that Donald Trump would spend the second half of 2015 riding racism and xenophobia to the top of the polls thus allowing a supportive Cruz a chance to angle into the GOP nomination as the “reasonable” candidate?
I’d be a fool to venture any more predictions, so I will.
It’s still difficult to envisage Trump getting the GOP nomination and not because I expect Republicans to have too much sense to nominate him. A more likely probability is that he’ll maintain his lead in the mostly irrelevant national primary polls as he loses the actual nomination.
I see this outcome as likely probably because it would achieve everything I could hope to see in this GOP primary: the party is tainted forever by its embrace of Trump and it ends up with the even less electable Ted Cruz.
Here’s what I’m basing this amazing feat of punditry on.
First there’s this from Laura Olin, who actually knows something about politics from the inside of a winning presidential campaign:
this, by the way, is how everyone who works in politics has known for months that trump won’t be the nominee. https://t.co/3BDU6nqPI1
— laura olin (@lauraolin) December 27, 2015
If you click through the tweet, you’ll see that she’s referencing an article that notes Trump’s campaign has not purchased the databases most campaigns use as their key organizational tools. He is instead using NationBuilder, a database that could possibly follow him to a third-party run, however. (UPDATE: Trump’s campaign has quietly gained access to the RNC’s voter databases .)
It’s true Donald’s campaign has drawn more people to rallies in Iowa than usually show up at the caucuses. But these are people showing up to watch a famous TV guy do his Great Dictator impression.
The best poll in Iowa shows that he’s not matching Cruz in actual support and conservative Christians are uniting behind the junior Senator from Texas in a way they haven’t done since any candidate since George W. Bush. Sometimes, their enthusiastic backing of Cruz more closely resembles the support the Christian right showed for Pat Robertson in 1988, in a campaign that gave shape to the party’s fundamentalist strain.
Iowa has always been a natural launching pad for Cruz.
He shot to the top of the state’s GOP polls there in 2013 as he led the march into the government shutdown, which temporarily wrecked the party’s image nationwide. He’s not as suited for New Hampshire. But with no “establishment” candidate emerging, he’s the natural second choice for both Trump and Carson supporters and has proven himself to be a lot cannier than Rubio, who thus far is a less intriguing but more faithful conservative John Edwards.
But even if Cruz doesn’t emerge as the Republican “compromise” candidate, it still isn’t likely Republicans will nominate Trump.
At least that’s what Red Stater Dan McLaughlin assures his fellow conservatives.
He offers several reasons his party won’t pick Trump, among them a belief that a full freakout will occur if the full Trumpocalypse seems to be an actual possibility. I buy that, but I don’t buy the McLaughlin’s belief that it won’t take a backroom deal to stop Trump. It may well. And he doesn’t think Trump would ever go third-party. I’m not convinced.
Whatever would divide the party most, possibly permanently, is what they deserve. And given that they rarely get what they deserve, we should remember this could easily devolve into a bland primary with an acceptable, competitive GOP nominee — Rubio or Christie — emerging.
But those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make doubt Trump.
I’ve given up doubting his skill as a demagogue, his ability to work the media to his advantage and his willingness to sink to perverse depths. I don’t see his star fading among the mostly scared white people who support him now.
In response to Ron Paul’s run in 2012, the Republican National Committee hedged against an insurgent candidate with rules changes that favor the establishment. That may give them the power to stop Trump without deflating his support. And it’s harder to imagine a bigger nightmare for the GOP than stab a billionaire with skin thinner than a page of a Gideons’ Bible in the back like that.
Even a clusterfuck of that magnitude wouldn’t guarantee a Democratic victory in the most important election of our lifetime. But it would make the demographic obstacles the GOP has created for itself even more difficult to surmount.
And that’s good enough for me.
[Image by Gage Skidmore | Flickr]