Donald TrumpDonald TrumpSenate committee moving forward with Russia hacking probe Trump must re-engage Africa to halt Chinese inroads Voter fraud allegations reignite squabble MORE has been leading the Republican presidential field for more than seven months, and he has a clear path to winning the GOP nomination.
How did this happen? There are many reasons, and they will be studied by political historians in the years to come.
How long will the Trump phenomenon last? Can he effectively pivot to a general-election strategy following the raucous GOP primary? Will he succeed Barack ObamaBarack ObamaTrump clamps down on federal agencies Overnight Defense: McCain grills Trump's budget pick | Dems seek to limit Trump on nukes | Senators weigh new round of base closures Trump invites Indian PM to White House MORE as the 45th president? The pundits say that is unlikely, but they have been consistently wrong since Trump launched his campaign on June 16, 2015.
Here are seven reasons why Trump is dominating the Republican field:
The laws of political gravity do not apply to Trump. He publicly battled with the Pope, said Sen. John McCainJohn McCainMulvaney vows to give Trump straight talk on entitlements Overnight Defense: McCain grills Trump's budget pick | Dems seek to limit Trump on nukes | Senators weigh new round of base closures Overnight Finance: Trump budget pick on the hot seat | Dems' T infrastructure plan | Deficit to hit 1B in 2019 | Trump meets automakers | Pipelines back on MORE (R-Ariz.) isn’t a war hero and had to fend off a Ku Klux Klan controversy recently. There have been many other eyebrow-raising comments that triggered media predictions of Trump’s demise. But yet, he thrives on adversity, and his poll numbers indicate he is a Teflon candidate who has no peer.
No candidate knows how to deal with the media better than Trump. The real-estate mogul knows how to handle the political media. Trump often publicly attacks media outlets that he claims treat him unfairly. Critics say Trump is too thin-skinned and that could hurt him in the general election, but his media strategies have only boosted him in the GOP primary. While other candidates such as Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioWebb: What matters now is policy McMahon dodges smackdown from Small Business Committee Why the era of US global leadership is over MORE (R-Fla.) ducked interviews, Trump has been ubiquitous on the airwaves since the summer.
Last week, CNN’s Anderson Cooper said, “[Trump has] been offering himself up when a lot of these other candidates would not do interviews at all.”
Unlike other candidates, Trump doesn’t deliver the same stump speech, and he usually feeds the political media’s voracious appetite with some new news. And, of course, the celebrity entertainer knows how to put on a show, whether that’s taking kids for rides in helicopters or publicly giving out Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamVoter fraud allegations reignite squabble Mulvaney vows to give Trump straight talk on entitlements Webb: What matters now is policy MORE’s (R-S.C.) cellphone number.
Campaign slogan. Ronald Reagan had “Morning in America.” Obama employed “Hope and Change.” And Trump has “Make America Great Again.” All three are simple, straightforward and easy to remember. What was Bush’s? How about Scott Walker’s? Neither of them had one.
Trump’s GOP rivals and Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonTrump clamps down on federal agencies Mellman: First things first? Dems indignant as Comey keeps his job MORE have chided his slogan, which has only gained it more attention. Clinton, who has struggled to come up with an overarching message, has just recently repeated Trump’s message, with a slight tweak: “Make America Whole Again.”
Trump picked the right time to run. Republican voters, who usually pick the next guy in line, are rebelling. The GOP establishment has called Trump a joke and says he has no chance of winning the White House. Yet, primary voters have tuned out party kingmakers and soundly rejected the next guy in line: Bush.
During a private speech at the Entrust Investment Summit last week in New York City, former President George W. Bush was asked about his brother’s failed bid. Several sources said the former president responded, “Sometimes, you lose it on the first tee — there are just some environments you can’t win in.”
The bottom line: Timing is everything in politics, and the 2016 cycle is Trump’s time.
Trump got better as a candidate. Trump’s launch speech in Trump Tower was rambling, but he tightened his message over the summer as his competitors foolishly waited for him to wilt.
He somehow recovered from calling Communion “wine” and “a little cracker” last August and subsequently won over the party’s evangelical voters.
The 69-year-old businessman focused on a populist message, going after Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry and the Obama trade agenda. Contrary to other Republican White House hopefuls, Trump has refused to raise the eligibility age of Social Security. He also ripped the 43rd president’s handling of the Iraq War, a message that resonated with war-weary voters.
The focus of his immigration policy has been border security and attacking Rubio’s comprehensive immigration bill. Political observers on both sides of the aisle have ripped Trump’s lack of specifics on fighting ISIS, replacing ObamaCare and cutting the nation’s debt. Fact-checkers have assailed many of the assertions he has made on the campaign trail. But for the most part, voters have shrugged.
Trump has a knack for hitting his opponents’ weaknesses. Once he got in the race, Trump had one main target: Bush. He called him “low energy,” a label which immediately stuck to the former Florida governor.
Trump stared down the GOP field and dominated the first debate, which was surprising given that the most of the other candidates were far more experienced in verbal combat.
When Ted CruzTed CruzCruz shares 'proof' of basketball skills - with pic of Duke look-alike Cruz introduces bill letting states bar refugees Trump's America: Businessmen in, bureaucrats out MORE rose in the polls, Trump went after the senator's most glaring weakness: likability. Trump and Rubio both repeatedly called Cruz a liar amid his questionable campaign tactics and the Texan's campaign stalled.
In the days leading up to Super Tuesday, Rubio started trying to out-Trump Trump by directing personal attacks at the front-runner. But the results indicate that strategy didn’t work.
Voters are tired of gridlock. Cruz’s ill-fated ObamaCare strategy led to the government shutdown of 2013. Rubio’s immigration bill died in the House and he doesn’t have a clear, major accomplishment in the Senate.
Trump, meanwhile, has touted his deal-making abilities. The electorate is clearly frustrated with Washington, which has been mired in gridlock for years. Congressional approval ratings are abysmal, so it’s clear voters want something different. Trump’s pitch is that he can iron out good deals and make Washington work. Interestingly, this is a very similar message that former President Bill ClintonBill ClintonIs the Trump administration ready for the worst? Sanders set for clash with Trump’s budget pick Scott Walker plans major welfare overhaul in Wisconsin MORE is making about the likely 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.