Winning the policy/leadership/experience portion of a GOP debate has become like winning four bucks on your Powerball ticket — there won't be balloons, confetti, and a dozen news crews when you go to cash it in.
Next, he'll win Iowa. Then New Hampshire. He'll win Super Tuesday, and then he'll win the nomination.
Trump has unlocked an entirely new paradigm in presidential politics: the Pinocchio paradigm.
There's a famous scene from Walt Disney's "Pinocchio" that's basically an allegory of the Donald J. Trump story. Jiminy "Opinion-Writer" Cricket says, "Go ahead, make a fool of yourself. Then, maybe you'll listen to your conscience."
Then, Pinocchio J. Trump dances right along with all the regular marionettes. He's clumsy. He can't dance like the others. But the crowd loves him because he's "got no strings" and he's singing all about it at the top of his lungs.
As the crowd goes nuts for the fumbling, bumbling, stringless Pinocchio, Jiminy "Opinion-Writer" Cricket scratches his head, totally dumbfounded, and says, "Hmm, they like him. He's a success. Gosh, maybe I was wrong."
Whether you worship or despise Trump, the man has no strings. Nobody controls Trump. Not the Republican Party, not the media, not the other candidates, not the donors, not social mores, not basic political truths, not special interest groups, not even the voters. Trump pulls their strings.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) pulls out his tough-guy line, "We are going to kick your rear end out of the White House come this fall." Four years ago, lines like that made headlines. Now they leave us thinking, Trump would have said "ass."
Your friendly neighborhood old-paradigm Republican moderates — former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich — want to save you from Trump in the most obvious way, by winning the nomination out from under him. They ask, what would a Trump presidency look like? A giant wall on the border? Immigrant families ripped apart? A doomsday device that controls the weather? Who knows? The point is each of these moderate Republicans wants to save you from dangerous, horrible, unthinkable Trump.
But not one of them wants to save you from Trump enough to withdraw from the race and allow their supporters to flock to someone like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who could have a decent shot at winning. If they believe Trump is so dangerous, why aren't they willing to put America's future above their own presidential ambitions? It comes down to the strings — more strings than they can count pulling them in every direction. Bush is so tangled up in strings, he can hardly move his little puppet arms. The presidency means everything to those candidates and their string-holders: White House or bust.
Trump is winning everything, and he will continue to win because he's so completely willing to lose.
Go to a car dealership and find a car you love so much can't live without it. You already lost the negotiation. Go to the same dealership, be willing to walk away without the car, and you just might win.
Trump's willingness to lose is his greatest asset.
Rush Limbaugh explained the appeal nicely on his show this month when a caller couldn't wrap his mind around why Limbaugh defends Trump. In response to the caller, Limbaugh said:
"For seven years we've had to sit here and listen to the Republican Party stand mute, afraid to say anything for fear of what the media's gonna say about 'em or what the president's gonna say about 'em or what anybody else is gonna say about 'em."
Trump's absence of fear, noted by Limbaugh, is a direct result of his willingness to lose. He isn't jerked and led around, like the others, by what Abraham Lincoln called "the voracious desire for office."
If anyone is going to beat Donald Trump, he or she better wake up and smell the paradigm shift.
Zipperer is assistant professor of political science at Georgia Military College.