In December 2014 I wrote in this very column, "The elite media will scoff at a potential Donald Trump candidacy for president ... And as usual they will be wrong." I haven't changed my mind.
So let me explain to political experts and analysts who are trapped in that "D.C. bubble" why it is that, despite many comments by Trump that they consider to be deal-killers for him, he remains at the top of most polls going into next week's Fox News debate among the GOP hopefuls.
Trump's lead has Republican "big deals" upset. They view his tough rhetoric to be that of a rogue candidate who will "turn off" groups that they have targeted in their attempts to cobble together a presidential victory in November 2016. Trump during his maiden speech as a candidate said that when Mexico sends its people our way, they're not sending their best, that they are instead sending people with lots of problems; people who are bringing in illegal drugs and that have criminal records.
The press and the PC police in the GOP went crazy. Their dream of winning Latino votes in 2016 seemed to be melting around them. They immediately called on Trump to back off on his statements. He didn't, and to their surprise he rose to the top of many surveys of voters in this '16 free-for-all fight for the nomination.
In reaction to Trump managing to attract 9,000 people to a campaign event in Arizona, Sen. John McCain labeled those who attended "the crazies" and rebuked Trump for his comments about illegal immigrants. (Make that "undocumented" immigrants).
So when asked about well-known former POW McCain and his comments on Trump, Trump said, "He's not a war hero," and, "He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured."
The PC police and the GOP fancy pants in New York and Washington, D.C., went berserk. How dare anyone say such a thing! Surely this would be the end of "the Donald." But it wasn't. Subsequent polls in various states have shown Trump to continue to either lead the crowded pack of candidates or at least be near the top. "How could this be?" asked the so-called experts, who condemned Trump and provided instant analysis that suggested that he was starting to come unraveled, as they had predicted.
It's simple, guys. The man is speaking his mind on every issue. He doesn't try to be politically correct. And he doesn't see a now-broken-down, arrogant and oh-so-senatorial John McCain as some sacred cow. The fact is that there are a good number of conservative voters in the GOP who are tired of McCain's flip-flops on issues and his dismissive attitude toward "the great unwashed" masses.
Yes, McCain is a hero, but that great service has been honored many times over many years. And the voters who thought McCain was a weak candidate against Barack Obama and an unpredictable elitist in the Senate have sided with Trump.
As I wrote late last year, "In Trump's case, 'Rough and Tumble' is his middle name." But that's what many voters are searching for. And Trump is no dummy. He knew darn well that taking on the likes of McCain would keep his campaign on an upward trajectory, as conservative voters, increasingly tired of bland candidates and inactive leaders in Washington, search for someone who can stand up to the so-called GOP establishment and elite media.
Ironically, the only other beneficiary of Trump-mania is Jeb Bush. The former Florida governor has built-in name recognition and is raising money hand over fist. While Trump's comments continue to suck the political oxygen out of the room for the other "conservatives" vying for a crumb's worth of media coverage, Bush sits pretty, knowing that he will have a reliable establishment base in most states and the money to take down any other candidate who dares to raise his or her head -- that is, any candidate other than Donald Trump.
Trump, who is self-funded, will have the ability to match someone like Bush dollar for dollar when the primaries get tough and the tough ads get going.
As I wrote in December, don't underestimate Mr. Trump.