The Republican establishment is nearing full-blown panic about Donald Trump.
The demise of Trump’s candidacy has been predicted by centrist Republicans and the media alike virtually since the day it began. But there is no empirical evidence at all to suggest it is happening.
Last month, the liberal ThinkProgress collated more than 30 predictions of the business mogul’s imminent demise. One typical example was The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart, who discerned “the beginning of the end of Trump” in mid-July, soon after the mogul criticized the Vietnam War record of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)
“He has a real shot at this. He is the clear front-runner,” said Ron Bonjean, a consultant and former aide to GOP leaders on Capitol Hill.
Adding that “months ago, we all discounted Trump as a candidate,” Bonjean now acknowledged that it seems “safe to assume that he is going to continue with this strong momentum right into Iowa.”
“The media has twisted and turned through a number of different positions where they tried to explain that it was just a fad — the summer of Trump,” said Craig Robinson, a former political director of the Republican Party of Iowa. “Well, it’s lasted all fall. There is a realization that you are not going to wake up tomorrow and he’s going to vanish.”
Robinson, who is not affiliated with any candidate, was scathing toward those GOP centrists who assert that Trump will be unable to translate his polling support into votes because of a weak ground game.
“That is the wishful thinking of the establishment,” he said. “That is what they tell themselves so they can sleep at night. The truth is, Trump has one of the better ground operations in Iowa. Will he turn out every single person who shows up at his rallies? No. But if he turns out a fraction, he will roll over the field.”
Trump’s critics within the GOP are now coming to believe that an air war — that is, negative TV advertising — is more likely to deliver results than anything else. They note that a $1 million campaign in Iowa by the conservative Club for Growth appeared to put some dent in Trump’s numbers. (It also drew the threat of legal action from the candidate.)
As for 2012, while it is true that former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) was leading the RCP average at the equivalent point to now, that was to be a relatively short-lived phenomenon, just as earlier boomlets for candidates such as then-Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and businessman Herman Cain had proved to be.
In fact, the consistency of Trump’s polling performance this cycle has more in common with the steady showing of eventual 2012 nominee Mitt Romney than anyone else.
Other anti-Trump forces within the GOP hold out hope that as the field winnows, the whole dynamic of the race will shift, with primary voters coalescing around a different option.
But none of that is guaranteed. Trump remains as bullishly confident as ever. And Republican insiders know the hour is getting late.
“If Trump is not your cup of tea, it’s time to bring your own coffee pot out and start brewing something,” said Robinson.
Well, I heard some railing against Trump yesterday, but from the lips of people who would rather die that vote for any Republican. My big concern about him is that he will turn out to be the Republican Eugene McCarthy. What if there simply are not enough of them to pull Trump across the finish line? The other, smaller, fear is that he truly is a nut-job. I doubt the second though. I think he just understands the depth of anger and despair among the working class.