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Eye On Candidates
January 15, 2016

Unstoppable Trump?

Say what you will about his actual politics, Donald Trump is a master at keeping himself in the spotlight, long after his oft-predicted candidate expiration date.

Here’s what The Washington Post had to say after last night’s debate:

The Take: Can Donald Trump actually be the Republican nominee?

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — Eighteen days before the Iowa caucuses, the Republican nomination contest has come down to two big questions: Can Donald Trump actually become the party’s 2016 presidential nominee, and if he falters, who can emerge to seize the crown?

What was unthinkable a few months ago no longer is. Trump’s durability in national polls and his standing in the early states have forced GOP leaders — and all his rivals — to confront the possibility that the New York billionaire and reality TV star could end up leading the party into the fall campaign against the Democrats.

Trump is anything but a typical front-runner. In fact, he is the most unconventional and atypical front-runner for as long as anyone can remember. …

Almost everything about Thursday’s debate here in South Carolina underscored the current state of the campaign. It featured a series of sharp exchanges between Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and efforts by the other candidates to break through by showing they could be tougher on President Obama than any of their rivals.

Bloomberg Politics was impressed with Trump’s response to Cruz’s crack about “New York values”:

The candidate who faced doubts for months over the true strength of his commanding poll numbers is proving doubters wrong on another count: With about two weeks until the presidential nominating process starts in Iowa, Donald Trump just delivered his most complete performance of the Republican primary season. …

Trump's highlight of the night—and perhaps of the debate season—was an impassioned defense of New York City, his hometown. The moment came in response to an attack from U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, Trump's closest rival in the polls, that the real estate developer isn't a conservative because he embodies "New York values."

"When the World Trade Centers came down, I saw something that no place on Earth could have handled more beautifully, more humanely, than New York," Trump said. "We rebuilt downtown Manhattan, and everybody in the world watched. And everybody in the world loved New York and loved New Yorkers. I have to tell you, that was a very insulting statement that Ted made."

Trump's answer earned applause from the debate audience at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center in South Carolina, and also on social media, where it ranked as the second most tweeted moment of the night.

The Boston Globe, however, offers another view on Trump in “Why Donald Trump is (still) the GOP front-runner”:

Probably the most discussed question in the 2016 presidential campaign is whether New York businessman Donald Trump could actually become the Republican nominee. Many of the arguments about Trump miss the point. …

 [T]he biggest reason Trump is the front-runner isn’t his celebrity, his catchy slogan, or the incessant news coverage of him. Trump is the front-runner because there are so many other people running for president. He currently has 11 opponents for the Republican nomination.

 Now to the basic math. Trump consistently has around 35 percent support in polls. In New Hampshire, this means that he has a nearly 20-point lead over the rest of the field. This sounds insurmountable, right? But this number also means 65 percent of Republicans aren’t backing Trump. Some of this 65 percent are backing someone else, some haven’t made up their minds — either way, they aren’t with him.

 If the Republican race were immediately to become a two-person contest between Trump and someone else, it is logical to assume that the other person would have more support.

Either way, Trump seems to be hauling the Republican Party into uncharted territory.