Donald Trump is not dead - far from it

Liberals have been excited about the electoral demise of the reality TV star, but they are celebrating too soon

Andrew Buncombe
US Editor
Wednesday 06 April 2016 20:10
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Few things have given more pleasure to liberals in the last couple of weeks, than the hapless, faltering stumbles of a certain thrice-married real estate mogul from New York.

From the prospect of the orange-hued magnate as the inevitable Republican candidate, the narrative about Donald Trump has shifted rapidly.

His opponents have looked on with glee as Mr Trump told an interviewer that women might “punished” for having an abortion, grinned when he gracelessly retweeted an unflattering image of Ted Cruz’s wife alongside a glamourous shot of his former model partner, and rubbed their hands as he failed to persuade anyone that he was not connected to an artless tabloid smear of Mr Cruz.

Donald Trump on the campaign trail with his wife Melania

For these Trump-haters, the topping on the schadenfreude cup-cake was iced on Tuesday night, when Mr Trump suffered nothing less than a stuffing at the hands of Mr Cruz in Wisconsin. The Texas senator won 48 per cent of the vote, with Mr Trump on 35 per cent, and Ohio Governor John Kasich trailing on a measly 14 per cent.

At a victory speech, Mr Cruz, who bagged 36 of the state’s 42 delegates, declared: “Tonight is a turning point. It is a rallying cry.”

But there are two things wrong with this story. The first is that as much as people may wish to get out their engraving tools for Mr Trump’s granite headstone, he is not dead. Far from it.

After last night’s embarrassment - a defeat he marked by accusing Mr Cruz of being a Trojan horse for the Republican establishment - he still leads Mr Cruz 743 to 517 in delegates.

What’s more, the next contests - New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut - are likely to prove far more rewarding for him. An average of polls collated by Real Clear Politics has Mr Trump on 53 points, Mr Kasich on 21 and Mr Cruz on 19.0 in New York, his home turf. In Pennsylvania, the polls have him 13 points clear, and those done in Connecticut - where the polls admittedly are several months old - put him at least 10 points clear.

What seems clear now, is that the Republicans will gather for their convention this summer without any candidate having secured a majority of delegates. The situation last occurred in 1976 and America’s journalists are besides themselves with the excitement of it happening again.

As one clever observer of US politics wrote on Twitter on Tuesday night: “A contested convention is the white whale of US politics, often talked about, rarely seen. Bigger chance now of a siting in Cleveland.”

The Republican establishment is determined to use such a “brokered convention” to halt Mr Trump. But does anyone really see him going down without a fight? A couple of weeks ago he suggested there would be riots in such a scenario.

And were he to emerge with the largest number of delegates and still be refused the nomination, he might decide run as independent. He is unlikely to do that well, but he might do it out of spite, simply to take ten or twenty percentage points from the Republican candidate.

The second problem with the Trump is dead narrative, is that apparent knight on horseback riding to the rescue - namely Mr Cruz - holds positions that are if anything more unpalatable than those of the casino magnate.

What liberal could do anything but roll their eyes over Mr Cruz’s desire to scrap the Internal Revenue Service, introduce a flat tax of ten per cent, seek a return to the Gold Standard and offer unquestioning, faith-infused support to Israel.

The Texas senator once brought the federal government to the brink of collapse over Barack Obama’s modest bill - passed by both houses of Congress - to expand heath coverage for the poor. He has literalist view of the US constitution, and has often said that a man who does not start his day on his knees, is not fit to lead the country. In truth, Mr Cruz’s positions on most issues are considerably more conservative than those of Mr Trump.

Mr Trump could still turn this whole thing around. If he wins big in New York and Pennsylvania, he could regain his momentum and get within spitting range of the 1,237 delegates he needs for a clean win.

If he drops some of his rhetoric and takes his surprisingly humanising wife out on to the campaign trail more often, he could start to position himself as someone not so aggressive, not so knee-jerk with their reactions, and a candidate who could be a viable challenger to Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton.

It is going to be a long, hot and chaotic summer. And Donald J Trump is going to be at the very heart of it.

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