The Donald Trump Effect

In a little over three weeks, Republican candidate and real estate mogul Donald Trump has become both pioneer and pariah within the Republican Party. Cable news shows love him and late night television hosts love to hate him. Love him or hate him, Donald Trump has everyone’s attention.

Backlash to his rapid-fire succession of inflammatory anti-immigrant remarks have only slightly hit Trump where it hurts, losing lucrative business relationships with Macy’s, NASCAR, NBC Universal, and Univision – but not where it counts. His provocative rhetoric has elevated him above his fellow GOP candidates, leading Jeb Bush, a candidate with name recognition of his own, in not one but two polls. According to the Hill, an Economist/YouGov poll showed Trump as the “preferred GOP nominee” among 15 percent of respondents ahead of Bush’s 11 percent. Public Policy Polling showed Trump with 16 percent of North Carolina votes. According to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, Trump and Bush are in a “dead heat” showing Trump with 15.8 percent of Republican support compared to 16.1 percent for Bush.

If polls are to be believed, Trump can actually go on to win the Republican nomination and eventually face off against Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. But doing well in the polls does not mean that he will gain the necessary electoral support to win the nomination.

Reuters reported respondents from the same poll indicated that among three candidates, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, and Marco Rubio, Bush would be the party favorite, leading at 42 percent compared to Trump’s 28.4 percent. Rubio was a distant third with 20 percent of the vote.

Trump’s antics have brought him to the forefront of an already long list of political rivals, leaving fellow candidates with a to-do list that includes not only building momentum within their own campaigns, but having to answer for Donald Trump, effectively minimizing their own exposure while maximizing air time for Trump, further solidifying his preeminence in the GOP. A more recent example is that of Senator Lindsey Graham’s interview with CNN on State of the Union. Graham, who has yet to “crack the top 10 in the polls,” talked more about Trump than his own campaign.

So what is so special about a wealthy business man from New York? Donald Trump is winning the media race for two main reasons: his politically incorrect speech and his financial freedom. Trump’s billionaire status means he is not beholden to any particular interest group or financier, which means he is free to upset anyone and offend everyone. Many believe the GOP took so long in rebuffing the reality TV personality because they secretly agree with his tirade, but wanted to avoid alienating the Latino vote they are so desperately trying to court. Mark Krikorian, executive director for the Center for Immigration Studies, told the Hill that voters need a champion on illegal immigration.

“Trump resonates with people who are tired of hearing lies and clichés from conventional politicians, both Republicans and Democrats.”

The Donald will continue to shake up both the presidential race and the GOP as debates draw nearer. Trump will either break the GOP or create a stronger one as they unite against what John McCain calls the “circus.”

[Photo by Charlie Light / Getty Images]