The Washington commentariat is absorbed with speculating on the lifespan of the Trump phenomena. Given the dynamics of the Republican race and the general unhappiness with Washington, Donald Trump is well-positioned to be a force for the foreseeable future. Three reasons are polls, the Republican bench and contempt.
Polls and Debates
Trump is a man of the marketplace and his career and success are largely products of marketing and brand management. Today, polls are the currency of politics and are dominating the media coverage and conversation of this race. Hence, Trump represents an ideal union of a marketing champion and a poll-driven nomination.
The Fox News debate jumpstarted the 2016 campaign and polls determined who was on the stage and where they stood. Trump was at the keystone of the pack. He received the most coveted position and used it. Polls are now providing evidence that all the post-debate controversy has actually improved his position. The newest Iowa and New Hampshire polls show Trump leading in both states, with the next strongest candidate in Iowa, Ben Carson. He is two-to-one over Jeb Bush in New Hampshire.
The latest Fox News national poll (8-13) has Trump (25%) ahead two-to-one over Ben Carson (12%) and Ted Cruz (10%) – that is to say, Trump and two super conservatives are in the lead, with previous frontrunners, Bush (9%) and Scott Walker (6%), fading. A new CNN/ORC poll (8-16) places Trump at 24 percent, with Bush (11%) and Carson (10%) trailing.
The Republicans have been congratulated for the apparent strength and depth of their bench, especially as compared to the Democrats, but, in fact, no Republican is effectively countering Trump on the stump or in the polls and certainly not in the first debate.
The general rule is that many popular governors do not translate well to the national stage. Jeb Bush does not appear passionate enough and doesn’t have his brother’s swagger. Scott Walker is being eclipsed due to a lack of a TV personality. Christie, Perry, Pataky and Jindal are wasting time.
Hence, Trump, with the exception of a few conservatives like Carson and Cruz or a couple of emerging but still untested personalities in Carly Fiorina and John Kasich, is unique and on top of the field.
Contempt for Political Class
The primary issue driving the election at this moment is hostility to Washington and contempt for the political class. Congress’ and its leadership’s ratings have been in the teens for years and over two-thirds of the public believe the country is moving in the wrong direction. Trump owns the issue as a high-profile outsider who expresses his own contempt for the political class, calling them pinheads, dumb and easily bought.