After weeks in the media klieg lights and at least one serious unforced error, real estate developer Donald Trump continues to dominate the Republican nomination for President.
Polls taken after Trump’s roundly condemned quip about Arizona Sen. John McCain confirm his spot at the top of the GOP nomination contest. The conventional wisdom that continually predicts his implosion is missing the palpable anger against Washington among Republican base voters.
Just over a week ago, Trump appeared to suggest that John McCain’s recognition as a war hero was due solely to the fact that he was captured. Trump, who didn’t serve in Vietnam due to a series of draft deferments, said he preferred veterans who “weren’t captured.” Trump’s off-the-cuff comments were condemned by just about everyone with a byline or teleprompter.
Taken on their own, Trump’s remarks were outrageous. The controversy itself, though, has had no impact on Trump’s continued dominance of the GOP nomination.
Polls taken in the days following the controversy continue to show him leading the GOP field. A recent NBC poll found Trump with a commanding lead in New Hampshire and a strong second-place showing in Iowa.
There are myriad reasons why Trump is unlikely to be the Republican nominee. His continued dominance of a candidate field far more substantive than the one offered in 2012 cannot be easily dismissed, however. A new poll from CNN/ORC shows the widening gulf between Republican voters and the political parties in Washington.
Trump, quite simply, has tapped into this growing Republican dissatisfaction with Washington. Other candidates, as well as the national Republican party, ignore it at their peril.
In the new CNN poll, 53 percent of Republican voters feel their views are not represented in Washington. This is nearly double the sentiment among Democrats and far higher than that of overall voters.
These Republicans are most supportive of Trump, want to see him stay in the race and can even envision him as the party’s nominee. The single group that feels Washington is the most out of touch are White Evangelicals. Almost 85 percent of these voters believe their views are not represented in Washington. This sentiment will have a huge impact in the Republican race.
The CNN poll also found that “stands up for his or her beliefs even in the face of criticism” is one of the top attributes voters are looking for in a President. Around 83 percent of voters said that quality was very important to them, essentially tied with empathy and second only to honesty in a desired President.
Among White Evangelical voters, though, “stands up for beliefs” ranked even higher. Almost 90 percent of evangelicals said it was a very important quality in a President. It eclipsed every other possible attribute except honesty.
In our modern political milquetoast era of politicians trying to be all things to all people, the perception that a candidate is standing up to the accepted orthodoxy of the media or DC political class is a wining position.
The disconnected, imperial affectations of the Obama Administration and the mindless fecklessness of the Republicans in Congress are quickly alienating voters in general, but Republican voters specifically. The very act of standing in opposition to this governing consensus is, itself, the important factor, regardless of the underlying issue.
Most Americans obviously believe John McCain is a war hero. Most Americans disagree with Trump’s cavalier comments about McCain and his service record. The comments themselves, though, don’t seem to trouble Republican voters.
For many Republicans, the very fact that most of the DC political class is against Trump is enough for them to support him, at least at this time. That should keep national Republican leaders up at night.