Wednesday, February 3, 2016

On Chaotic Campaigning and Ceilings

Manhattan Mogul Donald Trump's sober response to coming in second for the 2016 Republican Iowa Caucuses did not last long.  The day after, Trump seized on a sketchy story that the Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)  campaign "cheated" by passing along media reports of Dr. Ben Carson's retreat from the campaign trail.

But then Trump linked it to the Canadian "birther" attack, which ought to tip off Carson supporters on Trump's sincerity. Later, Trump doubled down on social media to demand that the Iowa Caucuses be held over or Cruz's win nullified. So much for being dignified and concentrating on the future.

The Washington Examiner's Philip Klein offered an analysis on the primary campaign.  Metrics indicate that Mr. Trump has a solid core base of core followers which may number up to 25% of the electorate, as long as their dear leader is winning.  The record setting turnout in the Republican Iowa Caucuses did not help the populist pugilist as conventional wisdom held.  Last minute decision makers decidedly turned away from the Trump train.

In order to win the nomination, a candidate eventually must garner a majority of voters (as well as 1,237 delegates in at least six primary wins) to take the nomination.  Data indicates that Trump has a ceiling of support.  The large lump of core supporters may help him in a crowded field, but it will not take him over the top.

Trump has utilized an unconventional primary strategy, eschewing organization and retail politics for celebrity driven campaign events, earned media from outlandish statements and constantly attacking his opponents with insults and paraliptical innuendo. Now that ballots have been cast, the circus show is no longer easily winning eyeballs.  More importantly, it does not seem to be winning converts.

Rush Limbaugh had a blue collar caller who had previously been in the Trump camp for the political incorrect fighter appeal.  But the Trump supporter had been dissuaded by the renewed attacks on Cruz  by Trump over the Carson kerfluffle.  This support may ring essentially hollow as Trump had insinuated that Dr. Carson had the pathology of a child molester in November 2015).  The caller began to question if Trump is fighting for real reasons or if it is part of his show.

This sort of agonizing re-appraisal from Trump-eteers as well has the apparent hard ceiling of Trump support may not bode well for his candidacy in the future.  This is not to say that Trump should immediately be written off.  Trump's lead in New Hampshire is formidable.  In addition, the large lead that Senator Bernie Sanders has in the Granite State's Democrat primary may allow many cross over votes to a competitive race as well as "reverse Operation Chaos" by Democrats voting for their favored foe to defeat in the November General Election.

Winning a primary contest does not necessarily mean that the spotlight will fall on the victor. Ask Ted Cruz after the Iowa Caucuses.  Much of the media has focused on the over-performing Senator Marco Rubio third place finish. But with the tight timeline of primaries and stories emanating from unexpected results may mark the end of domination of the news cycle by realty show like media stunts. Not that such an inconvenient truth will dawn on everyone.  Conservative media pundit Ben Shapiro echoed Donald Trump's true tactic: "I keep whining and whining until I win."

 Time will tell if that continues to work in Election 2016.

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