ROMNEY WORDSWORTH – It is Wednesday, February 17, 2016, and you know what that means: It’s Trumpday! Let’s get started.
While campaigning in South Carolina this week, Donald Trump held a press conference to announce that: The Republican National Committee is “in default”. Specifically, Trump charged that the RNC’s actions in packing debate audiences with Establishment Donors constituted a default on the pledge Trump had signed last year that he would support the eventual Republican nominee and not run as a Third Party candidate, and that he is now free to “do what I have to do to win”.
First, let’s note the significance of the specific language Trump has used. Trump is a Real Estate Developer. This business is dominated by contracts: Contracts to purchase real estate, contracts by builders, and contracts for services. The term “default” has specific legal significance in the parlance used with respect to contracts. When Trump uses this term, he is saying that the RNC has breached their contract with him, and that therefore the contract is now null and void.
Is Trump’s claim a legitimate one? Trump is claiming that the RNC has breached it’s promise of neutrality towards his candidacy, and that it would not take any overtly hostile acts to attack or damage Trump’s candidacy. Trump has long let it be known that he has no problem competing on a level playing field, but was concerned that the Establishment would exert favoritism towards its own Establishment standard bearer candidates. Trump says the RNC’s actions packing debate audiences with supporters of certain candidates over others is exactly the sort of favoritism the RNC promised not to do.
Let’s go over the facts. For the debate last Saturday, CBS chose a venue that held approximately 1600 seats. Trump wanted a bigger venue but the RNC said the choice of venue was up to CBS, which broadcast the debate. Fair enough. But then the RNC only gave Trump 20 tickets to the event to distribute to his supporters. They did the same thing to Ted Cruz. The balance of the tickets, almost 1500, the RNC distributed to local party office holders, party workers, and party donors. In other words, the vast majority of attendees were rank and file members of the Republican Party Establishment.
Was the debate audience stacked against Trump? Were they overtly hostile to Trump? The answer is a resounding YES. Brett Baier of FOX News observed after the debate that: “The crowd, clearly, was anti-Trump.”
Breitbart News reported that the RNC says that: “candidates received 600 tickets to invite their guests.” This is disputed by the Trump and Cruz campaigns, who complained they only got 20 tickets a piece. Trump said he barely had enough tickets for his family to attend the debate. Of course, the RNC’s statement might be technically true, they did give out 600 tickets to candidates, but they might not have distributed them equally among the six remaining candidates. The RNC says 550 tickets were given to state and local elected officials, while the RNC kept 367 tickets to give to nationally elected office holders. CBS News, the Peace Center, and Google received 100 tickets.
To observers watching the debate on TV, the hostility was obvious. Trump was booed several times as soon as he opened his mouth to speak, before he had even said anything. That’s about as partisan as a crowd can get. If the RNC’s objective was to falsely portray Trump before a nationally televised audience as being deeply unpopular within the Republican Party, they succeeded.
This is the sort of political machinations that party insiders have been doing to primary challengers for years, and sniggering over it. Other favorite tactics are to plant smears anonymously in the press, misrepresenting something in a challenger’s past, or to put the main primary challenger all the way over to the far side of the ballot from the left hand column, separated by numerous fringe candidates. The Establishment Party is also not above running fake candidates, just to split the anti-incumbent vote and thereby protect the “members of the club”. It’s all part and parcel of playing in the mainline party’s sandbox. It’s an exclusive club, and if the club doesn’t think you have properly paid your dues, they have all sorts of tricks like this to hobble a challenger’s candidacy. Having personally worked on primary campaigns in the Republican Party, I have witnessed every trick mentioned above.
So what is the significance of Trump’s declaration? At this point, Trump is succeeding in using the Republican Party as a vehicle for his own candidacy. He doesn’t need to make a third party run. But it does shed light on why Trump went far off the party reservation during Saturday’s debate, attacking George W. Bush with the Left’s talking points regarding the Iraq War. It is freeing Trump to openly run against the Party Establishment itself. Not a bad move in a year when the voting public is absolutely in an incensed rage against the political establishment, and the Washington Elites.
Trump is making a bid to widen his appeal to Democrat voters, looking beyond the primaries to the general election. His debate rhetoric paid immediate dividends, earning him the endorsement of Code Pink (CODE PINK?!?), reported by both The Hill and the Washington Times. Code Pink “heaped praise” on Trump for his “courage” in attacking George W. Bush for his alleged lies about Iraq and WMD’s.
Trump is cobbling together his own populist coalition, a coalition as diverse as Conservatives, Evangelicals, working class whites, the Nation of Islam, and Code Pink. Trump is running against the system itself, and attracting the support of everyone who is disaffected with it.
Trump’s poll numbers are so far holding steady in South Carolina. The current Real Clear Politics average has Trump at 36%, with Cruz trailing distantly at 18%, followed by Rubio at 16%, Kasich at 10%, Bush at 9%, and Carson at 5%.
Breitbart is reporting that Cruz has slipped with Evangelicals in South Carolina, owing to the news that Cruz does not tithe, and the controversy from Iowa that left many with the impression that Cruz’ campaign won at the expense of telling a lie about Ben Carson leaving the race. Despite the media complaints about vulgarity, Trump continues to attract voters with his “plain talk”.
If you answer “no” to the following question: “Do you feel that you have a voice in the decisions of government?” then you are 85% likely to be a Trump supporter. With 104 million working age adults out of work, with the Republican Leadership giving Obama 1 Trillion dollar budget victories, and with Obama flooding the country with illegal aliens who are likely to illegally cast votes in the next election, disenfranchising many Americans, Trump’s appeal is looking to be a winning hand.