Trump Is the Indisputable Republican Frontrunner

March 4, 2016 Topic: Politics Blog Brand: The Skeptics Tags: US PoliticsDonald TrumpRepublican2016

Trump Is the Indisputable Republican Frontrunner

Romney’s speech did not signal the return of the GOP establishment to control.

Here is a fail-safe prediction in an otherwise topsy-turvy political campaign season where the rulebook has been thrown in the gutter: it’s safe to assume that Mitt Romney and Donald Trump aren’t close friends.

The former governor of Massachusetts and 2012 Republican presidential nominee is not known to be a particularly energetic public speaker where the use of zingers is littered throughout his speeches. Romney is not exactly an inspirational figure either; when he would speak to his supporters during the 2012 campaign, his stump speeches sounded more like a business presentation than a call to the American people. But his March 3 speech at Utah University, in which he attacked Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, tossed all of that history by the wayside.

Because Romney is not running for the presidency himself, he can afford to hit GOP frontrunner Donald Trump without having to worry about his personal reputation or his political future. And that is exactly what he did by attacking Trump, reminding Americans about everything from his failed business ventures in the steak and vodka business, to his adultery and his hot air on policy.  

“Donald Trump tells us that he is very, very smart,” Romney said, “I’m afraid that when it comes to foreign policy, he is very, very not smart.” Trump’s supposed foreign policy wisdom is simply a figment of his imagination, Romney argues. “He spoke in favor of invading Iraq. He said he saw thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating 9/11. Wrong. He saw no such thing. He imagined it. He’s not of the temperament of the kind of stable, thoughtful person we need as a leader.”

Strong words from an elder of the GOP establishment. Romney’s speech comes on the heels of a last-ditch effort to block Donald Trump from capturing the Republican nomination, and the GOP donors, strategists and also-rans are doing everything they can to make sure Trump is short of the majority of delegates he needs on the first ballot to win the nomination at the GOP convention this summer. In a span of one week , you have had members of Congress coming out in staunch opposition to a Trump candidacy, millions of dollars in ad buys in the key states of Florida and Ohio going after Trump’s character and record, and an open letter from respected national security advisers of previous Republican administrations castigating Trump for his open support for torture (since disavowed) and his extortion of traditional allies.  Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, is even threatening to cobble together a third-party ticket in the event that Trump does in fact win the nomination.  And Romney, in an interview with Bloomberg Politics, suggested that a contested Republican convention was perhaps one of the best options that the party has to steal the nomination away from Trump.

At the risk of prognosticating during a campaign that has made all prognosticators look foolish, here is a prediction: none of these efforts, even combined, are likely to avert a Donald Trump nomination or significantly dent his support.

One can disagree with the policies that the New York billionaire has proposed. He is woefully inadequate on pretty much every policy topic: he refuses or simply can’t answer how Mexico will pay for that giant wall along the southern border that he intends to build; his love for Russian President Vladimir Putin is embarrassing, given Putin’s complete disregard for international law and state sovereignty; and his insistence on using inaccurate figures to describe the Iranian nuclear agreement either exposes his great ability to misrepresent or his lack of knowledge about what exactly is in the agreement.  

None of that, however, seems to hurt his poll numbers or crack his solid base of support. Trump’s margins of victory (10 points in South Carolina, 22 points in Nevada, 31 points in Massachusetts, 22 points in Alabama, 14 points in Georgia) would be an impressive feat for a normal politician. For Trump, the anti-politician that the GOP establishment wrote off last July and August as a joke, those margins simply feed his already large ego.

As a centrist, I am solidly opposed to a Donald Trump presidency. I firmly believe that a Trump presidency would be horrible for the country and would transform America’s image as a nation that is welcoming to immigrants to one that is hostile to new people coming in. But you cannot deny the man’s political success: despite the stupid things he says on the trail and the efforts by the establishment to take him down through millions of dollars in ads and the unleashing of the GOP’s foreign policy brain trust, Trump is the indisputable Republican frontrunner.

Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and the Jeb Bush camp will pull out all of the stops to slow Trump’s momentum. They hope to deny Trump the majority of delegates he needs to capture the nomination on the first ballot at the GOP convention this July. In the unlikely event that they succeed, Trump will respond by running on a third-ticket and taking all of his support with him.

Daniel R. DePetris is an analyst at Wikistrat, Inc., a geostrategic consulting firm and a freelance researcher. He has also written for, Small Wars Journal and the Diplomat.

Image: Flickr/Gage Skidmore.