Donald Trump Soars in Polls: Is This a Repeat of 1992?

Donald Trump racks up 24 percent in a poll carried out by The Washington Post and ABC News. That is nearly twice as much as second place Scott Walker who has 13 percent. With this victory “Donald the typhoon” has also conquered first place in the rating that matters the most: recent media surveys that will determine who will be the 10 participants of the first FOX News debate in August. Real Clear Politics puts Trump at 18 percent, followed by Jeb Bush at 13.8 percent and Scott Walker at 10.8 percent. Revelations that come half a year away from the vote are noteworthy for their volatility: Just think back to 2011 when Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain — now vanished from the political radar — had their moments of glory. But 2015 is different because the New York candidate — business magnate and billionaire TV personality — is so different. For decades, he has ridden the crest of the celebrity wave and will not disappear, no matter what the outcome of this his latest venture. We need to understand the political unbuckling that his free-from-the-rules campaign could produce. He monopolizes attention unlike any other: He would be a character from the headlines even if he said normal things; instead, he knowingly says abnormal things, guaranteeing himself a spot on the front pages. He made his debut openly calling Mexicans rapists and drug pushers (even if he did not say it in exactly those words, the message the public took away was exactly that). And just a few days ago, he spoke ill of Garibaldi, attacking the GOP’s military flag Sen. John McCain. He said: “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured?” during a speech in which he promised to help veterans who have been neglected by politicians, including McCain who has “done very little for [them].” He continued: “I like people who weren’t captured.”

With this blow, Trump overstepped the mark and provoked critical reactions from all the other candidates, except Ted Cruz, who is making a scrupulous calculation: He is convinced, alongside the rest of those involved in the Republican campaign, that Trump’s candidacy will sooner or later implode, and that when it does, Cruz will “inherit” the gift of extreme preferences.

Realistically, the current situation is actually better described by how Rick Perry, former governor of Texas, handled Trump in a speech yesterday: “Donald Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded.” Almost all the others — from Pataki to Jindal to Rubio to Graham — have sided with McCain who simply needs to take advantage of the insult he has suffered at Trump’s hands. McCain is in the race for re-election to the Senate in 2016, and the general solidarity expressed by the Elephant party for his story and his image is the best publicity campaign.

In the GOP today, it is as if the “preliminaries” — which pave the way to the actual primaries — were underway: The establishment’s objective is to do away with Donald the heretic before he irreparably damages the Republican Party’s brand. The longer the braggart billionaire’s adventure (“I’m really rich”, he loves to chime) stays at the top of the GOP polls, the more arrows Hillary will have in her quiver when defining her Republican adversary as “one of Trump’s lot.” Trump, in fact, will never be elected president, nor will he be nominated, unless the Republicans opt for suicide: Despite the GOP’s surveys that today smile upon him, placing him as first choice, Trump knows that he’s also first among those who are “disposable, for whom no one will ever vote.” Among all Americans, over 60 percent reject him outright.

Yet, as well as the risk of damaging their image, another — this time fatal — blow could fall on the GOP’s head: Trump’s decision to go it alone as an independent when he knows he has no serious chance of the Republican nomination. It is like an ambitious Perot 2, and the story could be about to enjoy a Viconian revival: In 1992, Ross Perot went into the field and took votes from Bush, Sr., who then lost the re-election, flinging the doors open for Bill Clinton; in 2016, if Donald Trump continues to be the third wheel, he would take votes away from the Republican nominee. It would, incidentally, be Bush’s son, Jeb, who would lose his way to the top, leaving the White House to Hillary Clinton — Bill’s wife.

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