Sunday, February 21, 2016

WP: Trump has a stranglehold on the GOP nomination. So why isn’t he getting credit?

Chris Cillizza writes: Donald Trump cruised to a double-digit win over the Republican field on Saturday in South Carolina. It was his second straight easy win — coming 11 days after he swept the New Hampshire primary by nearly 17 points.

Those back-to-back victories coupled with Trump’s second-place finish in Iowa’s caucuses — in which he took the second-most votes of any Republican candidate ever — affirm a very simple yet still not fully grasped fact: Donald Trump is the heavy favorite to be the Republican presidential nominee this fall...

Why isn’t Trump getting the credit and coverage he deserves? Because, at root, there is still a belief within the party establishment and the ranks of the media that he will somehow implode or that voters will “wise up” or “get real” — or something. The problem with that theory is that Trump has done lots and lots of things that (a) can be described as “gaffes” and (b) would have ended or severely compromised other campaigns. Yet none of it has touched him.

In fact, his willingness to say anything, no matter the underlying facts, seems to affirm to his supporters just how “independent” of the political system he really is.

One example: Trump spent the week before the South Carolina primary savaging George W. Bush and insisting that the 43rd president didn’t keep the country safe because the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, happened on his watch. Not only is that sort of rhetoric verboten within the Republican Party, but it was widely considered especially noxious in a state where the Bush family remains very popular.Yet, of the 1 in 5 South Carolina Republican voters who were either veterans or had a military veteran in their house, Trump crushed the competition.

Ask yourself: What could Trump possibly do or say that would somehow be seen as a large enough mistake to cost him large amounts of support?

Given the steadiness of his numbers, the idea that Trump will either derail himself or be derailed seems like the most wishful of thinking by establishment Republicans. Ditto the idea, which I still hear nearly every day in Washington, that the establishment will “figure out” a way to stop Trump. Trust me: If they could have stopped Trump, they would have done it a long time ago.

Even after former Florida governor Jeb Bush bowed out of the race after his disappointing South Carolina finish, the establishment vote remains split between Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. And even if Kasich gets out sometime soon — my guess is he won’t — I remain unconvinced that the establishment vote, even when totally unified, is enough to beat Trump.