Donald Trump has run a flawless campaign - until now. Those who have derided him as a buffoon or a clown or a demagogue, do themselves a disservice by closing their minds to all of the lessons in retail politics that he is demonstrating.
If you actually want to know about them, read Scott Adams’ blog. Adams was selected Pundit of the Year by blogger Don Surber because Adams has consistently made successful predictions in this ‘bizarre and unpredictable’ presidential election cycle. (For instance, in August, while everybody assumed it was only a matter of time before Trump imploded, Adams predicted that Trump would win.) Adams has been successful in his prognostication because he hasn’t been dismissive of Trump’s campaigning skills. Instead, he explains how they work.
Having said that, I don’t think Trump’s success can solely be attributed to his skills on the stump. As I have pointed out before, Trump is winning because he has attached himself to three preexisting political currents: grass-roots opposition to immigration; hatred of the Washington establishment; and widespread public opposition to Political Correctness.
Therefore it comes as a surprise that Donald Trump has dissed Ted Cruz as somebody who can’t get along in Washington. He opined that he would make a better President that Cruz because he is willing to cut deals. This argument makes some sense but it is not what Republican voters want to hear. As they see it, the problem is not Washington “gridlock” nor is it Republican inability to “get along” with their Democrat counterparts, but rather it is that the Washington politicians (of both parties) come to too many mutually beneficial arrangements that screw regular Americans. The Gang of 8 Amnesty deal is the paradigmatic example, but so is the recent omnibus spending bill championed by Paul Ryan. In making this accusation against Cruz, Trump opened himself up to the charge that he is a pay-to-play Washington insider wannabe. Noted Democrat pollster Pat Caddell agrees with this assessment.
Ted Cruz has seized upon this misstep, but I fear not vigorously enough. He should be talking about nothing else. He has done a bit this but has not been nearly loud enough. With his every breath, he should proclaim Trump as just another corrupt pol. This could be a fatal mistake for Trump but only if the attacks are pressed home.
Fortunately for Trump, National Review has come to his rescue. Just when Trump’s anti-establishment credentials became tarnished, a magazine of high-church conservative intellectuals attacks him. From the perspective of the alienated conservative voter who feels that nobody important cares about him, the National Review special edition just confirms their gut instinct that Trump isn’t ‘one of the establishment’. After all, National Review is the same magazine that previously endorsed Mr. Romneycare. In any event, the average Republican primary voter doesn’t differentiate between professional conservative intellectuals and RNC insiders. They’re all the same to them.
Will Trump eventually win? As a Cruz-a-natic, I hope not. In spite of his mastery on the campaign trail, I don’t see Donald Trump as presidential material. And in spite of his grass-roots rhetoric, I believe he’s a pay-to-play guy. (How could he not be? He’s a New York City developer.) Unfortunately, I also don’t think this misstep will do him in. It simply isn’t being exploited vigorously enough. At this point, I think Cruz has a realistic chance for victory but it depends on the weaker candidates dropping out with most of their supporters drifting towards him rather than Trump. We shall see. I’m no Scott Adams, so I’m not making any predictions.