In less than two months, registered voters in Iowa will brave the Midwest cold to gather in community rooms, church social halls and gymnasiums to cast what are loosely defined as the nation’s first votes for president.
Like everything else in this presidential cycle, even that description is invalid. People aren’t really voting for the next president in those caucuses; they’re expressing their personal preferences and arguing, cajoling and brow-beating their neighbors at the same time.
This time, the apple cart has been turned over. According to the latest Quinnipiac Poll results, Republican Party voters in Iowa favor New York real estate tycoon Donald Trump over the rest of the field. To wit, Mr. Trump leads the rest of GOP opponents with 26.7%, Dr. Ben Carson in second with 20.0, Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) with 18.3 and Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) at 12.3. The rest of the field is in mid-or-low single digits.
New Hampshire, the first state to hold a real primary – you know the kind where they actually vote for someone – follows close on Iowa’s heels.
The results there? Donald Trump has a double-digit lead, with 26% to Marco Rubio’s 12.5% in second place.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way, according to traditional Republican establishment pundits like George Will and Bill Christol. Voters were entitled to their love affair with the straight-talking and slightly outrageous billionaire, but it was supposed to be a one-night stand, not a long term romance.
Now, within a month of the start of 2016, and two months from actual live human beings expressing formal preferences, Donald Trump leads every single national poll. Voters, from TEA Party conservatives to Second Amendment activists, not only say that they like what they hear, they believe Mr. Trump is the best qualified candidate for dealing with the economy and immigration.
Donald Trump is the best qualified candidate, it bears repeating.
That anyone would consider a blow-hard, narcissist media whore like Donald Trump best qualified to do anything other than pose for red carpet photos is surprising to the establishment of the National Republican Party. They had hoped he would have burned out long before now.
Newsflash to the Establishment: It isn’t working.
Mr. Trump is more popular now, after calling President Obama a dope, his Cabinet officers losers, and his rivals in the GOP field worse, he is the darling of those who hate official Washington. Not just Republicans, but any voter sick and fed up with the sort of excuses, lies and compromises that allow politicians to stay safe and protected for life in government-funded jobs.
In other words, most Americans.
This was supposed to be the throw-back election, the Bush v. Clinton contest where everything old would be new again. Media consultants, political advertising specialists and official cocktail party Washington were all counting on a profitable year. Both family dynasties were gearing up, soliciting contributions for both campaigns and super PACs. Both Hillary. Clinton and Jeb Bush knew they’d need a ton of money, if for no other reason than to overcome the nausea of the American people to listen to anything they had to say.
But despite their best-laid plans, it’s not turning out as the pundits and proselytizers predicted. Instead of a staid, practiced approach to soliciting votes for well-rehearsed and polished messengers, we’ve gotten Donald Trump, slouched over a podium in an indoor arena, a MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN ball cap perched on his bad comb-over, telling jokes and promising to “Bomb the Hell” out of some terrorist group, build a wall and charge Mexico, and negotiate all of the tea out of China.
He tweets outrageous comments about reporters, news anchors and television networks. He skewers anyone who dares to question him, and does so in such an entertaining fashion that everyone forgets what the original commenter said.
At least five times since May, Mr. Trump has said or done something so outrageous and over-the-top that traditional political pundits predicted the end of his campaign.
First, it was suggesting that there was nothing heroic about Sen. John McCain’s capture by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. Then, it was statements about Mexican immigrants who’ve illegally entered the USA being mostly rapists, drug dealers and violent criminals. Then it was Fox News anchor Meghan Kelly’s being so upset that she was bleeding from her “whatever.” Finally, it was a mocking portrayal of a reporter with a physical disability.
Each time, they all said Donald Trump was finished as a serious candidate.
Now, that formerly-finished candidate looks to mop the floor with his rivals in less than 60 days. And yet all the GOP Establishment can do is grind their teeth in frustration.