Donald Trump hasn’t gotten much respect from pundits.
They said he wouldn’t run for the nomination, or wouldn’t file the financial disclosure paperwork, or wouldn’t put his money in for staff and campaign offices in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Then he did all of that.
And they said that his comments about McCain would sink him. They didn’t. The same for his comments about Megyn Kelly.
Trump is now better positioned to win the nomination than he was a month ago.
Here are three reasons why:
1. Trump has been solidly in first place for the nomination for weeks, with substantial leads over all his opponents.
In this polling compilation (source), Trump is in red.
Since entering the race, Trump has rocketed up and has been ahead of his nearest competitor in the last three individual polls by 20 percentage points or more.
2. More importantly, Trump is both the top first choice and second choice among Republican primary voters.
In a new CNN poll, Trump was the first choice of 24% and second choice of 14%. That gives him a base of 38%.
The closest to Trump is Jeb Bush, who was the first choice of 13% and the second choice of 10%, with a combined total of 23%. Recall that Bush was touted as the front-runner for quite awhile.
3. Of all the GOP candidates, Trump is now doing the best against Hillary Clinton.
One thing that might have held back Republicans from supporting Trump was that he was polling so far back in general election match-ups.
- Clinton leads Trump by 6 points
- Clinton leads Bush by 9 points
This undermines any electability argument Bush and other Republican candidates might make.
Besides those three reasons, Trump has the capacity to stay in the race for awhile.
Trump can self-finance.
Plus the GOP nomination delegate allocation process is a bit more proportional this time, enabling Trump (and others) to win delegates in many states and thus stay in the race.
And, seeing his popularity, recently the other GOP candidates have been curiously loathe to attack him. Their reticence helps Trump.
Trump is dominating media coverage.
As this excellent piece of reporting shows, people like Trump’s tone and aren’t moved so much by policy.
What could hurt him?
Any honest look at the electoral college suggests Trump’s severe weakness with Hispanics and his anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies means he would lose key swing states like Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Virginia.
Republicans lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections and face serious demographic challenges as the white population decreases as a portion of the voting population.
Republican strategists know this. If Republican primary voters and caucus attendees come to realize it, that could undermine Trump’s nomination chances.
Granted, all this has a long time to play out.
If candidates start dropping out and their voters disproportionately go to one or two other candidates, Trump will hit a relatively low ceiling. What will happen right now, though, is unpredictable and Trump is in a better position than he was a month ago.