In last night’s GOP debate, Donald Trump was, for him, quite subdued. He even kissed and made up with Ted Cruz, telling everyone that Cruz has a “wonderful temperament,” and folks had nothing to worry about with him. In my view, he’s setting the stage to endorse Cruz when he drops out.
Trump only showed flashes of his favorite slash and burn technique in spirited exchanges with Jeb Bush. There clearly is no love lost between those two. Bush had a poor outing, even stumbling in his closing statement. He’s in low single digits, and did nothing last night to pull himself out of the ditch. His candidacy is effectively over.
It’s still hard for me to see Trump going the distance. He has a $10 billion empire, as he constantly reminds us, and I don’t see any way he’s going to let someone else run that thing for the next four or eight years. He’d have to put his entire operation in a blind trust, and Trump knows you don’t maintain and grow an enterprise of that magnitude by blindly trusting other people to manage it for you.
His candidacy is now beginning to cost him money and prestige. His name was literally ripped off a posh resort in Dubai, and left lying in shards on the ground. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club took the British Open away from the Turnberry links in Scotland, which Trump owns. They’re worried about boycotts and protests, and worse. A links golf course would be about as exposed to a Muslim-inspired attack as anything you can think of.
This is on the heels of the PGA taking its prestigious Grand Slam of Golf away from a Trump course in California. And it’s getting ready to yank the WGC-Cadillac Championship from his famous Doral course in Florida.
Trump currently makes a fortune selling his name, which is associated with luxury and elegance. When people see his name on a development, they associate it with class. Once his name loses its mystique, that money-making pipeline will dry up in a hurry. Trump is running out of time to salvage what is left of the magic of his name.
Trump is likely to lose Iowa to Cruz by a significant margin, as Cruz is locking up the evangelical vote in the Hawkeye State. His cause in Iowa has been helped enormously by high profile endorsements from Rep. Steve King, Iowa Family Leader CEO Bob Vander Plaats, syndicated radio host Steve Deace, and a consortium of pro-family leaders headed by Tony Perkins of the Family Reserch Council.
Trump will stay in the race at least until New Hampshire, which he is likely to win. That would set the stage for him to pull out of the race in a face-saving way, going out as a winner, reminding everyone of his “YUGE” role in focusing the national debate on illegal immigration and the threat of Islam. Then he can throw his support to Cruz as the guy who can carry his anti-establishment torch across the finish line.
Trump may be a little bit like the dog who unexpectedly catches the car. Now what do I do with it? I frankly think he is as surprised as anyone at the intensity and longevity of his support. I don’t think even he realized just how outraged the American people are with the political establishment on both sides of the aisle. The only other one in the race who does understand and who is in a position to tap into that fierce energy is Cruz.
I believe being president would both bore Trump to death and agitate him endlessly. He has no interest in being a member of a co-equal branch of anything. I’m not sure he ever thought he would get this far, and now that the sobering reality has hit, I believe he’s thinking about an exit strategy. If Trump has to choose between money and power, he seems like the type who will choose money in the end. For him, money is power.
Rand Paul had the best night of anybody on the stage, but it’s too little and too late for him. He didn’t lay a glove on Cruz all night, which is an indication that they are like-minded on many things, including unconstitutional NSA surveillance, Muslim immigration, and a lack of interest in putting American boots on the ground in Syria.
Cruz and Rubio both had good nights, but Cruz bested Rubio on the surveillance issue and on immigration. Rubio’s Gang of Eight bill is his Achilles’ heel and will in the end prove his undoing. Rubio declared his support for amnesty again last night, which rewards those who flout American law. Cruz, on the other hand, spoke openly of deporting illegal aliens for the first time I can recall. If Trump’s soaring numbers mean anything, they mean the American people are not in the mood for amnesty in any way, shape, or form. The Gang of Eight bill is like an anvil around Rubio’s neck and it will drag him to the bottom.
Cruz rightly pointed out that his bill, the USA Freedom Act, which brought to an end the flatly unconstitutional mass collection of metadata by the NSA, improves the ability of law enforcement to focus on actual threats and more comprehensively mine available communications data to get the bad guys. Rubio is not going to win that argument.
Ben Carson was fine, but his lack of a commanding presence will cause the air to slowly leak out of his balloon. Chris Christie had a good night, as did Carly Fiorina, but they have too much ground to make up. John Kasich was, well, John Kasich, and his numbers are unlikely to budge much.
The plain fact is that the GOP race is now a three man affair: Trump, Cruz and Rubio. When and if Trump passes the torch to Cruz, it’ll be a two-horse affair. And Cruz will pull away down the stretch.