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Monday, 29 February 2016 07:26

Donald Trump: Misunderestimating the Master Manipulator

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aaaDonTrumpyPoo(Photo: Gage Skidmore)In what might be one of their last opportunities to hack away at Donald Trump’s lead in the polls, Thursday night’s Republican Party debate had both Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Ted Cruz laying into Trump, blasting him for his vague and nebulous policy plans, financial contributions to pro-immigration politicians, his refusal to issue his tax returns, and his possible involvement as a defendant in a suit against his late for-profit and beleaguered Trump University. Trump, as is his wont, flicked the charges aside with a series of insults, facial contortions and blather. It remains to be seen as Super Tuesday rapidly approaches, whether Rubio and Cruz’s attacks have any affect at the polls.

The day before the debate, a clearly exasperated writer for the ultra-conservative Patriot Post wrote: “Once upon a time, the idea of Donald Trump's securing the Republican nomination for the presidency existed only in the realm of fantasy. But as primaries in four states now reside in the history books, and The Donald has claimed three wins and 81 delegates, fantasy is merging with possibility, if not quite yet reality.”

After the debate, an ever-hopeful Patriot Post declared: “We certainly hope it's not too late for voters to realize that Trump is not the answer. He's nothing but insanely idiotic bluster, repeated over and over and over again, ad nauseum. We've endured eight months of it. Can you imagine four or eight years? To re-employ one of his phrases, that is not going to make America great again, believe us.”

Many of the headlines -- from all ends of the political spectrum – describing Trump’s march towards the Republican Party’s presidential nomination tend to maintain that the GOP is doomed if Trump heads the ticket.

However, if the campaign team of whoever is the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee thinks that running against Trump will be similar to previous presidential campaigns, I’ve got news for them: Taking on the bombastic, brash, bawdy, boastful Trump will be like nothing they’ve ever dealt with before.

The commonly held wisdom holds that the Dems will believe they can stack together a string of Trump’s most insulting, denigrating, clueless, contradictory, and unsubstantiated statements and throw hundreds of millions of dollars in ads – particularly in the battleground states of Virginia, Colorado, Ohio and Pennsylvania -- and that will put them over the top.

This approach is so 2012. It could spell an utter misunderestimation of what and whom they are up against.

In reality, his Republican Party opponents have said it all before, and none of their caterwauling has stuck. Trump already has been defined six ways to Sunday and his supporters do not appear to care one iota about that. All they appear to be concerned about is what they perceive as his authenticity. Trump the truth teller. Trump the flaunter of political correctness. Trump the businessman who can deal with everybody. Trump the soothsayer.

It was painful watching the lead campaign spokespersons for the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders campaigns grapple with the question “Who’s going to beat Donald Trump?” on a recent edition of MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes.” Neither Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, nor Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, had a good answer.

Almost immediately Mook went boringly policy wonk, saying that Trump is “on the record” with a series of horrendous statements and policy proposals, and “is totally out of touch with where Americans are at right now.” Mook ended by saying “You can trust Hillary Clinton … to get results.”

Then came Jeff Weaver. After some skillful, albeit nuanced, rhetorical maneuvering about Sanders’ healthcare plan and how it was going to be paid for, Weaver maintained that Sanders would be the one most likely to defeat Trump. Weaver said that “rightly or wrongly … independent voters do not have a high degree of confidence in Clinton.”

So, while of course neither campaign spokesperson was going to give away their strategy for beating Trump, both seemed to be locked into a campaign bubble; thinking that past methods will succeed against The Donald.

I am not going to say all, but I will say that I think the vast majority of Republicans – whether evangelicals, party apparatchiks, or rank and filers -- that have blasted away at Trump for being a blustery buffoon, will vote for him should he get the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.

If the Dems think they can talk about the middle class suffering, income inequality, or even a Supreme Court nomination, they don’t seem to understand that those issues won’t mean squat when they face off against Trump.

As I write this, the GOP establishment is undertaking a furious effort to stop The Donald. Tuesday will be a big demarcation point. If he comes through it with several clear-cut victories, the likelihood of a Trump candidacy will be that much closer to reality. The best minds in the Democratic Party had better be prepared.