Eight Reasons Trump Can’t Win
Donald Trump is leading in the polls for a reason: A lot of Republican voters are sick and tired of the Republican Party. They want to show their frustration in some way that is emotionally cathartic but has no lasting negative consequences for the party they still hope will win next fall. So they tell pollsters they are Trump supporters — or, in some cases, Ben Carson or Carly Fiorina supporters. These candidates have a legitimate claim to “outsider” status, and they are doing well in the polls.
For now. But it won’t last. Here’s why.
Trump doesn’t have a political organization. A lot of folks who prize his outsider status might now respond with, “Good! That’s what I like about him.” But you can’t win a modern presidential election without competent, experienced people on the ground in at least the first dozen or so states. Trump has few people on his team, and they mostly come from the minor leagues of campaign operatives.
“Wait a minute,” you’re saying. “Donald Trump is a billionaire.” Or, as The Donald Himself said, “I’m really rich.” Yes, but it will take at least a billion dollars to win, and even if Donald Trump is willing and able to put a billion dollars of his own money into the race (which he says he is, but which I seriously doubt), at some point his attempt to buy the presidency will become enormously distasteful to the American people. Winning means building an army of financial supporters, both large and small. He has so far not done that with the small supporters, and all indications are that the big party supporters — those capable of writing million-dollar checks or more — are either indifferent or actively disdain The Donald.
It’s Hard To Stay Mad
Yes, Trump has support because people are mad at the GOP. They won’t stay mad. Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus is a political animal, which makes him an easy target for anti-establishment scorn, but last year the party re-elected him in a near-unanimous vote, and he has a demonstrated ability to raise huge amounts of money. He is also taking serious steps to reach out to religious conservatives and even some Tea Party leaders. Priebus is shrewdly winning over or co-opting his haters one-by-one. The anti-establishment hate will fade.
Just because Trump is leading the polls doesn’t mean he will win the Iowa caucuses, which reward those who actually show up. The Byzantine process of winning delegates — in Iowa and elsewhere — is not friendly to political outsiders. The process of counting delegates and super-delegates, of recruiting them and keeping them: these are the skills that make political operatives, the political operatives Trump doesn’t have, so valuable. In short, because of party rules, the Party rules. Like it or not, the process is rigged to favor establishment candidates.
History Is Against Him
Only twice in American history have we elected a president who had not previously served in political office: Ulysses S. Grant, because he won the Civil War and saved America, and Dwight D. Eisenhower, because he won World War II and saved Western Civilization. To believe that Trump, Carson, or Fiorina have a chance of winning is to live in the Land of Magical Thinking. They have every right to run, and their presence in the race is generating interest in ideas and the process itself, but don’t expect them to win.
Rick Perry was the first candidate to drop out of the race, and what did he do? He trashed Donald Trump. He called Trump a “cancer on conservatism.” Though Perry wasn’t doing well in the polls, it is hard to imagine any of his supporters heading for Trump. Santorum’s campaign is on life support. When he departs, don’t expect many of his supporters to run to Trump. Trump may be leading in the polls, but 70 percent of those polled favor someone else. Those 70 percent will eventually aggregate around someone who is not named Donald Trump.
Candidates Find Their Courage — And Their Feet
Until now, most of the other presidential candidates have been afraid to criticize Trump. Trump is so immoderate in his rhetoric, and his core supporters so rabid, none of the candidates wanted to make themselves the focus of Trump’s verbal bullying. But that’s changing. Bobby Jindal this week called Trump a “dangerous, narcissist egomaniac.” When Trump insulted Carly Fiorina’s looks, Fiorina told supporters at a campaign stop that she “was proud of every wrinkle.” The crowd roared its support. Trump is like the bully who wins only because he throws the first punch, and it’s a knockout. However, the other candidates may have been knocked down, but they are not out, and some of them are starting to punch back. Trump, like most bullies, will crumble.
Media Honeymoon Will End
Trump has enjoyed unprecedented attention from the mainstream media. Why? Because they are happy to highlight Trump and his bombast as representative of the GOP, all the while ignoring the more thoughtful candidates. The early attention helped make him a front-runner, and it has helped keep him there. But the attention, especially the overwhelmingly positive attention, won’t last. Today’s media landscape is too diverse. If the legacy media organizations (major networks, major dailies, et alia) don’t start doing their job, then alternative organizations will, and that will embarrass the legacy media. So look for tougher Trump coverage, and look for that tougher coverage to make a difference.
Trump’s infamous comb-over can reputedly withstand a 20-knot wind. But it will take more than hairspray to hold together Trump’s political campaign when the cold winds blow this fall and winter in Iowa and New Hampshire. We may already be seeing cracks in his political veneer. Carson has pulled to within the margin-of-error in Iowa. And Trump’s business practices are starting to face greater scrutiny.
Is this the beginning of the end for Trump? It’s too early to say. Americans love a spectacle, so they may want to keep him around for a while longer. Public television last week aired a re-mastered version of Ken Burns’ landmark television series The Civil War. That show reminded us that Washington socialites showed up with picnic baskets and parasols to watch the Battle of Manassas, the first major conflict of the Civil War. But when the Union troops fled in terror, so did the spectators.
The political battle is about to get serious. How long Trump will stay in I won’t say, but this much is becoming increasingly clear: it is a battle he can’t win.
Warren Cole Smith is the Vice President of WORLD News Group. His latest book (co-written with John Stonestreet) is Restoring All Things: God’s Audacious Plan To Change The World Through Everyday People.