My how far we’ve come. Just a year ago, it was all but certain that Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton would be the nominees in the general election. Today, Jeb Bush isn’t even still in the GOP race and Hillary is only just gaining real momentum against her leftist counterpart Bernie Sanders. And then we have Donald Trump. Little Donny, as I have decided to call him for the remainder of this election (and possibly forever) has certainly taken the GOP by storm. And by that, I mean he is literally tearing through the fabric of the Republican Party like a tsunami of bad hair and ambiguous racism. At this point, many experts don’t see much standing in Little Donny’s way as he stomps toward the Republican nomination for president. With his brash personality and plethora of uneducated supporters, Trump has decidedly reshaped the party into one of vague policy suggestions said with such anger that they actually mean something to those who don’t really understand policy in the first place.
Before I dig deeper into the Trump effect, let’s take a step back and bid a fond (or not so fond) farewell to those souls who faced the music and discovered their campaigns were tone deaf. I’m talking, of course, about the presidential candidates who have dropped out of the race thus far. I’ll try to group them together to save us all some time.
None of these men really lasted long. Walker was one of the first to drop out, following Perry’s lead. Both Walker and Perry had name recognition. Unfortunately for them, their names and histories in office weren’t exactly positive talking points for Republican voters.
Jim Gilmore and George Pataki never had much momentum in the first place, and they often left voters asking “who is that guy again?” In a race dominated by the Donald Trumps and Marco Rubios of the political world, these two governors simply had no name recognition. They were also running against no less than SEVEN other governors, if you count Perry and Walker.
Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee were to Democratic voters what Jim Gilmore and George Pataki were to Republican voters. That is to say, those voters had no damn clue who these men were or why they were running for president. Webb’s most notable moments came in the form of him repeatedly complaining about not getting enough speaking time during the early Democratic debates. Chafee, on the other hand, reminded me of that kid in school who studied for weeks just so he could be called on in class to answer a question and impress his peers. If you’re bored, go back and watch the first Democratic debates. You’ll find a scary look on Chafee’s face every time he’s on camera.
Also known by their stage name, Pepto Dismal, these three were essentially dead on arrival. Huckabee is the only one who even made it onto a main debate stage, only to give mediocre performances and receive pity laughter in return for his dad jokes. Santorum was running on the excitement left over from the last time he ran for president. The only problem with that philosophy is that excitement generally isn’t as strong four years after you lost in the primaries to Romneytron 3000. Poor Bobby Jindal’s only crime was being a terrible governor and leaving Louisiana in a complete mess. No big deal.
These two actually got a lot of my interest before they dropped out. On the one hand, O’Malley was initially a strong alternative to Hillary Clinton. But his support base was so small and his rallies left more than a little to be desired. He simply couldn’t compete with the dramatic and exciting Bernie/Hillary fight.
On the other hand, Lindsey Graham is probably one of my favorite Republicans. That is to say that I disagree with him on nearly every issue, but he’s smart enough to see where the Republican Party is weak and how voters perceive the party if extremism is allowed to roam free. Plus his accent makes me want to drink sweet tea and sit on a porch swing, and that has to count for something.
While they don’t particularly share many commonalities, I legitimately couldn’t find a better place to put either of them. If Ben Carson had dropped out by now, I would’ve put him and Fiorina in an “outsiders” section. Rand, by contrast, is sort of on his own in any scenario. He’s the only Libertarian who ran for office, and his policy ideals didn’t really match up with any of his fellow dropouts. Rand just couldn’t fire up libertarians in the same way his dear old dad managed to do four years ago. Fiorina, on the other hand, has almost no foreign policy experience and she was consistently attacked for her firing from HP. Both Paul and Fiorina did decently well on the main debate stage, but they were still overshadowed by the more establishment politicos in the game.
Let’s start with Bush, who I thought had a real shot at being the nominee. And if we’re being honest, he’d probably still be at the top of the pack if it weren’t for Donald Trump. Christie, on the other hand, was less popular in his home state of New Jersey than he was anywhere else in the country. His record as governor drug him down. Despite this, I still say Chris Christie is one of the most genuine GOP candidates to run in a long time. I love his speaking style and his spunk, even if he’s a terrible governor.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get back to Little Donny, who scored an impressive win in Nevada last night. As the field dwindles, Trump seems to be stronger than ever. At this point I think he has a very strong shot at earning the Republican nomination for president. I shudder to think who he would choose for a running mate, but I suppose that day will come soon enough.
Before I wrap things up, I wanted to point something out. Election season is inevitably also poll season. How many polls have you seen in the past week that predicted who would win what state, and who is doing better with minorities or older voters? I suspect you lost count, as I have. And while I do think polls matter, it’s important that we don’t get wrapped up in them. The polls for the Iowa caucuses indicated Trump had a strong lead, and he came in second to Ted Cruz. This is just one example of how polls can be wrong.
Here’s another, more recent example: the Texas primaries fall on March 1st, also known as Super Tuesday (it gets this name because a dozen or so other states hold their primaries or caucuses on the same day). Polls are already floating around for the southern state, and I ran across two polls that gave very conflicting results. The first one indicates that Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are virtually tied in Cruz’s home state. Interesting. The second poll tells a totally different story, with Cruz leading in Texas by double digits.
So how can Donald Trump be tied with Cruz and behind Cruz by 15% at the same time? There’s a simple answer: the polls are wrong. And this isn’t exemplary of every poll that’s out there, but I think it’s a worthy case in which we should take the information with a grain of salt and see what happens when the smoke clears on Super Tuesday.
Final note: if you’re registered in your state, make sure you get out and vote on primary day! If you don’t know when your state’s primary is, a full calendar can be found here. Whether you’re voting red or blue, make sure your voice is heard in this election!