Narrowing The Field
First it was Texas Gov. Rick Perry. He was the guy who told us all that he would be a much better candidate. His past experience (in 2012) had taught him the importance of being healthy, focused and prepared for the grueling slog that is the presidential primary process.
His past experience as a national candidate taught us a lot. He had a bad back, he said. That same back pain led him to take prescription meds, and those same painkillers were largely responsible, according to Mr. Perry, for his highlight reel moment.
During a primetime televised debate, candidate Perry was asked to name the three agencies of government that he had written and spoken about closing down once he became president. He knocked out two of the three, but after stumbling through his brain for a moment or two (seemed like 20), he muttered the following. “I can’t remember the third…oops.”
That was the “oops” heard ‘round the world.’ He was gone within weeks. Rick, we hardly knew ‘ya.
There was no oops this time, just a total and utter failure to inspire his base and raise the kind of money it takes to build a successful national campaign. So, Rick Perry returns to Texas, a victim with many excuses.
Not even a month later, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s flop-sweat performance in the CNN GOP Primary debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library places him on the Perry trajectory, which is to say on fire and flying straight into the ground.
Governor Walker was going to be a darling of the Tea Party. He and ultra-conservative Texas Sen. Ted “King of Smarmy” Cruz were going to steer the party to the hard right, out of the hands of the dreaded GOP establishment (cue the Empire theme from Star Wars) and into the hands of the people.
Somewhere on the road to the GOP nomination, the plans of every candidate from the establishment (Star Wars Empire theme again), to the total whackos, got derailed. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is practically a socialist, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s not much better. In fact, up and down the GOP primary candidate list, all manner of serious candidates find themselves shut out of attention and media coverage.
All of the political oxygen is being sucked up by the outsiders.
Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, if she can succeed in getting voters to ignore her controversial record in charge of Hewlett-Packard, seems well-suited for a catfight with Hillary Clinton. Dr. Ben Carson, the retired pediatric neurosurgeon, might be the most intelligent human being to ever seek public office. Of course, who ever said it takes intelligence to be president?
Dr. Carson seems to have naturally big feet, otherwise there’s no rational explanation for why he seems intent on sticking both of them in his mouth all of the time. Chalk it up to beginner’s misfortune. Hopefully, he’ll wise up and hit his stride.
So, why the likes of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, current South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and others all languishing in single digits, all facing the prospect of a drying well of contributors?
Because Donald Trump has redefined modern politics, that’s why.
The traditionalists all had to plan to raise millions to get their names/faces into early primary states. Historically, it took $20-$50 million dollars to even operate a name recognition campaign, three to four times that amount to get to Iowa and New Hampshire and the first voting.
Donald Trump said he wasn’t going to solicit the usual contribution requests to all of the special interests and their checkbooks. Mr. Trump was content to spend his own money. The funny thing is, he hasn’t even really had to do a lot of that! He was already a major media celebrity with a measured name recognition right up there with the incumbent president.
What do you think of when you hear the phrase: "You're fired?" The hair, the suits, the solid color blood red tie...The Donald.
Everything he says, everywhere he goes, television and cable news crews follow him around like burned-out hippies followed the Grateful Dead in the late-60s and early 70s.
In another case of turning the political world upside down, Donald Trump throws caution and correctness to the wind. Political campaigns have traditionally been about offending no one while trying to endear oneself to everyone. To Donald Trump, that’s anathema.
Mr. Trump throws around invective like Mardi Gras revelers throw shiny beads. He drapes himself over the podium at a large event, sans teleprompter, and holds forth like a Vegas lounge comedian. His followers eat it up. He calls people stupid, lazy and dumb. They lap it up when he speaks about other candidates that way.
To guys like Rick Perry and Scott Walker, this unbelievable behavior is upsetting, demeaning and unattractive. They both felt compelled to express their anger and revulsion at the GOP frontrunner as they exited the race, victims to his unorthodox style. Governor Walker even hinted that he was fulfilling a larger mandate, to help isolate Mr. Trump by winnowing down the list of candidates.
Of course, these days Donald Trump is packing his bags and loading his luxury personal jet to fly to South Carolina and Iowa, dreaming of packed auditoriums and free headlines across America.
Rick Perry and Scott Walker are packing for home.