The Omnivore's fascination with Trump continues as The Omnivore asks the question everyone else is circling around: What finally ends him?
After all, no one thinks he can win the nomination--much less the election--but if that's the endgame, how do we get there?
Let's look at the options!
Financial DisclosuresChance: 12%
Description: In order to actually run Trump has to file financial disclosures. While he's said he's going to (and he gets up to two 45 day extensions to do so) the possibility is that Trump isn't as rich as he wants us to think he is (and, to be fair: he doesn't stop talking about how rich and successful he is in interviews). If the disclosure will hurt him--or hurt his ego--then he might bail then and there. This is the most-likely early soft-kill scenario for The Donald.
Disposition: The problem with this scenario is that it hinges on him getting this far without realizing what this would mean. If he was going to bail all along he probably wouldn't have doubled down on the anti-immigrant stuff when he was bleeding endorsement deals.
Debate CollapseChance: 8%
Description: All indications are that Trump will poll well enough to get into the first debate (and the ones thereafter, most likely). What if he gets up there and gets clobbered? An "Oops" moment like the one that killed Perry 2012? Could happen? Especially since Trump isn't preparing for the debates:
Trump has not begun to prepare for the debates, however. “I’m not a debater,” he said. “I don’t debate. I build buildings, and I grow jobs. These [other candidates] debate every [expletive] night of their life. That’s all they do. They talk.”
Trump suggested that Mitt Romney spent too much time readying for forums as the 2012 Republican nominee.
“He became a frozen jellyfish,” Trump said. “He spent so much time in prep he couldn’t speak.”Disposition: Don't let Trump fool you: The Omnivore thinks 'a frozen jellyfish' is positively Palinesque. Trump will likely do just fine at the debates.
Polling CollapseChance: 25%
Description: The conventional wisdom is that as the campaign stretches on voters--even conservative ones--will become more enamored of the real candidates and support will bleed off quickly. Often 2012 is pointed to as the model for this. Indeed, The Omnivore thinks this is the single most-likely event--but even that isn't pushing it over 50%
Disposition: There are two problems with the polling collapse scenario. The first is that it is predicated on the idea that Trump's polling is due to some kind of mirage. The Omnivore has been relentlessly hammering on the fact that it isn't: Trump is selling exactly what conservatives want. This isn't a mirage--this is pure market-place-of-ideals-capitalism. Trump is credible when he indicates he'll smash the GOP-Establishment and nuke ISIS. Why wouldn't he?
If he's not back-tracking in the face of near-universal condemnation from the media, the other candidates, and his business partners then voters can be pretty sure he won't fold in office.
The second misconception is that some other candidate--a serious one--will capture the vote when it "becomes clear Trump cannot win." Considering that Carson and Huckabee are polling strongly, the Omnivore supposes that they too will fall for this? They can't win. For that matter, neither can Cruz. The guy who could take Trump's people and win is Scott Walker and he's been silent and uninteresting thus far. Walker needs to emerge against Bush (who is currently the can-win front-runner) before he has a chance to pick up Trump's vote. When will that happen?
Hard Kill: Another Candidate Goes To The Mud-FightChance: 22%
Description: There have been some (naive, in The Omnivore's opinion) suggestions that someone (Jeb?) should take it to Trump. That the dragon must be slayed. Will a candidate stand up to Trump? Do battle in the public forum--and defeat him?
Disposition: Could this happen? The Omnivore doesn't think so. Team Romney used its massive "Deathstar" of funding to fire salvos of negative ads at other candidates and damage them. This worked, in part, because the other Not-Romney candidates in 2012 were complete losers in the general election--and whether their supporters wanted to admit it or not, they probably knew it was true on some level. So there's that--BUT: the thing that Trump has that no one in 2012 had other than Gingrich to a degree is a fear-factor that if Trump gets hit hard he'll hit back like a monster.
Gingrich ran his Vulture-Capitalist campaign against Romney and was successfully stood-down for 'the good of the party.' Trump clearly gives a damn about the good of the party and will not be dissuaded from landing like a ton of bricks on whoever draws his ire. As Trump is self-funded and won't run out of money any time soon (it seems) conventional controls won't work on him. Whoever is going to take on Trump will need steel balls and have little to lose. That would be Cruz--except Cruz has thrown in with him.
Mega GaffeChance: 2%
Description: What if Trump says something so stupid that he DQ's himself? Cain came close several times. Bachmann arguably did with her vaccines-autism statement. Could Trump doom himself?
Disposition: Not only is Trump shame-proof to a degree that most others weren't--but he's also shown a knack for saying . . . well . . . the right things. His exchange on the 2nd Amendment is something every Republican should be studying. He seems to have a pretty good idea of what to say and how to play.
Florida Sanity (Oxymoron?)Chance: 20%
Description: The early crazy states can go to all kinds of people (Santorum). Straw polls are up for grabs (Ron Paul). But a big purple swing state? Like Florida? It tends to vote in a more-or-less sane manner. Could Florida be where Jeb skunks Trump?
Disposition: The Omnivore finds this likely if Trump makes it that far: eventually reality will set in and people will vote for someone who could win a general election (Jeb, Walker, maybe Rubio? Kaisch?). However, if Trump does get this far it's probably over for the Carsons, Huckabees, and Cruzs of the world.
Top-Down AttackChance: 2%
Description: Noah Rothman in Commentary advocates a top-down attack by the RNC through surrogates to make Trump an illegitimate candidate. He doesn't fear the Perot factor and thinks the candidate, while maybe good for the debates, is bad for the party (The Omnivore thinks he will be great for the debates--and will have extra popcorn ready if Trump isn't somehow excluded). Could this happen?
Disposition: The problem with this approach is that it plays into the worst fears of the base in the same way that Obama going to a Mosque to pray would. If you believe that the GOPe is trying to deny you real, serious candidates, having them play favorites is going to look, well, hand-in-cookie-jar. It might improve his cred. There's also the case that surrogates would have to do the tarring without spending any money. If they spend money against him it's probably not legal and Trump can and would sue.
There's also the problem that Trump as a 3rd Party candidate would have a leg up on Perot: a ready made constituency. Perot wasn't polling in the pole position when he went 3rd party. He was a new face with goofy ears. This is more like George Wallace who won several states in the general.
That said, if nothing else gets Trump and no candidate steps up to do it . . . Noah might be right: they might have to try something like this.