If you look at some of the current polling of the Republican side of the 2016 presidential race, there’s a familiar but unexpected name near the top.
Real estate mogul Donald Trump has managed to crack double-digits in the latest of two major polls conducted by CNN and Fox News, trailing only former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Florida) in a crowded GOP field that features other prominent names, including Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) and U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
Before his announcement last month, Trump was barely registering in polls. Back in May, he polled at 5 percent, according to Quinnipiac. Other than that, he wasn’t really registering on the political radar.
One possible reason for this surge is the unfiltered nature of his campaign efforts. In his announcement June 16, Trump fired an opening salvo that has set the tone of his candidacy.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best,” Trump said. “They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they’re telling us what we’re getting.”
Those remarks upset a lot of people and have cost him a number of business relationships in recent days. However, those same remarks appeal to a lot of voters and have set him apart from the other candidates in field.
That’s where there seems to be a misconception at play here. It’s possible that Republican voters are confusing the volume and tone of Trump’s rhetoric as substance with a conservative vibe.
If you look at his past business dealings, statements and even his political contributions, there is no reason for anyone to believe Donald Trump is the second coming of Ronald Reagan.
Trump was a Reform Party presidential candidate in 2000. He has donated money to a number of high-profile Democrats including Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. He has in the past been a proponent of socialized medicine. And he has some screwy ideas about trade, including imposing tariffs on China.
Yet, this fearless nature of crossing the boundaries of political correctness has made him a darling in the eyes of some. That one gesture in his campaign announcement of attacking some of the Mexicans that have immigrated to the U.S. has won over some of the conservative royalty, including Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin. Those individuals were once skeptical and in some cases downright hostile to Trump regarding his 2012 flirtations with a presidential run.
That’s not the case this time around.
In some ways, the Trump phenomenon is a lot like the 2013 special election for Alabama’s first congressional district. It started off with a crowded field. At the end of the fight for the Republican Party’s nomination, you had a play-it-safe candidate in Bradley Byrne and a very outspoken, Trump-like candidate in Dean Young. Young used the gay marriage issue, once publicly calling homosexuality a “deviant” and “destructive” lifestyle, much like Trump has used the immigration issue.
His remarks drew shock and outrage in media circles, while at the same time firing up the Tea Party base. But in the end sanity prevailed and everyone rallied around Byrne.
I would expect a similar outcome in this election.
When all is said and done, Trump likely will not win the nomination. While he is polling high, including in early primary states, he also polls with a lot of negatives. Some pollsters argue that his high name recognition is giving him a boost, but considering he’s a household name, he should be polling a lot higher than he is.
Trump, however, will shape the debate and his bombastic nature is setting up a major collision between him and some of the candidates softer on the immigration issue, including Bush and Rubio.
Once the crowded field whittles itself down to three or four candidates, supporters of candidates who drop out will change allegiances, and it’s doubtful they’ll throw their support to Trump.
Much of this is attributable to the culture of political correctness that exists in America. Be it the Confederate flag or taking shots at protected classes, it resonates with some Americans who really don’t want to be told they have to feel or act a certain way.
Republicans could learn from Trump, however. Right now, style over substance is propelling his campaign. Should a candidate incorporate Trump’s style and avoid the xenophobia he exudes, that could really work in a general election, particularly with an Electoral College map that does not favor a Republican candidate.
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