I’m calling it right now. The 2016 Republican nominee for president will be Donald Trump. And Ben Carson will be Trump’s running mate.
You don’t think it’s going to be Trump? Who else is it going to be? Jeb Bush, the supposed choice of the establishment, who has turned out to be an absolutely terrible candidate for president, who foolishly lets himself get baited by Trump, and who sinks a little further with each new poll? Scott Walker, who looked like a real contender until he started, you know, saying things in public, and until people started looking at his actual record in Wisconsin? Marco Rubio, whose positions on some issues (e.g., abortion) are so extreme as to be nearly disqualifying, who also has failed to meet expectations, and who is consistently polling worse than fellow Floridian Jeb Bush – to say nothing of his epic fail when delivering the GOP response to the 2013 State of the Union address? Carly Fiorina, who is running on her business record which mostly consists of nearly managing to single-handedly destroy one of the most storied technology companies in America? Ted Cruz, the only person the GOP establishment hates more than Donald Trump? John Kasich, who will sink like a stone (all the way down from 4%) once GOP primary voters realize that he kinda likes Obamacare? Christie? Jindal? Perry? Huckabee? Rand? Come on.
Fact is, none of the other GOP candidates can figure out how to deal with Trump. He baits them, and they keep falling for it. He insults them, and they splutter and look awkward and sad about it. It’s fair for GOP voters to ask if the other candidates can’t handle Donald Trump, HOW ARE THEY GOING TO HANDLE ISIS? Or Hillary Clinton, for that matter?
Furthermore, Trump has figured out a couple of things that the other Republican candidates haven’t. First, most Americans – and this includes most Republicans – basically like Social Security. Trump does too, and to my knowledge he’s the only GOP candidate to say so. Second, most Americans basically hate the fact that wealthy donors wield so much influence in politics. Trump doesn’t need donors – he’s practically dead last in terms of fundraising – and he has been railing very effectively on this topic, declaring the campaign finance system “broken” and himself independent of it. It’s something Trump says that even lefties sorta like. Third, Trump – like most Americans – thinks that really rich people (including himself) should be willing to pay more taxes, and he’s expressed interest in eliminating the infamous “carried interest” loophole that helps the hedge fund guys pay next to nothing.
And another thing: the old adage that people aren’t paying attention yet doesn’t really hold in this case. Did you know, for example, that the GOP debate that aired in early August drew an estimated 24 million viewers, making it “the highest-rated primary debate in television history as well as the highest-rated non-sports cable telecast of all time in total viewers”? Those are extraordinary statistics. Sounds to me like people are paying attention.
I didn’t think this way a month ago, but the last month has been extraordinary (the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza described the Trump phenomenon as “the most amazing thing I have seen in all of my time covering politics”). I don’t see Trump going anywhere any time soon. He’s got all the money he needs. He’s way up in the polls, and there’s no reason to think he’s not going to stay there for a while – his numbers have stayed high and even gone higher despite statements and actions that would have destroyed any other candidacy. And, unfortunately, he’s got a message that is resonating. Note, in this connection, that the combination of virulent nativist, anti-immigrant rhetoric with populist/left positions on some economic issues is not an entirely new idea, and has enjoyed some success elsewhere.
In short, Trump seems to me as likely as anyone (and more likely than most) to be the Republican nominee. So, who would he pick to run with him? Ben Carson strikes me as the most obvious choice. Carson is (a) African-American, which would help Trump rebut the racism charge; (b) not a politician, which is consistent with Trump’s apparent belief that most (if not all) elected officials are nitwits; (c) actually pretty popular with Republican voters, at least right now; and (d) open to the possibility. Furthermore, he’s one of the few other GOP contenders whom Trump hasn’t yet insulted.
So. Trump-Carson 2016. You heard it here first.