July 31, 2015
Conventional wisdom (a better oxymoron than military intelligence or government efficiency ever were) says The Donald has taken all the oxygen out of the room.
Apparently, the majority (something like 62%) of google searches on the Republican side are Trump-related.
If the media is fixated on a single candidate and the public is paying more attention to that one person than the other 15 contestants combined, isn’t this a problem?
Shouldn’t we worry that a megalomaniacal, narcissistic “fake” Republican who proposes to replace Obamacare with “something terrific” is crowding out plenty of qualified candidates who have spent their adult lives preparing to run for president?
Serious Republicans (and mainstream journalists worrying on their behalf) have the following major concerns:
1. Trump will make independent/swing voters think Republicans hate Mexicans. He will also make Mexican American voters think this. He will also make other Latino Americans think this.
2. Trump isn’t really going to get the nomination, but when that becomes evident, he will run as an independent, and siphon votes away from the nominee, giving Hillary the White House, even if she continues to run the worst campaign since Custer at Little Big Horn.
3. The combination of Trump and the early debate rules mean that several people well known to political junkies will miss out on the official debate. Even those who make the main stage have to deal with a wild card. How can these intrepid candidates prepare for Iowa and New Hampshire with this obstacle?
Each of these fears are well founded, but they are likely somewhere between avoidable and a great opportunity than a problem.
The first and second issue partially cancel each other out. Very few of the Republican candidates are overly anti-immigrant, or even anti-illegal immigrant. Virtually none of them are in favor of mass deportations for illegals/undocumented residents.
Mind you, for all his bluster, Trump isn’t in favor of backing up the deportation van either. A large percentage of Americans (not all of whom are Republicans) are in favor of focusing on border security first.
There is way less room between Trump and Bernie Sanders on this issue (never mind Scott Walker) than you think.
The difference is tone.
Republican nominee Trump would sound like a caricature of how MSNBC thinks Republicans think.
Independent candidate Trump will provide contrast for the actual nominee.
Many pundits have compared a possible Trump run to Ross Perot in 1992. Perot did likely take more votes from (George H.W.) Bush than (Bill) Clinton, as Trump would likely take more from (Jeb) Bush than (Hillary) Clinton.
Perot positioned himself in the middle, as a more sensible choice than the two traditional parties. He began his candidacy as an independent, well before the party primaries were over.
Independent Trump would run to the side, not in the middle. He would provide an opportunity for a Republican nominee to run between Trump and Hillary as the moderate Goldilocks choice.
While Trump would take Republican votes, the Republican could well take moderate and even slightly left-leaning votes from Hillary, particularly as she moves left to shore up her base with liberal Democrats.
This isn’t mere supposition. It actually happened in 1968. Though George Wallace, running as an independent did take votes of diseffected conservative and/or southern Democrats who might have voted for Richard Nixon, he also helped Nixon position himself as the compromise between Wallace and Democrat Hubert Humphrey.
What about the individual candidates? Is it a problem or unfair that Rick Perry or Chris Christie could miss the first debate and get relegated to the little candidates table?
Should Republicans worry Rand Paul, once thought at least a high-second tier candidate, someone seemingly capable of bringing younger and more libertarian-minded voters into the GOP tent, has entered the Witness Protection Program, relegated to sawing through the tax code to get attention?
No. Not a problem at all.
First, there’s no such thing as a good candidate who doesn’t gain traction. If you can’t get noticed, or if you aren’t ultimately the first choice of many primary voters, you might make a good president, but you’re a bad presidential candidate.
if you have a coherent message that matches the mood of a chunk of the electorate, have a reason why you are different or better than the other choices and hired good people to help you communicate the message, you will get a full hearing.
Absent one or more of these things, not so much, but that would be true even without Trump.
Each candidate is getting at least as much run as they deserve:
George Pataki is the reason they are limiting how many people are allowed in the main debate. He was a successful multiple-term NY Gov, but Nelson Rockefeller’s ghost is a more likely nominee.
Not effected by Trump or the large amount of candidates. He was overshadowed by Rudy Giuliani in his own state, so he should feel right at home.
Lindsey Graham-type candidates run every cycle or two. There’s an old saying that all 100 senators look in the mirror and see a president. This is what happens when a senator listens to the mirror.
Senators who run as foreign policy or defense experts don’t get traction. Sometimes (Scoop Jackson, 1976), the pundits are surprised. Sometimes (Richard Lugar, 1996) they aren’t. If this was a normal cycle, Graham would be 7th in a field of 8th instead. Besides getting a new iPhone with a new number, no Trump Effect.
Rick Santorum finished second last time. Republicans often nominate the guy who finished second last time. Rick Santorum is the exception that proves the rule.
Carly Fiorina lost a race for US Senate from California, giving Barbara Boxer a fight, but not really making it close. She’s held elective office exactly as many days as Donald Trump. CEO of one of the largest companies in the world, she was also fired after a controversial merger proved hard to digest.
Fiorina sounds very good in interviews and in front of crowds. Running in California was good practice. She takes a solid conservative Republican position on practically every issue. Fiorina is also arguably the most skilled candidate at criticizing Hillary Clinton.
Not sure whether her goal was to build her overall profile, get considered for VP, or prep to run for office again in the future. Having relocated to Virginia, Fiorina would have a better chance of winning in a more purple state if she chooses another statewide election.
In a weak cycle like 2012, Fiorina, who is a stronger candidate than Michelle Bachmann or Herman Cain were, would have received more attention, more quickly, but as only one person without elective office or commanding general experience has been nominated since 1804, it doesn’t really matter.
At the moment Trump is suppressing Fiorina’s coverage, but she’s doing plenty of retail campaigning in Iowa and will have her moment in the sun. By drawing attention to alternative options, you can argue Trump may actually wind up assisting her.
Bobby Jindal should have been Scott Walker combined with Marco Rubio. Even Trump wouldn’t be ahead of that in the polls.
Instead he’s running as Mike Huckabee crossed with Ted Cruz. Neither the pitch, nor his upside-down approval ratings in Louisiana fit.
Prior to Trump, Jindal was already MIA in the polls. Having miscast himself, the less anyone sees of this version, the better. As another candidate’s story will show, perhaps the distant future will prove more promising.
Rick Perry is really trying. He sounds better, looks smarter, and is attempting to leverage criticism of Trump into relevance. At the moment he’s also 11th in a game with 10 chairs.
Just as he did in 2011, Perry looks good on paper. None of the several other governors/ex-governors in the race were more successful. He’s conservative without being a bomb-throwing ideologue.
No matter yet. He basically needs to keep plugging and hope several of the others ahead of him implode. If not, he had his chance last time.
Chris Christie should have run in 2012. He wasn’t ready yet and he might not have won, but that was his time. Then he hugged Obama and the bridge thing happened and New Jersey got tired of him and now he probably doesn’t matter.
It’s tempting to blame the crowded field or overbearing Donald, but that doesn’t hold up. Christie is tempering himself a little to sound presidential. Trump is just proving a loud-mouthed politician is no match for a loud-mouthed billionaire reality star.
John Kasich is going to make some noise. His timing is perfect. He and Walker are the best strategists among the candidates and neither will get thrown off by Candidate Trump.
He’s also probably the final nail in Christie’s coffin. If you want a governor who sounds authentic, maybe even a bit prickly and not quite like a normal temporizing politician, do you pick the guy with an approval rating in the 60s or 30s?
If you want somebody who could appeal to crossover voters without completely infuriating conservatives, you probably want the guy who was a prominent budget hawk in the 90s.
Kasich is far from a favorite, but the current environment helps his candidacy more than it hurts him. He’s also the hopeful example for Jindal. His 2000 candidacy was such a success he quit the race in mid-1999. But Kasich was young as Jindal is now. Maybe 2032 is Bobby’s time.
Rand Paul is behind expectations in the polls, fundraising, visibility, everywhere. While Christie is squeezed between Trump and Kasich, Paul is wedged between Trump and Bernie.
Huh? Yeah. Trump and Bernie. Remember, the plan for Paul was to combine his dad’s band of pot smoking millennials and stay off my lawn libertarians with some closer-to-mainstream Republicans.
Much like Christie, he sanded down the edges, especially on foreign affairs/defense with ISIS becoming a bigger issue. This gave him the worst of both worlds; still not acceptable to many, not interesting enough to the rest.
That’s a problem, and Trump isn’t helping, but Sanders is the biggest danger. Paul’s path was through New Hampshire with its open primary. His argument for existence was to bring disaffected Obama voters into the GOP orbit.
Many 2012 Ron Paul supporters are now 2016 Bernie Sanders supporters. Some voted for Obama, some didn’t vote, few voted for Romney.
Yes, I realize Paul the Elder and Bernie do not seem to share much besides being semi-elderly and very disheveled. Guess that’s what’s in these days. They’re actually more alike than you might think, but that’s a separate piece.
Ted Cruz is losing voters to Trump. He’s probably losing half his voters to Trump, maybe even more. This has absolutely no bearing on his nonexistent chances of being president.
If you are running as an ideological senator who does not get along with your peers, there is a way to get nominated, after all, it’s happened twice before.
First, your party needs to have recently held the White House. When a party is freshly out of office, they usually go away from the center in their first chance to win it back.
Second, supporters need to control important parts of the party apparatus. The establishment is against you, a team of volunteer insurrectionists is a must.
Barry Goldwater and George McGovern (1972) followed this plan to the letter before being obliterated in November.
With Republicans out of the White House for consecutive elections and Cruz having a group of committed supporters, but no powerful national ground game, he was never viable this round.
Mike Huckabee had his moment in Iowa in 2008. He’s successfully parlayed this into a career as a television personality. Much like a couple others on the list he should have run in 2012.
Huckabee would have been the strongest non-Romney. He wasn’t ready to abandon the TV studio. Now it’s too late. Trump is taking a few of his voters. So is Kasich. So is Walker. The larger field does take voters, but it’s because they prefer the other options, not because they would choose Huckabee if only he wasn’t overshadowed.
Ben Carson‘s voters are different from Trump’s. There are some people who would prefer a non-politician and would pick Carson if Trump didn’t exist, but the doctor has a solid core group of supporters who were getting ready a couple years ago.
Carson will participate in all of the debates and likely come off pretty well. Won’t be the nominee, but it won’t be due to Trump or the crowded field.
Marco Rubio is a bit behind in the polls. He’s the second or third choice of many, first choice of few. Republican voters know damn well who Marco Rubio is. Pundits are listing him as one of the overshadowed candidates, but he has plenty of time before the votes begin.
Maybe he’s ready, maybe he’s not (think he probably is). He needs to win South Carolina. There are Iowa-specific candidates and New Hampshire-specific candidates. He’s neither. This was always going to be a problem.
Scott Walker is not the best General Election candidate (more on that separately). He probably is the best primary candidate. If you ask me right now, I’ll say he’s the most likely nominee, but his chances are less than 50/50.
Given that he’s a front-runner, probably not likely Trump or the large field are destroying his chance at being noticed.
Jeb Bush is helped by Trump and not hurt by the big field. Like Walker, he gets his own piece soon, so until then you’ll have to trust me that Trump hasn’t stolen tons of his voters or ruined his name recognition.
Whether by logic or fatigue, hopefully you’re now convinced these candidates have themselves, not Trump or debate planners to blame if their campaigns stagnate. I’m planning to write about many of the candidates in more detail over the next couple of months, and will attempt to elaborate on some of the assertions made above.