As the campaign trudges on, the question in everyone’s mind still remains: How long will Trump last? Donald Trump is leading just about every poll of Republican candidates right now. A Real Clear Politics poll, which averaged five national polls, had Trump at 31% as of September 13th. In every poll, he leads his Republican rivals by double digits. His growth and popularity defy the experts, who have repeatedly predicted his demise.
Trump is known for his bold criticism of his competitors and his rash ideas which he claims will “Make America Great Again.” He proposes radical, unresearched, and implausible policies. Even his campaign website, glaringly lacking in political substance, features Trump clothing, custom Solo cups, and pom-poms. Prior to the second debate, the site featured only one meaningful presidential policy: his position on immigration reform. Yet Trump seems to have toned down his characteristic brashness for the recent CNN Republican Debate. Though the change in strategy could have been an effort to appear more presidential, his usual unapologetic command of the political conversation was balanced by his ignorance of crucial information. In addition to his unsubstantiated proposals, Trump threw countless insults at his detractors.
What other candidate in history could insult women, immigrants, and national heroes, only to gain in popularity? Love him or hate him, Trump is bringing a whole new game into politics: speaking his mind no matter the repercussions. In the beginning of his campaign, Trump took the Republican field by storm. Statements that would usually, and rightly, end a political career left him unscathed. However in the CNN Debate, Trump was held accountable for his past behaviors. We see this in his recent attacks on Carly Fiorina in Rolling Stone magazine, when he remarked, “Look at (her) face! Would anybody vote for that?” During the debate, Fiorina responded by simply stating, “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.” For that, Fiorina drew arguably the debate’s loudest applause.
Trump emerged from this debate with a downturn in his popularity. Trump remains on top, but slipped eight points in a CNN/ORC post-debate poll. He is not a shoe-in to become the Republican nominee. In fact, Trump’s personality may be beginning to catch up with him. The other Republican candidates, through careful observation of his unorthodox tactics, found ways to leave slight dents in the real estate tycoon’s campaign armor. Plus, Trump has fallen short on raising money, landing him in 13th place among Republican candidates for monetary funds. Despite these facts, Trump continues to draw massive attention without having to spend.
There is no doubt that Trump has certainly tapped into the frustration that Americans feel toward politicians. His unapologetic political incorrectness seems to be his campaign’s defining strength. And yet, if Trump’s run survives to the general election, he will have to face an entirely different animal: independents. Yes, Trump may have been only slightly wounded by a more Trump-ready Republican field, but what will happen when he has to square off with the Democratic nominee for the great middle? If the object of the primary is to elect a nominee who can defeat the Democrats, why choose a man who has time and time again ostracized the women and immigrants of this country? Trump’s populist rants may serve him well in the Republican primaries, but they will come back to haunt him in 2016.