On Christmas Eve last year had anyone predicted that Donald Trump would be the Republican front-runner and likely nominee, they would have been accused of drinking too much spiked egg nog. Names like Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush were being tossed about as the likely GOP nominee. One name that crossed no one’s lips was Donald Trump. Fast forward to Dec.24th 2015, and Trump is practically the only name crossing anyone’s lips. He continues to lead in all the polls and dominates the media 24/7.
The latest CNN/ORC poll, released Wednesday, showed Trump opening up a 21 point lead over his closest rival, Ted Cruz. Trump was the top choice of 39 percent of Republicans compared to 18 percent who picked Cruz. This is the third national poll recently showing Trump with nearly 40 percent support among Republicans. A Fox News poll last week showed Trump ahead of Cruz 39 to 18. The Monmouth poll had Trump crushing Cruz 41 to 14. Even the ABC/Washington Post poll indicated Trump is beating Cruz 38 to 15.
A Public Policy poll released late last week showed Trump ahead of Cruz 34 percent to 18 percent. A Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday seems to be an outlier. In that poll, Cruz pulled within four points of Trump 28 to 24. The bad news for Republicans in the Quinnipiac poll is that roughly half of all Americans would be embarrassed to have Donald Trump as their president. Only 22 percent of Republicans felt that way, however.
This is not the way the Republican establishment wanted to spend the holidays. So how did Trump steal Christmas?
For months, pundits and Trump’s opponents have discounted his candidacy. They said it was a summer fling. Then they indicated it was a fall frolic. Now that winter has arrived and Trump is still on top, his opponents simply assert that Trump will not be the nominee. They may be in denial because there is nothing in the numbers that give credence to such assertions.
As far back as 1964, there has been a large segment of the GOP electorate that wanted a nominee from the right. In 1964, their candidate, Senator Barry Goldwater prevailed and won the nomination. The Democrat, Lyndon Johnson, won in one of the largest landslides in history. In 1980, the GOP right helped Ronald Reagan win the nomination and the presidency. Since then, however, Republicans have nominated more centrist, establishment candidates, at least in the eyes of the right. Many just stopped voting.
The election of Barack Obama created urgency for non-establishment Republicans. The Tea Party appeared on the scene giving a voice and slogans to disaffected Republicans. They were not happy with the nomination of John McCain in 2008 or Mitt Romney in 2012. They blamed the establishment for Barack Obama’s election. At the same time, those same Republicans, and many non-Republicans, had suffered in the recession, which they blame on Bush and establishment Republicans. They have become angry and unwilling to take it anymore.
Donald Trump saw that anger. He led the charge that Obama was not legitimate because he was not born in the United States. The belief that a Kenyan stole the White House gave these disaffected and angry Republicans a focus for their anger. When Trump saw that a majority of Republicans feel Obama is a Muslim and not born in the U.S., he saw an opening to finally run for president.
Trump had money, name ID, and celebrity. He calculated correctly that the media would obsess over his unconventional candidacy. He was correct. Trump has dominated the media seven days a week since June, depriving other candidates coverage—Republicans and Democrats. He has spent almost nothing compared to the millions his competitors have spent.
The Trump genius has kept him in the news by making one outrageous statement after another, often times directed at his Republican opponents—a violation of Reagan’s eleventh commandment. If he felt his numbers had plateaued, he threatened to run as a third party candidate causing GOP Land to freak out.
After each increasingly more outrageous statement, Trump’s numbers went up. He alone understood what so many Republicans wanted to say, and he said it for them. Trump clearly found a niche in the Republican electorate, and that niche is nearly half of the Party. If you lump Cruz and Carson in the mix, 67 percent or more of Republicans reject so-called establishment candidates like Rubio, Bush, Christie, and Kasich.
How did Trump steal Christmas? He just read the Republicans’ letters to Santa.