Donald Trump is now sitting comfortably at the top of the polls, besting the other GOP candidates (all 15 of them) by at least a margin of 2:1. With the anti-Trump field so divided, it is possible that he could win the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. The GOP powers that be have just a few months to stop him. Their problem is that they don’t know how.
Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post reported, “Trump backers tend to be less well-educated: Among those with no college degree, 32 percent support Trump, compared with a mere 8 percent of those with college educations. They tend to be less affluent: Among those who make less than $50,000 a year, 31 percent back Trump.
They are younger: 28 percent of those between 18 and 49 chose Trump, compared with 20 percent of those older than 50. Surprisingly — disappointingly — there is little Trump gender gap: He won the support of 25 percent of men and 23 percent of women. Ladies, I expected better.”
In other words, they tend to be the people who think the American dream doesn’t really exist anymore. They are the people who feel that their future is darker and bleaker than the present and much less appealing than the possibilities that their parents had at the same age. They are the people who laughed when Mr. Trump said that John McCain was a war hero because he got captured and then added, “I like people who weren’t captured.”
This journal has posited that Mr. Trump would be the dividing line between candidates who have a shot at the nomination and those who don’t because they couldn’t beat Mr. Trump. The parallel with Britain’s Raving Monster Looney Party was drawn. One is less certain now that Mr. Trump won’t play a more critical role. He might have to be crushed or persuaded to surrender, and the cost in either case will be high.
The Trumpsters are a significant bloc of voters, and getting them to the polls in November 2016 could be the difference between President Hillary Clinton and a Republican president. Yet the more Mr. Trump spits his venom against just about everyone in the party, the more his backers seem unlikely to accept someone else. In other words, if Mr. Trump isn’t the nominee, they will stay home.
The party hierarchy can combat the candidacy of Mr. Trump readily enough. Getting about 12 of the 15 other candidates to quit is one way, but it may take until the South Carolina primary for some to see the handwriting on the wall. There is a saying in politics “you can’t be somebody with nobody,” meaning there must be an alternative candidate. There appears to be a similar rule, “you can’t be somebody with everybody.” Mr. Trump’s 24% support would represent a crushingly small minority in a two-way race. It is a substantial plurality in a 16-candidate contest.
The party can changes its rules on a whim, and it has done so frequently in the past. Keeping The Donald off the ballot in major states shouldn’t prove difficult. Not seating his delegates is another avenue to defeating him.
What doesn’t seem to be working is attacking Mr. Trump. The more the party bosses, other candidates and the media try to put a critical light on him, the more his supporters become convinced that he is right, that the Establishment is out of touch. And so, that leaves letting Mr. Trump’s mouth do to him what they cannot.
Mr. Trump, like a great many over-privileged and extremely wealthy individuals, hasn’t been told that he’s being dumb or that he’s wrong in quite some time. He runs his mouth free from interference from his brain (admittedly not much of a regulator in his case). Eventually, he is going to say something that will split his supporters. He has already lost the veterans with his comments about Mr. McCain. One expects him to attack the working poor and the under-educated at some point, and that should provide a huge dip in his support.
All of this takes time, however, and the GOP has stupidly packed the schedule for its primary season into a short period. As a result, Mr. Trump may not self-destruct quickly enough to suit the party bosses. The question then becomes, what can the party give Mr. Trump in exchange for his withdrawal? Usually, it’s settling campaign debts, but he doesn’t need the money. It can’t be a cabinet position because he won’t play second fiddle to anyone. Whatever it is, surely it won’t be easy to give him, no matter how necessary.