Donald Trump has accomplished many things in his run for the GOP presidential nomination, but his most notable achievement may be the way he has defied the conventional wisdom dispensed by political experts and pundits.
From the moment on June 16 when Trump descended an escalator in the lobby of Trump Tower to announce his candidacy, countless commentators and political scientists have been predicting the imminent demise of his campaign for one reason or another.
Trump has proved the experts wrong and continues to be the frontrunner among Republican candidates, although he is still short of the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the party’s nomination in Cleveland.
Ezra Klein of Vox may have summed up the Trump phenomenon best in this Tweet: “Donald Trump: bad for political scientist predictions, good for political science.”
The pundits pontificating from Georgia have been as much off the mark in assessing Trump’s campaign as everyone else.
On Oct. 28, Jim Galloway of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote:
“Donald Trump’s hold on the GOP nomination process is coming to an end. He’s lost his lead in Iowa, and is unlikely to get it back. Maybe he still wins New Hampshire. But South Carolina, Georgia and the rest of the South are likely to desert the Manhattan billionaire in the end. It’s not the hair. It’s not the brashness. It’s not the shoot-from-the-hip style. Trump has a deficiency that has always existed, but is just now coming into focus. He is not fluent in religion. In particular, Trump doesn’t speak Red State religion.”
Trump swept the primaries in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas,Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi despite his supposed inability to speak “Red State religion.”
Five days after Galloway made that prediction, Brian Robinson, a political consultant who was once the spokesman for Gov. Nathan Deal, had this to say about a poll of Georgia voters: “I would certainly feel good if I was in the Carson or Trump camps, but number three was Marco Rubio, and I think he is probably sitting in the catbird seat.”
Rubio was trounced by Trump in the early primaries, despite his support from the party establishment, and suspended his campaign on March 15.
Just before the South Carolina primary in February, Republican pollster/consultant Mark Rountree reacted strongly to Trump’s criticisms of George W. Bush for the 9/11 terrorist attacks:
“He attacked President Bush for the attack on the Twin Towers — nine months into his watch as President. Very bad move in pro-military South Carolina. Worse for him, these things happened on the day of Justice Scalia’s passing — meaning conservative ears were more attuned to serious policy. He appeared angrier and less controlled, not funny or witty. After this, chances of an upset in SC go up.”
There was no upset. Trump won the South Carolina primary and swept all 50 of the state’s delegates.
Kyle Wingfield, the designated conservative on the AJC editorial page, wrote on March 2:
“Of course, much will change starting March 15, when states can award all of their delegates to the winner. But with Trump’s support still hovering in the 30s — on Tuesday he polled below 35 percent more times (seven) than he did above 40 percent (two) — it is clear he could still be beaten in a one-on-one match-up, and perhaps even in a three-man race.”
Trump is still leading Ted Cruz and John Kasich in what is now a three-man race.
Jay Bookman, the AJC’s liberal columnist, wrote on April 6:
“The warning signs of trouble coming for the Donald Trump campaign have proved to be correct. Last night’s decisive loss in Wisconsin, with ‘Mister’ Trump winning just 3 of 33 delegates, makes it increasingly unlikely that he can win the outright majority needed to claim the nomination in Cleveland. And smilin’ Ted Cruz is ready to pick up the pieces.”
Thirteen days later, Trump won the New York primary with more than 60 percent of the vote and picked up at least 89 of the state’s delegates. Cruz polled 14 percent of the vote and came away with no delegates.
Here are some other Trump predictions that went astray:
Senator Lindsey Graham, after Trump’s disparaging remarks last July about Sen. John McCain: “The American people will not tolerate what he is doing now regarding those who have served. This is a line he has crossed. This is the beginning of the end of Donald Trump.”
Nate Cohn, New York Times, July 8, 2015: “His support will erode as the tone of coverage shifts from publicizing his anti-establishment and anti-immigration views, which have some resonance in the party, to reflecting the chorus of Republican criticism of his most outrageous comments and the more liberal elements of his record.”
Bill Kristol, on Feb. 17, 2016: “If I had to bet, I’d still bet against him getting the nomination.”
Charlie Cook, editor of The Cook Political Report, Jan. 8, 2016:
“I remain convinced that between now and the March 1 Super Tuesday/SEC primaries, and particularly the March 15 set of primaries and some contests after, those angry and profoundly antiestablishment voters will have finished venting their spleens. They will have sent their angry messages to the political establishment and will turn to the serious business of selecting a president, taking into account such things as temperament and judgment, marking the beginning of the end of their affair with Trump. They will coalesce behind a more plausible vehicle for their anger and antiestablishment views. That candidate is likely to be Cruz.”
Ed Rollins, veteran GOP consultant, on Trump’s anti-Bush remarks prior to the South Carolina primary: “My sense is you can’t get away with the kinds of things Trump did last week without erosion of support. And we may see that.”
© 2016 by The Georgia Report