Donald Trump has been the Republican frontrunner for the 2016 presidential election since he opened his campaign last year.
Since that time, his lead hasn’t just held; it’s expanded.
While there have been a few challengers — Jeb Bush early on, followed by Ben Carson, and now Ted Cruz — he has pushed others out of the race with insurmountable pre-primary support.
Much of what has fueled his success is what some have called a campaign of anger and divisiveness, and at Thursday’s debate, he was forced by the moderators to confront that anger head-on.
How did he do?
Overall, pretty well. His comments in defense of New York drew surprising tones of agreement from Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley.
Just this once, Trump’s right: New Yorkers value hard work, diversity, tolerance, resilience, and building better lives for our families. -H
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) January 15, 2016
But the one line that put him over the top of all other candidates, and may have very well put Donald Trump on the ballot in head-to-head competition against Clinton come November, pertained directly to criticism from both Democrats and Republicans over his anger.
Fox Business asked him to respond to a veiled shot thrown at him by South Carolina Republican Governor Nikki Haley during her State of the Union response in which she urged voters not to give into the enraged tactics of some on the right — “some” being Donald Trump.
“I’m very angry,” Trump said in response to the question. “I will gladly accept the mantle of anger.”
“When Nikki said it, I wasn’t offended. Our military is a disaster. Our health care is a horror show. Obamacare, we’re going to repeal it and replace it. We have no borders. Our vets are being treated horribly. Illegal immigration is beyond belief. Our country is being run by incompetent people. Yes, I am angry. And I won’t be angry when we fix it, but until we fix it, I’m very, very angry.”
The response from Donald Trump drew hundreds of cheers and was even regarded well by left-leaning sites like Vox.
But in a crowded primary where so many candidates are coming after “the Donald,” fully aware from polling that he is the person to beat, it sealed the deal. Here’s why.
Trump once again set himself apart from every other face left in the race. At one point, there were 16 or so candidates running for the nod, and almost every single one of them would have been preferred by the Republican establishment.
That said, they all sort of became their own worst enemies, and it’s been difficult for them in finding a way to differentiate.
Rand Paul recently took positive steps in that direction by appearing on The Daily Show in a “drinking game debate” with host Trevor Noah.
He also “won” the undercard debate, per the San Francisco Sun Times, single-handedly taking out all of the other participants by simply not showing up.
But beyond Paul and Ted Cruz, who has been criticized by some for being a “Donald Trump Lite,” the rest of the preferred establishment candidates are on the brink of crumbling.
Trump established himself as a unique candidate early by setting his campaign apart from a politically corrupt system.
By self-funding, he was able to say, without rebuttal, that his was the only pure campaign immune to special interests.
By saying the things that others were too “politically savvy” to say, he set himself apart as a champion against PC run amok.
From that point forward, he’s been able to play to the base better than the establishment candidates, and instead of apologizing as a “normal” politician would do, he doubles down on everything, defending his remarks instead of running away from them.
That’s an anomaly on both sides of the political aisle, and it could be what ends up placing him in the White House.
But what do you think, readers?
Did Donald Trump knock it out of the park with his “angry” response, or could one of the GOP contenders still make a surprise run? Sound off in the comments section.