Trump's Rivals Desperately Ramping Up Attacks and the Media Can't Get Enough
The latest breathless reporting from the 2016 presidential campaign trail is obsessing on the question of who can be the Republican Party’s David, slaying the Goliath and the last person on earth the GOP establishment wants as its nominee: frontrunner billionaire egomaniac Donald Trump.
It started Friday, with a Wall Street Journal report about a secret effort in GOP establishment circles to finance a knockout blow-delivering campaign whose goal is to topple Trump.
“A well-connected GOP operative is planning a ‘guerrilla campaign’ backed by secret donors to ‘defeat and destroy’ the celebrity businessman’s candidacy, according to a memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal,” wrote two of the paper’s top national political reporters.
The report said this clandestine effort comes as two of the GOP’s other establishment candidates—Ohio’s John Kasich and Florida’s Jeb Bush—are ramping up their attacks. The Journal piece says the no-longer hush-hush effort to take down Trump is being led by Liz Mair, an ex-Republican National Committee press staffer turned blogger/political consultant, who until recently worked for Wisconsin's Scott Walker’s 2016 campaign (until he dropped out), Texas' Rick Perry’s 2016 campaign (before he dropped out) and John McCain and Sarah Palin’s 2008 presidential campaign (they lost). A pattern emerges here suggesting that Mair may not be the GOP’s giant-killer.
Still, some media outlets breathlessly rewrote the Journal’s get-Trump plot. In fairness, Mair will probably be laughing all the way to the bank in 2016, as she has been around political circles long enough to know she’ll make some good money no matter what kind of negative ads or mudslinging she deploys.
Meanwhile, it didn’t take long for the other loudmouth in the race—Texas Sen. Ted Cruz—to seize the opportunity to join the Trump attack, even though he spent much of last summer playing nice with the Donald. One may recall that Cruz visited Trump at his Manhattan offices and complimented him. Cruz later invited Trump to speak at a right-wing rally in Washington, which Trump attended.
Last Friday in Iowa, however, Cruz backed away from praising all-things-Trump, saying that he did not agree with his proposal to create a federal registry of Muslim Americans.
Cruz’s comments are what one would expect from a political shark who smells blood. After the Paris terrorist attacks by ISIS, the other top-tier contender in the GOP presidential field, Ben Carson, started slipping in the polls. Cruz is the biggest beneficiary of that apparent reshuffling, and is now closing in on Trump according to the latest polls released Tuesday. It could be that Iowa Republicans want a nominee who is not a nice guy with a weak grasp of foreign affairs after seeing terrorist attacks abroad.
Cruz’s rise in Iowa’s polls prompted Slate.com to post a piece on Monday asserting, “The Texas senator is positioning himself as the reasonable alternative” to Trump. But charactering Cruz as reasonable in any context is ludicrous; there is nothing reasonable about the senator who might be the GOP’s most dangerous demagogue.
Regardless of his rise in the Iowa polls, the GOP establishment in Washington despises Cruz. Their fealty is to corporate America’s titans and first and foremost, they want Congress, the White House and federal agencies to do anything and everything the Fortune 100 seeks. They can’t control Cruz or his federal government-shutting antics, and that’s bad for business.
Slate’s suggestion that Cruz could be a “reasonable alternative” to Trump also ignores the recent history of Iowa’s Republican presidential caucuses—where nobody who can be called a “reasonable” politician has won. In 2008, the winner was Arkansas’ Mike Huckabee. In 2012, it was Pennsylvania’s Rick Santorum. These men are hardcore evangelical Christians far outside of mainstream America.
Too many reporters on the 2016 campaign trail seem to have forgotten that being the winner in Iowa, and even New Hampshire right after that, doesn’t mean much of anything when it comes to the GOP picking its eventual presidential nominee. That is because of the complex way the Republican National Convention delegates are awarded—1,237 delegates are needed to win.
If there’s one thing worth remembering about the GOP’s 2016 field—apart from the fact that Trump is still far from having the support of 51 percent of all Republican National Convention delegates—it's that, personalities aside, all of the candidates seeking the GOP nomination generally favor the same extremist agenda. They’re anti-federal safety nets, anti-science, anti-gay, anti-reproductive rights, anti-diplomacy and pro-corporate—whether with tax rates, trade or government regulations.
The other big picture to keep in mind is the votes that will really start to determine the 2016 Republican nominee begin in March, when delegate-rich states like Florida hold their primaries and award delegates on a winner-take-all-basis. The first contests, in Iowa and throughout February, award their delegates proportionately. That means a candidate getting 25 percent of the vote gets 25 percent of the delegates. In Iowa, for example, with its crowded GOP field, that means splitting up 30 delegates.
There’s going to be a lot of drama—real and imagined—between now and March’s contests. It will be quite a political narrative to behold, who will emerge as the GOP David slaying the Goliath named Trump. But in the meantime, don’t believe that the person who fits that bill—such as Cruz—is on his way to being the GOP’s 2016 nominee. That’s still a long way off.