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December 11, 2015

Trump Ė He Hasnít Faded Yet

Joe Charlebois

In late August I commented on how the leadership vacuum created by the progressive left – led by Barack Obama – and Republicans led by John Boehner and Mitch McConnell created the climate for Donald Trump’s emergence. Now with the Iowa Caucus seven weeks away, it is Mr. Trump’s race to lose.


As Mr. Trump will tell you, he leads every poll…everywhere. It’s true that he has a solid lead in most polls; and, despite his issuance of divisive statements and taking controversial stances, he has lost little support in his bid for the Republican nomination.


With little time before the primary season begins, it seems as though there are but a handful of GOP candidates who have a reasonable shot at winning their party’s nomination.


Of the dozen-plus Republican candidates who started this electoral adventure, Sens. Ted Cruz (R., TX) and Marco Rubio (R., FL) are the two likely challengers to Mr. Trump at this point.


The attacks in Paris, and now in San Bernardino, have shaken up the polls. Dr. Benjamin Carson, who had maintained a consistent solid second to Mr. Trump, has slipped significantly. He has culled his base of support from conservative Christians, but at this point it won’t be enough to regain his status as a top tier candidate. His steady, thoughtful, intelligent and quiet manner are what brought him out of obscurity, but those same qualities are what leave him at a point from which he is unlikely to recover. With national security moving sharply to the top of concerns, the traits that made him so appealing won’t serve him well going forward to the greater voter base.


Ohio Gov. John Kasich and even ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, with a huge campaign war chest to spend, are too establishment for the GOP base. Ex-Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum can’t capture that elusive lightning in a bottle that kept him at Mitt Romney’s heels last go ‘round. Sen. Rand Paul (R., TN) and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina have seen some success but have retreated to the low single digits. Ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has a similar following that Dr. Carson is appealing to, but he won’t ever see 10% polling this election cycle.


The only moderate voice that I see making any progress would be Gov. Chris Christie (R., NJ). He is outspoken enough and seen as strong on national security to keep him in the mix at least in blue states. This is also his Achilles’ heel. Being from New Jersey Gov. Christie has had to compromise on issues that conservatives would have a tough time accepting.


I predict that once the lower tier of candidates bow out, their blocs of voters won’t go to the front runner Trump, rather they will go toward Senator Rubio, Senator Cruz and Governor Christie.


Mr. Trump has maximized his base support; it is unlikely that he will ever garner more than 40% of the Republican vote. As dedicated as his supporters are, there aren’t enough of them to win over the rest of the Republican electorate, let alone in the general election.


At this point both Senator Cruz, Senator Rubio and Governor Christie need some of the current candidates to drop out of the race and have that support thrown their way. The more conservative will likely end up in the Cruz camp and the more moderate will end up supporting Rubio or Christie.


Timing is everything, especially once the caucuses and primaries are underway. Momentum can be great for whomever wins early.


In Iowa, Senator Cruz actually leads Mr. Trump in the Monmouth poll out last Monday, while Mr. Trump leads Senator Cruz in the CNN/ORC poll on the same day.


Senator Cruz is making inroads to challenge frontrunner Trump; but, make no mistake, Donald Trump leads in nearly every poll. He is an anomaly that politics has rarely seen. He is not a professional politician. He consistently delivers a “no apologies” populist message. He has arrived in a time of fear and lack of leadership. This is what draws people to him, but it is also what scares many.


Others would have been forced to close down their campaigns for doing and saying the things that Mr. Trump has. No position that he takes or statements that he makes seem to have affected his numbers negatively. It could be argued that there are some numbers that are being affected negatively. It would be interesting to find out, for example, what the current level of support among those who had him as their second choice? These numbers are most certainly dropping.


Mr. Trump will do well in the primaries, but I don’t believe that he will garner enough votes to win the nomination. What is certain is that he’ll make life hell for the GOP for the next 10 months or so.


Just think, this all could have been avoided had the GOP leadership provided just that, “leadership.”


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