Don’t Fear The Donald

Ken AshfordElection 2016Leave a Comment

As I noted yesterday, Donald Trump has escaped the GOP herd and shot up to second place in the polls as GOP 2016 presidential nominee.  This is largely due, everyone assumes, to his “straight talk” about how Mexicans and/or immigrants are criminals and rapists (although Trump “assumes” there are good ones as well).

Those words were spoken at Trump’s presidential bid announcement last week, and since then… Univision has said that would not air or participate in the Miss USA pageant (A Trump thing), NBC has refused to show Miss USA or other Trump-related shows (it will continue to air “Celebrity Apprentice” but without Trump, who was leaving anyway), Macy’s announced it will drop its Trump-related clothing line, and just moments ago, Serta (the mattress people) said they will stop selling Trump home-products (which nobody knew about anyway).

But as I say, Trump has gone up in the polls.  In Iowa, Trump is tied with Ben Carson for second place behind Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker with 10 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University survey released Wednesday. In New Hampshire, a CNN-WMUR poll last week had Trump in second place behind former Florida governor Jeb Bush with 11 percent. Trump also came in second behind Bush in a new national CNN-ORC poll released yesterday.

Democrats are popping champagne of course.  There is nothing better than having Trump as the face of the Republican party.  And he’s helping my sticking to his remarks.  “I like Mexico. I love the Mexican people. I do business with the Mexican people, but you have people coming through the border that are from all over. And they’re bad. They’re really bad,” Trump said last weekend on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “You have people coming in, and I’m not just saying Mexicans, I’m talking about people that are from all over that are killers and rapists, and they’re coming into this country.”

Nobody is quicker to tie Trump to the GOP than Hillary Clinton. She does not mention Trump by name — perhaps hoping to associate his views with the other 15 declared or likely GOP candidates.  “Recently a Republican candidate for president described immigrants as drug dealers, rapists and criminals,” Clinton told a raucous rally in Northern Virginia last week. “Maybe he’s never met them. Maybe he’s never stopped to ask the millions of people who love this country, work hard, and want nothing more than a chance to build a better life for themselves and their children what their lives are like.”

I don’t think that fools anybody.  Everybody knows that Trump said it.  But it hurts other candidates in two ways:

(1)  It cements the Republican Party as anti-immigrant and anti-Latino.  As even Romney realized, if you don’t reach out to Latinos, the fastest growing demographic, you lose.  And if Trump is surging in the polls from his racism, then it brands the whole party as racists.  Perhaps Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro — a descendant of Mexican immigrants seen as rising star in his party — said it best in a recent interview: Trump was “plainly insulting Mexicans… He will be in this campaign in many ways the face of the Republican Party, because he has higher name [identification] than almost all of them.”

(2)  The silence from the other GOP candidates will hurt each of them specifically in the general election.  Only Chris Christie and former Governor Pataki (polling dead last) have criticized Trump for his comments.  Other candidates are avoiding the question altogether, or waffling, or even supporting Trump.(Ted Cruz, the presidential candidate and tea party favorite, said this week that Trump was “terrific”and that he should not apologize because he “speaks the truth.”)

Trump will not be a candidate for President.  Like Michele Bachmann in 2012, he’s enjoying a very early leap in the polls.  Also, like in 2012, I suspect many of the candidates will enjoy a brief moment in the sun before the drop out.  This is Trump’s.  But if it were up to Democrats, his moment in the GOP would last forever and ever.  He’s a gift that keeps on giving.