Sorry establishment Republicans, The Donald isn’t dead yet

Even if his bubble was burst in Iowa, his campaign has exposed deep cracks in the GOP power structure

6 February 2016

9:00 AM

6 February 2016

9:00 AM

If Donald Trump had won in Iowa on Monday night, everybody would still be saying what a brilliant candidate he is. His decision to shun that Fox News debate, just four days before the caucuses, would be seen as a tactical masterstroke. Looking at his poll lead ahead of the New Hampshire primary next week, journalists would be saying that he had effectively secured the Republican party nomination.

He didn’t win, though. He came second, almost third, and now the narrative about the Trump phenomenon can be turned upside down. Trump’s refusal to abide by the established rules of campaigning was foolhardy. Ducking the debate was a big mistake. The victory of Ted Cruz, the conservative ‘grassroots’ candidate, proved the enduring power of organised politics. And the late surge for Marco Rubio — who surprised everyone by finishing just 1 per cent behind Trump — showed that, despite all the disgruntlement among Republican voters, the party establishment can still come out on top. Trump’s barmy rebellion now looks ready to collapse, and people will ask if the celebrity businessman was ever that serious about becoming president.

Before dismissing Trump’s candidacy, however, it’s worth examining what he has achieved. He won 24 per cent of the vote (against Cruz’s 28 per cent and Rubio’s 23 per cent) in Iowa, a state in which, until a few weeks ago, nobody thought he had a chance. Trump has rather sweetly spent almost $500,000 on ‘Make America Great Again’ baseball hats. He appears to have spent almost nothing on boring but important activities such as canvassing or researching voter preferences, however. He has given his campaign about two-thirds of its $19 million funds (‘It’s not worth it!’ he tweeted this week), but that sum looks piddling compared with the $47 million raised by Cruz or the $112 million behind Hillary Clinton. Still, through the sheer force of his personality, and his media shock value, he almost pulled off a ridiculous victory.

Trump’s campaign may well melt away — just as the Democratic populist Howard Dean’s did in 2004. But bear in mind that Trump had only a seven-point poll advantage before the voting began on Monday. In New Hampshire, where the next vote will take place next week, it is 20 points. And even if the Trump bubble has popped, his campaign has exposed deep cracks in the Republicans’ power structure. Party loyalists and self-described moderates are now flocking to Rubio, who after his strong finish in Iowa looks poised to scoop the nomination. Rubio should now be able to mop up the support of the failing establishment alternatives — Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Chris Christie — and emerge as the pragmatic choice against Ted Cruz, whose hard conservatism frightens the mainstream. In a match-up against Hillary Clinton (the still-presumptive Democratic nominee, just), 44-year-old Rubio polls better than Trump or Cruz.

Rubio is far from an ideal candidate, however. The success of Trump and Cruz suggests that voters are looking for a hard man for tough times. They don’t want a pretty boy who wears high-heeled boots. Rubio, a.k.a. ‘The Republican Obama’, has for years been hyped as the Grand Old Party’s coming saviour, but he has never been as popular with conservative voters as he has with the right-of-centre commentariat. As a devout Catholic (and also an ex-Mormon), he may be sufficiently pious to woo the religious. He’s also aggressive enough in his foreign-policy statements to satisfy those who want to reassert America’s might in the world. But as one of the ‘Gang of Eight’ senators who in 2013 put forward a liberal immigration reform bill, he is mistrusted. Not all Republican voters are preoccupied with keeping out Mexicans and Muslims, yet the fact that Rubio has subsequently ‘flip-flopped’ on his own proposed legislation means he is easily portrayed as lacking principle. Trump was on to something when he called Rubio ‘lightweight’.

Moreover, for all his elite credentials, Rubio has got on the wrong side of a number of senior Republicans, who feel that he has jumped in front of them in the queue. The GOP establishment may be ruthless, but it rewards loyalty. Its last two presidential nominees, Mitt Romney and John McCain, were older men who had served their time. This year, the party intended to elevate Jeb Bush, who had waited so patiently to carry on where his father (the 41st president) and his brother (the 43rd) left off. Trump’s insurgency tore that dynastic plan apart, leaving a path open for Rubio. Rather than accept defeat, however, Bush’s allies turned on the young pretender. They spent millions on television advertisements attacking Rubio as ‘just another Washington politician’. Even when it was painfully obvious that Bush’s campaign was dead, elderly warhorses such as Senator Lindsey Graham pledged fealty to the Bush clan.

After Iowa, the old guard must accept Rubio as their man. But they underrate the significance of Trump and Cruz at their peril. Cruz might be an unattractive figure — he’s a bit like a Texan Gordon Brown — but he is fiercely intelligent. He cleverly cultivated a ‘bromance’ with the poll leader in the last few months of 2015. He let Trump savage lesser opponents. Then, in the last few weeks, he attacked him for being an establishment stooge and a New York liberal.

In the last two presidential election cycles, evangelical Republicans have started brightly, only to be defeated by establishment candidates. But Cruz is more threatening to the existing order than the last two Iowa winners, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.

Cruz represents the increasingly powerful and rich Republican counter-establishment. His coalition is a sprawling yet highly mobilised mass of Tea Party types, conservatives and evangelicals, who are all disillusioned with their party.

Trump’s fans were also angry, albeit less ideologically driven. The question now is whether they will turn to Cruz as the anti-Washington candidate, or hop on the Rubio bandwagon. They might decide that they are better off sticking with The Donald.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Freddy Gray is deputy editor of The Spectator, and was literary editor of the American Conservative in Washington DC from 2008 to 2010.

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Show comments
  • Marshal Phillips

    Trump shall over-comb.

  • Swarm of Drones

    i am gonna choose the comment s that suit me best, soldiers.

    Option numbero uno: Elvis

    We’re caught in a trap

    I can’t walk out

    Because I love you too much, baby

    Option numbero dos: Chic chic, chic.

    Caught in a trap.
    No turning back.
    We’re lost in music.

    Which is your favourite of the two?

  • davidshort10

    Can someone point this correspondent in the way of a comb and razor? The MD would not be a good candidate as he would just reach of the red hair dye.

  • Todd Unctious

    Trump is a disgrace. A failure in business who has halved the potential value of the $6 million he was given in 1967. He dodged the draft for Vietnam by failing and retaking his degree three times. He is a liar who denied his dad was a German for over 40 years.

    • polidorisghost

      “He dodged the draft for Vietnam by failing and retaking his degree three times.”

      A demonstration of his intelligence and principle then.

    • 22pp22

      He’s anti the Third Worldization if the US. He’s the only candidate to vote for.

      • davidshort10

        How silly you are. America is still the most successful country in the world and that will continue whoever is the president. All the president does is make a mess of foreign policy and cause problems outside the US. Americans are and will remain prosperous through their own efforts and because of trade barriers, of course.

        • 22pp22

          The quality of your population also counts. Fewer physicists and more fruit-pickers does not make for a prosperous society. Try reading unz.com. I recommend the posts by Razib Khan and Steve Sailer. I’m not silly about this. Thinking that human evolution just stopped when we left Africa is silly and unscientific.

          I have been to America many times. Much of it is very prosperous, but much of it isn’t. It also runs huge deficits. I once took the train from Detroit to Chicago. That was an eye-opener. So is a trip to Palo Alto.

    • Patrick Roy

      He might be a bit OTT but that’s what it’s going to take to fix that country. Rubio is just a pedestrian. Worse than Obama.

      • davidshort10

        The country does not need fixing. It just needs to stop sending it soldiers to trample around the world unless it knows how to stick around and solve the problem. Europe is having to deal with what America screwed up in Libya.

        • Patrick Roy

          The country doesn’t need fixing? Lean over your nightstand, your crack pipe is calling….

          • davidshort10

            The only thing that needs fixing is a certain hairstyle. America just does not seem able to elect presidents worthy of the highest office in the second best country in the world.

    • Richard Baranov

      What are you on about, he is worth $4.5 billion. And who cares about Viet Nam or his ancestry at this point. All your remarks are totally irrelevant. And no I’m not a Trump supporter. But really what garbage your posting!

      • mohdanga

        And the draft dodgers that ended up in Canada were feted left as some sort of heroes.

        • Richard Baranov

          If you were in America at the time you would know they were hero’s. The war was little more than a criminal enterprise that destroyed lives and caused little more than misery, even, I would point out for LBJ, the president who wanted out. It was destructive and split the country apart. In short, all round, it was a disaster and unwinnable.

          • mohdanga

            And yet the Americans never lost any major battle to the North Vietnamese and the North Vietnamese chief commander said that if the Americans had kept up the pressure the North Vietnamese would have been beaten.
            The problem was the American left and media portrayed the Americans as invaders, baby killers, etc, leading to mass protests, which were helped by the likes of Walter Cronkite who said the war was unwinnable.
            Not sure how it was a “criminal enterprise” when the idea was to stop the spread of communism. Maybe the Americans should have kept out, let the communist north take over the whole country and turn it into another North Korea. At least that way the West wouldn’t have had to take in hundreds of thousands of boat people. But then the cry would have been for the US “to do something!!”

    • Cornelius Bonkers

      And your point is?

  • 22pp22

    Trump wants to stop Mexico’s conquest of America. Any American of European descent who doesn’t vote for him is insane or delusional or both.

    • Jack Spratt

      The tide of history runs against you. When the European flooded into the Americas, despite the best efforts of Sitting Bull, Geronimo, or Chief Joseph, the outcome was a foregone conclusion. The same thing happened in G.B., when the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes sought a better life for themselves, they simply overran the Celts, and in spite of Alfreds’ efforts, they largely remain right where the A.S. pushed them, (Wales and Scotland). Then here comes William I, and the Normans dealt with the A.S. exactly as they had treated the Celts. My point is that when you occupy prime real estate, you are always subject to eviction (in a geopolitical sense), by a more vigorous and hungrier culture. No man on horseback can save the day, so the culturally bankrupt white establishment might just as well retreat to Montana and the Dakotas and accept their fate with good grace.

      • 22pp22

        What a truly, awesomely pathetic excuse for a man you are!

        • Jack Spratt

          That’s interesting. Wherein lies the pathos?? The truly pathetic part is the rapidly diminishing ubermenschen who find they simply cannot compete morally or intellectually with a changing world, and as one of your icons put it, desperately clinging to your guns, your God, blah blah blah. Hate to have to fill you in, but 1955 will never come again…, the world has moved on, whether you like it or not, with or without you, so put on your happy face and get with the program.

          • 22pp22

            I think you speed up the tide of history by jumping off a cliff. Pervert.

            And we can compete just fine. We don’t need affirmative action. or set asides.

            You mistake cowardice for weakness and tolerance. You are truly beneath contempt.

            If you want your ethnic group to be turned into an oppressed minority like the Armenians in Ottoman Turkey, then you are intellectually challenged to say the least.

            Take a trip to Japan. They do not feel the need to get with the programme- aka commit suicide.

          • Jack Spratt

            Personal attacks? Your arguments are so feeble you have to resort to that??In any case, it’s not a matter of cowardice, it’s a matter of weakness, i.e., the rapid diminishing of the old white men, dying off in droves, and being replaced by people who realize they are no longer the majority and must go along to get along. You cannot, KIng Canute, hold back the tide. As for the Armenians et al, are you telling me that if a culture (or race, or religion) is in the minority, it’s axiomatic that they will be oppressed? Then what does that say about American culture for the last 400 years?? Are you afraid the Mexicans, Blacks, Native Americans, etc may dish out to you what you’ve been dishing out since the beginning of the Republic? What really galls the former master class is there is nothing they can do about it. Certainly, there can be localized resistance, but untrained, unfit, uncoordinated “militia” will stand about as much chance as the Sioux or the Iriquois did.

          • 22pp22

            I am in now way exaggerating when I say that you make me physically ill. We are not comparable to the Iroquois. We overwhelmed them because we were stronger and had better technologically. The people pouring into the West are poor and weak and are so far behind us it’s a joke. We’re being overrun by weaklings. It’s shameful and it’s the fault of smug, decadent, ignorant pervert sc+um like you. You are taking the greatest civilization the world has ever known and trashing it. Likening us to the Eskimos in the nineteenth century is so stupid it’s beyond stupid. I’ve met farm animals with more intellect than you. My arguments are not weak. They’re obvious and what happened to the Armenians can very well happen to us. In 1945, the Jews swore they would for ever be a majority in Israel. They do everything possible (successfully) to push up the Jewish birthrate. We should emulate them. But I have to agree, the world will be better without you.

          • Jack Spratt

            And that, my boy, is why the uneducated, easily frustrated and immature will fall. If they are so poor and weak, what are you worried about?? When you resort to name calling, it only demonstrates the paucity of your argument. The “American Boob” doesn’t make me physically ill, it amuses me (and the rest of the world) no end. Everybody likes to see a loudmouth and a bully get his comeuppance, so if your hero Drumpf runs and hides from little Meghan Kelly, and is afraid to debate Cruz, mano a mano, just imagine the fun the Chinese leadership and Vladimir Putin will have with him. If personal attacks are all you have, then run off to the schoolyard, I think the rest of the children are getting up a dodgeball game. Have fun.

          • 22pp22

            I’m worries because there are a lot of them and they are on their way here. They are only threat if we let them in. But that’s want you want. You can get to act out your prison rape fantasies, “my boy”. What a sicko!

          • Jack Spratt

            Well, you can’t keep them out, thats been proven, and Donald Duck can quack all he wants, but the only ones listening are the oddballs who fantasize about prison rape, or whatever other little deviances they practice…., ever hear of a psychological thing call “transferrence”??? That’s where a subjects secret desires so disgust him he feels it necessary to loudly denounce such acts, and “transfer” his accusations to someone else. This can be observed in all the fruity televangelists. Thus, I would advise you not to accuse others of random sins….., it only makes sensible people think, whats he got to hide?? That being said, I thought I had dismissed you to the playgroung with the rest of the children…., your continued tantrum might result in you being sent for a quiet time.

          • 22pp22

            Another spectacularly stupid comment. Japan and Israel keep them out quite successfully. And everything I said about you I meant. You and your ilk have no right to trash the place on behalf of the rest of us, you little worm.

          • Jack Spratt

            Poor lad. I can see by your grammar and spelling that you are probably an American college undergraduate (which in the rest of the first world means reading at a grade 7 level) but let me help you to understand the world you live in…., would you like to be a police state like the gulf states? Israel was CREATED specifically for the jewish people.., was North America created just for the northern white European??? As for the Spanish having a substandard I.Q., you have obviously mixed them up with the denizens of Mississippi and Alabama. Here we have your standard hillbilly “We’uns don’t wan no helf care or fancy skools, r granpappy dint want more for mu pappy, he din wan no better fer me, an’ by God, my kids ain’t gonna have it no better” Its the WAAAAAAAAAAY of the Ignorant”. The bible belt…, bwahaha.., H.L.Mencken had it right….,” the hookworm belt”. As for the name calling, who do you think you’re intimidating?? That might work in the juke joints down south, or the corner bar in Brooklyn, but among educated people engaged in reasoned disputation, it only marks you as a boob and a bully…., a true Trumpeter!

          • 22pp22

            I have a PhD in history from one of the world’s top ten universities and a science degree from another admittedly less prestigious but nonetheless respectable institution. I am not American, but the Founding Fathers spoke of themselves ‘and their posterity’. So America does have a founding stock and their extinction is not foreordained by the Constitution. Britain is the national home of the British people. Why are the Jews the only people allowed home, you retarded scum? And actually the average measured IQ of the Mexican population is in the 80’s, you dumb w*nker. That is far lower than the average IQ of White Southerners.

            I don’t know the reasons behind their low scores, but they are stubbornly resistant to improvement.

            I call you these things because I despise you absolutely. You are worthy of no respect whatsoever.

            You abuse White Southerners because they are a soft target, you gutless piece of filth. You wouldn’t dare dish out racist abuse to anyone else.

            Andf before you make fun of other people’s spelling, please note you spell Jewish with a capital letter.

            And for people like you to call me people like me bullies is a bit rich. Merkel has started arresting people for insulting the President Erdogan who is a de facto ally of ISIS and mass murderer of Kurds. People can and do lose their jobs all the time for opposing mass immigration. Google Jason Richwhite. He has a PhD from Harvard. Professor Watson was axed and he had a Nobel Prize!

          • Jack Spratt

            Suuuuuuuuuuuuuure you do! What, Oral Roberts U, or Bob Jones U?? No educated person conducts themselves by name calling…., no one could obtain a doctorate in history without learning how to write coherently. I have an M.A. in history, and, from a real University (U of T). I’ll give you a little test…,why was Ben Butler retained in command of a Union army for so long? Who was Clement Vlandingham? Who was the original commander of the Confedrate armies?? Test me if you want…., my specialties are the American civil war and 20th C German history. Unlike yourself, if won’t be necessary for me to run to Google. I guess you want to be like your hero Drumpf and just see how many lies the gullible and incredulous will swallow.

          • 22pp22

            Thanks for your reply. I am enjoying this.

            I wouldn’t go around boasting of being a U of T graduate. Where is that, Tennessee, Texas or Timbuktu? The people who edited my published articles used to complement me on my style, you little worm. But what would someone from ‘U of T’ know? Anyway, you think Europeans should die out. Why are you still here?

            Du glaubst, die Welt waere besser, wenn es uns nicht gaebe.

            Also verschwinde, du Arschloch.

            My uni is in the top ten of this list . U of T isn’t.



            Most of what I know about the American Civil War comes from a long PBS documentary I watched on Netflix, but even I know the leader of the Copperheads was Clement Vallandigham. How did you get an MA? And you criticise MY spelling.

          • Jack Spratt

            University of Toronto, sonny….., check out how it compares to other schools in N.A. Just what is this famous University of yours…., face the facts, there is no university…, oh, and by the way, it’s “compliment”, not “complement”. Name one article you published, what was your theses,….., Jesus Murphy, another American bullshitter. If you got past grade 7, it would greatly surprise me. However, I am now going to dismiss you, as I prefer a reasoned discussion to a middle school flame war with a fanboy.

          • 22pp22

            Now that is sad, on a par with Timbuktu. If you had said Texas, I might have felt a little less pity. I am not American. I am not going to reveal my identity, but my thesis dealt with East Asia and, yes, I do know the language.

          • Jack Spratt

            Ummm, Texas, yeah, that’s good (Bwhahahaha). Goodbye, I’ll leave you to your fantasies.

          • Jack Spratt

            Bwahahahahaha….., they award doctorates for watching PBS at Bugtussell
            U? And how did I get an M.A.? Same way you get one in any real
            university…., I took an undergraduate degree (B.A., political
            science), then completed 3 years of graduate work. Maybe I’ll rewatch
            the Ken Burns special (which, by the way, was full of holes), then maybe
            I can be a Phd too.I think I explained to you that many of my papers are on German history…., so of course I can read your sophomoric nonsense (P.S., don’t use the intransitive verb in the future tense.) Can’t trust those damn internet translators, can you lad. Why don’t you run along and watch a documentary on Niels Bohr, and then you can (claim) to be a Phd in nuclear physics.ROFLMAO

          • 22pp22

            Persevere is an intransitive verb. I does not take an object. As you seriously trying to tell me that ‘I will persevere’ is bad English. My word, U of T is weak, isn’t it.
            And I didn’t study US history, so there is no reason for me to have a deep knowledge of it, you sad little pervert.
            As you say, you are on the wrong side of history. You are doomed to oblivion. Why wait around? I understand, the only building of any distinction is boring-as-***** Toronto is a very tall one made of concrete with saucer on top.

          • 22pp22

            Sh**t for brains. How does Spain gain from acquiring a new workforce with an average IQ of 85 when it has 50% youth unemployment? I know you think you’re Nostradamus, but our extinction is not written in the stars.

  • Patrick Roy

    Cruz picked up 8 delegates and Rubio and Trump 7 each. Iowa is an evangelical state, the fact that Trump did so well there is a testament to he fact that he will win. So gird your loins!

  • Grace Ironwood

    Whatever his fortune, The Donald has performed an immense service for the people of the US and the rest of the West: the media and the rest of the left had been working hard to shut down any speech about immigration but the most saccharine pro-immigrant sentiment.

    The Donald showed how to crash the political gag.

  • Ipsedixit

    so the same people who were shouting from the rooftops that Obama would be a saint are now telling me that Trump will be a disaster. I think I’ll use my own judgement.