There is a controversial phenomenon coursing through conservative politics that is tying the Republican Party up in knots. That phenomenon is Donald Trump.
Trump set off a firestorm of controversy a few weeks ago when during his announcement speech he categorized the Mexican immigrants flooding our borders as criminals, and rapists.
Yesterday in an interview with NBC he was given the opportunity to apologize for those comments. Rather than apologize Trump doubled down on his remarks; reaffirming his belief that the immigrants crossing our borders were bringing a crime wave into our country. “Apologize! There is nothing to apologize for.”
The bombastic Trump wasn’t done. He said that Hillary Clinton would be a terrible president and called her the “worst Secretary of State in our history.” He said that Jeb Bush was weak on immigration…ridiculed Rubio and Bush for their incoherent message…said Mitt Romney was a terrible candidate who chocked at the end…called Charles Krauthammer and George Will “losers”…and referred to members of congress as “our stupid politicians.” He said that if elected he would “bomb the hell out of the (Iraqi) oil to stop the flow of money to ISIS. And he would stop the flow of illegal immigrants by “building an impenetrable wall along our southern border…and I will force Mexico to pay for it.”
Trump’s remarks have sent heads spinning within the Republican Party. Republican presidential candidates found their personal appearance events dominated by questions about Trump. Bush, Christy, Rubio and Walker all said that Trump’s remarks were not representative of the views of the Republican Party.
Or are they?
While Republican leadership was sprinting away from Trump’s remarks Public Policy Polling released a poll showing that the party faithful were very much in tuned with “The Donald’s” views. Trump soared to the top of PPP’s presidential poll with 16% of the vote. Bush and Rubio tied for second with 12%. Trump’s approval/disapproval numbers among those polled stood at 55%/33%. Republican leadership may be running away from Trump but staunch Republicans are embracing him.
Republicans have been dealt some pretty hard body blows of late. The Supreme Court rulings on Obamacare and gay marriage along with the firestorm to remove the Confederate flag in Charleston have the Republican faithful frustrated and angry. Trump has found a way to tap into that emotion. As a conservative friend of mine told me: “He’s just saying what everybody else is thinking.”
It is interesting to note that Trump has been having all this success of late without campaigning. While Kasich and Jindal spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on television ads introducing themselves to voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, Trump pontificates from his New York tower and the press prints every word.
Multiple sources are reporting that last night after Trump gave his interview he received a phone call from Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. Priebus’ message was to ask Trump to “Tone it down.” Translation…we Republicans agree with everything you are saying. But you have to find a more artful way of saying it because you are going to get us killed in the elections.”
The Republican establishment can try to distance themselves from Trump. They can marginalize him and call him a buffoon and an entertainer. But the Republican faithful are clearly buying into his message.
The question is will that message win Republicans the White House or will it bring the Party another humiliating defeat in the general election?