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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Why the campaign to win the Republican nomination for President has just got interesting

As somebody who is rooting for Hillary Clinton to become the first female President of the United States, the current disarray amongst the Republicans is a welcome sight. As the Independent reports the fact that Donald Trump is running for president again has the Republican Party to which (for now at least) he belongs, scared out of its wits.

As the paper says we been here before: In 2000, Trump was a candidate of the Reform Party founded by Ross Perot. In three other elections he’s floated the idea of competing in the Republican primaries, most recently in 2012, when the mere possibility of a Trump bid for the White House saw him briefly top the polls, admittedly against a weak Republican field. In the end, he decided not to run. This time, however, he is running, against one of the biggest and most qualified fields in memory. And guess what? He’s leading the pack again.

An Economist/YouGov poll on Friday had him at 15 per cent among registered Republican voters, four points clear of Jeb Bush, and well ahead of the other two favourites for the nomination, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker, not to mention the likes of Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Rick Perry et al.

Now, this is the silly season for US presidential politics, almost seven months before the Iowa caucuses kick off the primary season. Cast your mind back to the same moment of the last election cycle, in high summer 2011. Leading the Republican pack was the pizza magnate Herman Cain (he of “I don’t know who’s president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan”), followed by Michele Bachmann, fire-breathing queen of the Tea Party. Both candidacies ultimately sank without trace.

Trump stands in the shoes of these fringe candidates but the difference is tnat he has the resources to stick in the race past the initial primaries, if he is so minded to do so and his rather dodgy views on immigration are speaking to the Republican core voters, older white voters. That is a key reason why other candidates such as Scott Walker and Jeb Bush are pulling their punches in responding to the Trump rhetoric.

And it is not just on the topic of immigration that Trump is making waves:  If you’re fed up with Obama’s caution in the Middle East, how sweet “the Donald” must sound. A President Trump would “bomb the hell” out of Iraq’s oilfields to strike at Islamic State. As for US troops on the ground, forget it: “You won’t need ’em by the time I’m done.”

This confronts Priebus and the establishment with a double nightmare. The first is Trump’s participation in the first candidates’ debate on 6 August. Given that he easily qualifies among the top 10 candidates measured by the polls, he can hardly be denied a spot. He might make an idiot of himself. Equally likely, though, he’ll upstage everyone with his soundbites, handing yet more election ammunition to the Democrats.

The second nightmare is even worse. What if Trump drops out, only to run as a third-party candidate, just as Perot, another nationalist billionaire, did in 1992? Many Republicans blame Perot for stealing votes from George H W Bush and handing victory to Bill Clinton. Speaking to the Post last week, Trump deliberately kept the third-party option open and, with it, the prospect of throwing another winnable election to another Clinton. Republican nightmares, even in the political silly season, don’t come much worse.

Hillary Clinton must be rubbing her hands in glee.
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