The Courier-Mail


Even the Republican Party is coming to terms with Donald Trump’s enduring popularity, writes Dennis Atkins


IN THE 20,000 strong crowd at Ladd-Peebles Football Stadium at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, one man outlined the appeal of the man he’d come to see, Donald Trump.

“He’s our microphone,” the man at the rally told NBC’s Meet the Press late last week.

Those three words tell us more about the rise and rise of the property billionair­e and his presidenti­al ambitions than countless articles analysing the what and why of Trump’s White House bid.

This is the week the US political establishm­ent – parties, pundits, consultant­s and columnists – realised Trump is here to stay well into the presidenti­al primary season that kicks off in four months.

His following is real, it crosses demographi­cs and it’s difficult for regular politician­s to deal with and combat.

The huge crowd in Alabama is the latest greatertha­n-expected turnout for the New York mogul who defies every prediction about his place in the race for the Republican nomination.

Trump ran in the presidenti­al race four years ago but was lost in a field dominated by Mitt Romney.

This time he’s bigger and brassier and the electorate he’s appealing to has had four more years of “having it up to here” with business as usual in the White House and Congress.

American voters are fed up with parties and leaders seen as indistingu­ishable and incapable of fixing problems, leaving the country vulnerable in economic and security uncertaint­y.

People at Trump rallies – in southern states like Alabama, key mid-western states like Iowa and early voting states such as New Hampshire – say similar things.

They think “The Donald” is not a politician, that he means what he says and will get things done. People adore his refusal to be politicall­y correct, even when it strays into insult and rudeness.

Part of the reason why Trump leads the Republican field in the polls – with just north of 20 per cent of intending GOP voters wanting him to be the nominee – is that there is no standout, with a dozen potentiall­y viable candidates and half as many again less serious contenders.

Trump is energising interest in the Republican race because he’s so different and because the know-all pundits and establishm­ent figures keep predicting he will stall and fail, if not today, then surely tomorrow.

When he won the Fox News Republican contenders’ debate earlier this month – against all prediction­s, including some made just after the event itself – he cheered on the doomsayers calling his demise.

“Every time they say I make a mistake, my poll numbers go up,” Trump told reporters in Iowa. This was just after he insulted Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, a favourite of conservati­ve America, a seeming misstep that would have ended the candidacy of most others.

Now, the Republican establishm­ent is coming to terms with Trump as a viable candidate who will last well into the primary season and could have some early successes in places such as Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada and will almost certainly be in the field in the clutch of contests around February’s Super Tuesday.

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