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Eye On Candidates
August 21, 2015

Concerns Over Trump Grow

Businessman Donald Trump has risen to the top of the polls for the Republican nomination in large part because of his focus and rhetoric on immigration. While he seems to be energizing a sizeable segment of the GOP base, Politico reports that many party leaders are concerned he could be paving the way for electoral disaster in November 2015:

Insiders to Trump: Enough already

Donald Trump may have the whole Republican field talking about immigration, but early-state insiders wish he would just stop.

Seven in 10 Republicans said they’ve heard more than enough about Trump’s plan, which includes a controversial call to end birthright citizenship, according to this week’s POLITICO Caucus, our weekly bipartisan survey of the top operatives, activists and strategists in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Trump’s plan calls for an end to policy that guarantees citizenship for children born in the United States to illegal immigrants. That’s one of several controversial provisions under Trump’s plan, which is particularly galling to New Hampshire GOP insiders — 85 percent of whom said the real estate mogul and current GOP front-runner’s immigration plan was harmful to the party.

Nearly two-thirds of Iowa Republicans said the same.

The Politico Caucus also included Democrats’ views on Trump’s immigration plan and rhetoric, although “glee” might be a better term rather than “concern” to describe their view:

Ninety-seven percent of Democratic respondents called the plan harmful for the GOP.

“Quite a number of these candidates appear very willing to toss out any findings of the analysis of the last presidential election and put the general election at risk for their party,” another Granite State Democrat said.

Politico offers another related story this morning featuring the thoughts of political journalists, pundits, and strategists, on how Trump has managed to maintain and even expand his support after statements and moves that likely would have ended the campaigns of any other candidate:

If Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton or any other presidential candidate said the things Donald Trump says, did the things Donald Trump does, or had led the controversial life Donald Trump has, his or her campaign would already have died in a pile of negative headlines and video clips.

But Donald Trump is alive. It is evident that the regular rules do not apply to him. Two months into his rowdy campaign, it is instead the political media that has been leveled by Trump — floored, mystified and stupefied by a candidate who prospers where others would perish. What’s more, the press corps is beginning to realize that nothing it might do — no report it can publish, no question it can ask – has the power to push this candidate an inch off the course that is preordained for him, one which is far more likely to burn out on its own terms than flame out under some great bonfire set by the media.

That is the consensus, anyway, of the nearly two dozen journalists, pundits, campaign strategists and political advisers who spoke with POLITICO this week about what many described as the “exceptionalism” of Trump’s campaign.

The article recites a litany of items that have failed to put much of a dent in Trump’s campaign, such as his admission he gets military advice from television shows, comments suggesting illegal immigrants from Mexico are rapists, assertion that John McCain is not a war hero, and various statements thought to be insulting to women. Through it all, Trump endures.

Trump’s ability to shrug off controversy and criticism, to out-shame his detractors in the media and on the campaign trail, is almost certainly a reflection of widespread public frustration with career politicians and the mainstream press, and with its way of covering elections.

In fact, Trump is playing according to a different bit of wisdom, one that belongs to show business and is thought to have come from circus-master P.T. Barnum: all publicity is good publicity….

Veteran political strategist and former Trump adviser Roger Stone believes Trump’s status as an outsider explains his resilience:

“He’s not a career politician, so voters aren’t holding him to the same standards. He’s a larger-than-life figure that comes from outside politics,” said Stone. “When you combine that with voters’ dislike of politics, political institutions, and the media, it’s very effective.”

Stone’s observation may very well be accurate, although it’s unclear how long Trump can continue to avoid being held to the same standards as more conventional candidates. As Politico notes, there’s plenty of potential baggage that might bring his lofty poll numbers down if and when voters start to subject him to the sort of scrutiny other candidates receive:

Trump’s history isn’t rosy: It includes multiple marriages, suspect business deals and confirmed ties to organized crime in Atlantic City.

Wayne Barrett, the author of “Trump: The Deals and the Downfall,” an unauthorized biography, told POLITICO that Trump’s personal past and business dealings would almost surely ruin a conventional candidate.

“He is the embodiment of crony capitalism,” Barrett said, noting that, as “a very formidable donor in New York politics,” Trump “always hired the right insider to put the fix in for him.”

“He’s the antithesis of conservative wealth, or at least the wealth that conservatives pretend to revere,” he said. “It’s not market wealth, it’s state wealth. It’s crony wealth. Every deal he did was laced with crony connections.”

There are more than five months to go until caucus-goers in Iowa start the process of choosing the Republican and Democratic nominees. Trump has survived and thrived for several months despite comments and a history that would almost certainly doom any other candidate, but it seems unlikely he can continue to do so through the entire nomination process.