Donald Trump will be the nominee for president for the Republican Party. Take a moment and let that sink in.
With all of the insults, angst, accusations of fraud, and just plain bellowing, who thought that was even remotely possible in August? On August 6, the Trump Train made its first stop at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena for the first GOP debate.
Between August 6 and May 3, Trump vanquished 16 competitors. He defeated some successful politicians along the way, helped by the fact that having held elective office was a negative with GOP primary voters this cycle.
How did we get here?
Earlier this week, Sen. Rand Paul, one of the 16, addressed a group of conservatives at the Reagan Ranch Center in Santa Barbara, Calif. Paul was asked why he did not do better against Trump.
“I did interviews and did all that I could to get my message out,” said Paul. Unfortunately for Paul and the 15 others, Trump “was in the entire news cycle every day from morning to night,” effectively drowning out everyone else.
The numbers back up Paul. A detailed analysis by GOP pollster Jan van Lohuizen and analytics expert Luke Thompson released in April revealed that Trump was earning three times the coverage of Ted Cruz and John Kasich combined.
Looking back into the earlier days of the campaign when Trump was getting his similar share of coverage, it is easy to see how Paul and the other 15 were overwhelmed. Former NBC and CNN reporter Campbell Brown says it’s all about ratings and points the finger at her former employers.
“I know from personal experience that it is common practice for TV anchors to have substantial bonuses written into their contracts if they hit ratings marks,” she wrote for Politico Magazine. “With this 2016 presidential soap opera, they are almost surely hitting their marks. So, we get all Trump all the time.”
The debates were the best opportunity for the Gang of 16 to make some news of their own. There were some memorable moments, including Jeb Bush warning Trump “you can’t insult your way to the presidency.”
It is fair to say Jeb’s admonition also included insulting one’s way to the nomination. Like almost everyone else who weighed in on the Trump candidacy, including this space, Jeb was wrong. Unlike the rest of us, he has the scars to prove it.
Today precious few give Trump any chance to be the next president. Why should anyone believe the “experts” know any more than they did 10 months ago? They paint a gloomy picture for Trump, but no one saw a rainbow for him as he sought the nomination, either.
If Trump were running against a politician with the political skills of Bill Clinton, the experts could sleep easier with their predictions. But he’s running against the other Clinton, who not only has political baggage, but also has the albatross of being a bad candidate.
We hear a lot about the #NeverTrump crowd, but one in four Bernie Sanders supporters say they will never vote for Clinton, according to a recent McClatchy-Marist poll. Also, who in their right mind would have ever predicted Trump would have the GOP nomination locked up before Hillary would claim the scepter of the Democratic Party?
Another bad sign for Hillary comes from 2012 history. After Mitt Romney effectively wrapped up the Republican nomination, he still lost primaries to Rick Santorum as Hillary continues to do against Sanders this year. Neither scenario points to a party united behind their presumptive nominee.
Trump says he will somehow unify the party. Supporters of “Lyin’ Ted” or “Little Marco” might be a tough sell. When it comes to well-known GOP Tallahassee lobbyist Mac Stipanovich, it’s no sale.
Stipanovich penned an open letter for Context Florida urging Republicans to dump Trump. The GOP should “deny him the presidency by not voting in the presidential election at all or voting for Hillary Clinton if conscience permits,” wrote Mac the Knife.
Do Republicans hold their nose and vote for Trump or hold it with both hands and vote for Clinton? Trump’s need to unify the party will be bolstered by Clinton’s presence on the other side of the ballot. On the other side, Democrats are giddy about Trump’s presence on the ballot.
In the end, the pundits and experts are seeing a near impossibility for Trump becoming the next president. Time will tell if they got this one right.
I refuse to make a prediction. The risk of being wrong for an entire election cycle is too great.
Besides, those making bets against the owner of big casinos are betting against the house. That’s usually a losing proposition.
Bob Sparks is a business and political consultant based in Tallahassee. Column courtesy of Context Florida.