Presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump is just getting started. Or so he has said to worried GOP leaders who fear his rival, presumptive Democratic nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is getting the upper hand too early — an edge he might not been able to regain later in the general election contest.
The rambunctious billionaire and political outsider stormed his way to the top of the Republican Party in just under a year since his campaign launch last June, becoming the party’s standard bearer and presidential candidate on May 3 when he defeated Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich at long last.
Trump’s rough-and-tumble path to victory rubbed many in the Republican Party the wrong way, as several party insiders including former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush — and the third Bush, the latter’s brother Jeb — plan to sit out their party’s convention in Cleveland in July. So is Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee, who is doing everything he can right now short of launching an independent bid against Trump and Clinton to prevent Trump from rising to the highest office in all the land. They are hardly the only ones with a sour taste in their mouths.
But others party-wide who might be open to Trump have largely held back, waiting to see if the man who won a presidential nomination with less than 100 staffers — only a small group, a mere handful, of whom were actually senior members of the inner circle — could get back on track after a series of setbacks over the past month. First there was worry over his comments regarding the Trump University case judge, then questions about fundraising and more about staffing, and, after that, even concerns surrounding Trump’s decision to visit Scotland to open his Turnberry golf course mid-campaign.
But, as it seemed to happen during the course of the primaries when Trump earned among other nicknames “Teflon Don,” Trump has survived all of this, in recent polling even turning some of those apparent missteps into positives. He has lasted through controversy about his comments regarding Judge Gonzalo Curiel, putting that in his rearview mirror. As for fundraising, it seems the operation is up and running raking in millions of dollars already. And with staff, he fired Corey Lewandowski as campaign manager and made necessary moves to bring aboard new seasoned political operatives who don’t undermine his brand but help steer him in a more professional direction as a candidate.
Meanwhile, Trump has over the past couple weeks delivered a series of key addresses in a much more presidential manner than he did as a primary candidate. In the wake of the radical Islamic terrorist attack in Orlando, Florida — an attack Democrats attempted, but failed, to blame on guns — Trump laid out in an address how he planned to keep America safe. A week later, he eviscerated Hillary Clinton for turning the State Department into her “private hedge fund” by detailing in a speech the Clinton corruption exposed in Clinton Cash — Peter Schweizer’s bombshell bestselling book. Later that week, as the United Kingdom voted to “Brexit”— or leave the European Union (EU) — Trump was in Turnberry to take credit as the international leader of a worldwide populist movement voting to reject globalist elites. Then, this week, as he stormed back into the United States, Trump hit the trail in battleground Pennsylvania to target Clinton on trade in another widely acclaimed address before showing up in battleground Ohio as radical Islamic terrorists attacked Istanbul, Turkey.
All of that comes as Clinton and President Barack Obama are on their heels with the rise of populism around the country and across the globe. Obama incredulously claimed on Wednesday that he is the real populist, not Donald Trump. But, it is Obama’s immigration, trade, economic, and security policies that voters worldwide are rising to roundly reject. He is the champion of bringing unvetted Middle Eastern refugees into America bearing diseases like Tuberculosis and carrying with them radical Islamic ideology that becomes terrorism. He is the president who supports open borders immigration, refuses to secure the U.S. border with Mexico, and wants to increase the amount of foreigners the United States imports to take jobs away from struggling American workers. Obama is the president who, with Clinton’s help during her time as Secretary of State, negotiated the Pacific rim trade deal — the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — along with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) and Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) deals. Also with her help — and that of House Speaker Paul Ryan, another globalist Republican who has worked against Trump in many ways — Obama rammed through Congress the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) fast track provisions that will eventually, unless Trump wins, help the globalists grease the skids to easily attain congressional approval of such multinational trade deals that damn American workers’ job prospects. It is Obama — and Clinton — who also worked decidedly against British independence in the Brexit referendum, preferring instead that America’s closest partner be tethered to the weight of globalism inside the EU.
So yes, Obama can claim he is a populist — sure, he campaigned on populist themes of hope, change and possibility back in 2008 — but his record reflects one of a globalist. What’s particularly damning for a president who cares about a fragile legacy is that he is now forced to campaign alongside one of the world’s proudest globalist elite, Hillary Clinton, to protect the legacy. All while Donald Trump, for the first time in years, has Obama rattled — and may just shatter that dream the president has of a positive legacy in history.
For over a month Clinton’s team was on the air in battleground states with blistering attack ads pre-framing her opponent, and it seemed like Trump couldn’t get anything right. But even still, he came out in most polls just a few points behind her. Now, as Trump has refined his message — and perhaps more importantly his delivery — giving a series of three key presidential-style addresses, he has retaken the lead over Secretary Clinton in the latest poll by Rasmussen Reports. And the lead is not just a point or two: It’s a four-point lead, something that on election day would be viewed as a landslide victory.
While there is still a long time to go between now and November, when Americans will select at the polls who they want to lead not just the United States but really the entire free world, a closer look at some of the things Trump has done over the past few weeks suggest that the billionaire is regaining momentum. Trump’s challenge now is to take advantage of this and race to spark an almost cannon-ball-like launch from which Clinton can never recover. Trump has hired new staff to replace former campaign mainstays including Lewandowski — like renowned former Cruz communications director Jason Miller and others — while building a fundraising operation to be able to pay the bills for a general election effort. Doing that, all while avoiding self-inflicted accidental wounds, are things that will help Trump find a rhythm again.
Clinton’s tasks are to keep Trump from launching and keep control of the political narrative. By trotting out Elizabeth Warren, the faux-populist progressive Senator from Massachusetts, as much as she can, Clinton is aiming to hold Trump back. Almost like an immovable object, the Democratic political juggernaut is using every bit of the dynasty she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have built to keep control of the political conversation. Their dynasty is not enough though. To hold Trump down the Clintons have had to mix their 20th century machine together with new tools from the 21st century progressive wing of the party, take advantage of whatever help Hillary Clinton can get from dejected Republicans like bailout king, former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson.
But can Clinton keep Trump from lighting the fuse to his momentum cannon? That’s the question on everyone’s mind in Washington. If Trump gets it lit, he may become unstoppable. But if Clinton can hold him down, and prevent ignition, she may just hold on and scrape by into the White House.