From the beginning, the pundits — insufferable, self-righteous, all-knowing Washingtonians — sat from on high and predicted a quick end to the campaign of Donald John Trump, the silver-spoon kid from New York who descended on a golden staircase to proclaim his candidacy for president and talk about how rich he is.
The Donald, one ex-wife dubbed him.
The way he came in to the race, and his wild-and-wooly rhetoric from day one, seemed a funny diversion, almost, from the bizarro world of the Republican primary, on the eve of the Iowa caucuses, with the Chosen One, brother and son of presidents, Jeb Bush, never catching on. He was like a wet stack of fatwood and oak in a campfire. His handlers tried matches; then lighters; but a blowtorch couldn’t seem to get him going.
And then, as Trump stayed in, people kept laughing — but the polls kept changing, to a point now where the latest ones show Trump with nearly double the numbers of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and with more than half of some Republicans polled believing what once was a fanciful notion: That Trump is going to be the GOP nominee.
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The pundits’ ridicule of his hair, his multiple marriages, his monstrous ego, his penchant for substituting that silver spoon for a foot at every opportunity don’t matter. He blasted one Republican opponent’s looks. He called Jeb Bush weak. He reckoned President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (the likely Democratic nominee) as the worst at their jobs in history. Outrageous and angry notions, all of them, but it doesn’t matter. And now he pulled out of the last Republican debate in disgust at Fox News and anchor Megyn Kelly, who tangled with him at an earlier debate. It’s the smart move on his party, belittling his opponents.
The Donald was and is trading on the fact that lots of other people, people with whom he has nothing whatsoever in common, are mad, too. He’s harnessed their anger — hate, even — skillfully, it must be said. Even now, he’s reckoned that he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and retain his supporters — a comment that above all else may show how little he thinks of his supporters. His latest take on Cruz is that he’s “nasty” and that other senators think he’s a “whack job.” Trump, who hasn’t been near a street tough in his gilded life, seems to be taking elocution lessons from one. He even called in Silly Sarah, Palin that is, for an endorsement, though as she rambled his face resembled a guy who’d gotten a bad oyster.
And so, as Iowa nears the caucuses, and as Trump climbs ever higher, the Republican Party seems not to be in the business of nomination so much as it is resignation — to the fact that Trump, up against a weak field, is brow beating his opponents into the turf without, as wise politicians do, giving thought to what happens if he wins the nomination after a scorched Earth campaign. If he does win, he’s not going to have to fight for space on the convention stage to accommodate his former opponents holding his upraised hands. They’ll be home visiting with Bud and Weiser.
Because they know. They know he’ll be dispatched by the Clinton machine. The difference between his current opponents and Hillary Clinton and her husband the former president, is that when you hit the Clintons, they hit you back and you don’t get up. When asked briefly about Trump as he campaigned for his wife, Bill Clinton got this devilish look in his eye and said nothing. Like a grizzly hiding behind a tree as the great hunter loads and locks and boasts of his previous kills, Bill Clinton is just flossing.
Deputy editorial page editor Jim Jenkins can be reached at 919-829-4513 or at firstname.lastname@example.org