|The Trump freight train
By Mark Alexander
Donald Trump won the Nevada caucus last Tuesday with almost 46% of the vote, and he is now three for four. Marco Rubio claimed 24% to Ted Cruz's 21%.
For his part, Trump told his supporters, "Now we're winning, winning, winning the country, and soon the country is going to start winning, winning, winning!"
Of the Nevada demographics, he said, "We won the evangelicals. We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated. We're the smartest people. We're the most loyal people, and you know what I'm happy about? Because I've been saying it for a long time — 46% were the Hispanics — 46%. Number one with Hispanics. I'm really happy about that." And according to the entrance polling and the exit polling, he is correct.
Though Nevada, like Iowa, is a caucus state, and only 70,000 people turned out, the breadth of Trump's support among those voters was impressive. The commonly held theory that Trump has a "low ceiling" of support, capped at just 30%, is questionable. As Byron York writes, "If he has a ceiling ... it is higher than earlier thought."
The GOP delegate count is now Trump 81, Cruz 17, Rubio 17, Kasich 6 and Carson 4. That is a long way from the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination, but the Trump train is full of steam.
Trump's campaign is a case study of how a wealthy, masterful self-promoter can keep himself front-and-center in the mainstream media, and how that keeps him on top in the polls in a field with multiple opponents. Though Trump could buy his way to a Republican primary victory, he won't have to.
There are three factors propelling Trump's lead.
But before defining those factors, by way of disclosure up front let me say that I will "vote early and often" for Donald Trump if he is the Republican nominee.
Here is what I know about Trump.
Beyond all the bluster, he surrounds himself with smart and capable people. He is, first and foremost, a promoter and negotiator — and those are useful presidential attributes. He treats his people well and is liked by most of those who work for him, top to bottom. He can be as amusing as he is annoying. Notably, he has a similar demographic appeal to that of Ronald Reagan. Though President Reagan had a long and distinguished conservative record prior to his election in 1981 — which Trump most certainly does not — Trump does attract "Reagan Democrats," blue-collar workers who helped secure sweeping Republican victories in 1980 and 1984.
On the flip side, I believe that Trump is a textbook narcissist, not unlike Barack Obama, and I have grave reservations about trading one for the other — because those with such pathology are driven primarily by self-interest, which may or may not coincide with the national interest.
Having said that, my greatest concern in 2016 is that the Republican nominee be able to defeat Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bloomberg or whoever comes out of their convention if Clinton is indicted. My preference would be a genuine conservative nominee with a track record to back it up.
The three factors propelling Trump's candidacy thus far have created something of a "perfect storm" for him, but there is no guarantee those winds will prevail on November 8, 2016.
1. The Obama Effect
Despite his decidedly liberal "New York values" and the fact that his brilliantly timed and superbly calculated rhetoric is mostly fragrance and not substance, Trump's broad appeal is sustained because that rhetoric affirms the anger of conservatives and moderates across the board — anger that has been seeded by the extraordinary arrogance of Obama and the failure of Republicans to counter his populist policies.
Because of Trump's celebrity, he came into the race with enviable name recognition, but his fearless and often inflammatory remarks have propelled the wealthy populist to the top of the Republican heap.
Now, I know what you're thinking: Isn't "wealthy populist" an oxymoron?
In truth, Trump's support reflects very little about his history or qualifications, but it reflects a whole lot about his message and how dissatisfied millions of disenfranchised Americans are with Republican "leadership." The status quo represented by former House Speaker John Boehner and current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has, in effect, underwritten Trump's rising stardom.
Despite greatly increasing the numbers of genuine conservatives in the House and Senate in the historic "2014 Republican Wave," bolstering their numbers from the 2010 midterm, the much-loathed remnant of "establishment types" still held the reins and failed to counter Obama's Socialist Democratic Party policies. Worse, GOP "leaders" marginalized or ignored the concerns of the conservative/Republican base, and we are rightly outraged.
Additionally, if Trump is anything, he is brash — and America is brash. His rhetoric brings some much-needed humor and levity to an otherwise dry quadrennial Republican presidential field. Though his trademark "Make America Great Again" slogan lacks any substantive policy positions or insights to back it up, it certainly resonates with grassroots folks. As National Review's Rich Lowry concludes, "One lesson of the success of the Trump for president campaign is that as long as you are not making sense with great certainty and forcefulness, no one will care too much that you aren't making sense. For now, it's part of the genius of Trump as communicator."
2. The Fratricidal Field of Contenders
Going into Iowa, there were 17 Republican contenders who were fighting each other rather than focusing on their Democrat opponents. That field is now down to five on the Super Tuesday ballots next week — and they have now elevated the infighting to shouting matches.
"The Republican process of picking Clinton's opponent already has ... pruned the field from 17 to five, with only four — Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich (but not Ben Carson) — with arguable paths to the nomination," notes George Will. But all paths except Trump's go over dead man's bluff unless the field narrows to three, and then two, candidates.
Fact is, in national head-to-head matchups, where Trump faces only Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, he loses to both. But as long as Trump has three or more opponents, he'll continue to win state primaries all the way to the GOP convention.
Shamefully, one of the key factors propelling Trump's candidacy among the larger field of contenders is the absurdly self-defeating fratricidal attacks between Republicans, most notably Cruz and Rubio. They are grossly violating Reagan's 11th Commandment on Republican primaries: "Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican."
Despite my admiration of Cruz for his conservative credentials, he has driven much of the infighting with Rubio, and Trump has thrived on the crossfire. Cruz has pasted the "establishment" label on Rubio, but if Rubio is "establishment," then the establishment is now very conservative.
Rubio has a lifetime American Conservative Union rating of 98 (out of 100). He has a perfect NRA rating. Citizens Against Government Waste gives him a 95, and National Right to Life gives him a 100. Fact is, he's a genuine conservative. And it is no small testament to his conservatism that the Koch brothers' senior political adviser, Marc Short, signed on with Rubio's campaign this week.
Because Trump defined this race as one about immigration rather than far more pressing national security issues, Cruz has assailed Rubio for his "amnesty" position — which implies a path to citizenship but in fact was modeled after Ronald Reagan's efforts to provide legal worker status to illegal immigrants.
Notably, Trump supports the same "amnesty" for illegal immigrants — but with the caveat of a Republican "touchback" proposal first offered by former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) in 2007. As American Enterprise Institute fellow Marc Thiessen wrote in "Trump Supports Amnesty," Hutchison "offered a 'touchback' amendment on the Senate floor that would have required illegal immigrants to return to their home countries to apply for a special 'Z visa' that would allow them to reenter the United States in an expedited fashion and work here indefinitely."
Trump's son Eric concurred, noting, "The point isn't just deporting them, it's deporting them and letting them back in legally."
The net result of the infighting is that Cruz's supporters think Rubio is "establishment," and Rubio's supporters think Cruz is a liar.
3. Media Propulsion and the Pollaganda Effect
Substance or not, Trump knows how to suck all the air out of any room where the media are present. And they love him — even those who love to hate him — because, as Trump has oft noted, media focus on him sells lots of advertising! Indeed, Trump's media coverage overshadows that of all the other Republican contenders combined. No question that, though he has spent very little on media advertising, Trump generates a lot of market share and thus ad revenue for every media outlet from right to left.
Notably, virtually none of that media is devoted to exposing his long list of prevarications — at least not yet. If Trump sews up the Republican nomination, look for the mainstream media to stop playing kissy face and start tearing him apart ahead of the general election.
His contradictory positions abound, as we've noted in Donald vs. Trump on ObamaCare, on Christianity, on Iraq, and, of course, his shameful practice of playing the "9/11 Card" and the "Veterans Card" when he's painted himself into a rhetorical corner.
For now, the media are content to ride The Donald's gravy train, but when it comes time to determine our next president, the MSM's leftist ideology will trump all other concerns. In the end, the media's shameless and fleeting love affair with Trump helps explain why, according to Rasmussen Reports, more Americans believe media bias is a bigger problem than money in politics.
The net effect of Trump's 24/7 media coverage is his sustained lead in polls, or what The Patriot Post coined many years ago as the "Pollaganda Effect." This term refers to a propagandistic disinformation technique where political polling masquerades as "objective journalism" and instead advances a bias — a bias that can be driven by ideology, advertising revenue or both.
Pollaganda uses outcome-based opinion samples (polling instruments designed to generate a preferential outcome) reflecting prior-opinion indoctrination or cultivation by the media. The incestuous results are then used to manipulate public opinion further by advancing the perception that a particular opinion on an issue enjoys majority support. The MSM then presents this "data" as if it were "news."
Pollaganda, then, is self-fulfilling. The net result is that, at every debate, poll standing has put Donald Trump center stage. The MSM, therefore, is choosing the Republican nominee.
So, where does this leave us?
As I asked a few weeks back, "If Trump is the answer, what is the question"?
Fact is, Trump's supporters are asking the most important questions every genuine conservative is asking. Consistent with The Patriot Post's mission statement, all of us are asking, "How do we restore constitutional limits on government and the judiciary? How do we restore free enterprise, our national defense capabilities and traditional American values? How do we undo all of the damage Obama has done and correct our nation's course back toward Liberty? How do we defeat Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders and win the next presidential election?"
Donald Trump is not the answer. But unless the field narrows to Trump and one other contender, he will likely be the GOP nominee.
On that note, his supporters would do well to grasp the meaning of Patrick Henry's words on the eve of the American Revolution: "It is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts."
Mark Alexander is the executive editor of the Patriot Post.