Open Thread: Trump As The Frontrunner

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Jul 29, 2015 7:40 PM
Open Thread: Trump As The Frontrunner

Trump is ahead in the polls. He’s doing well. We all know this. He’s also getting some help from the media, some of whom say that it’s time to cover the billionaire business magnate as the frontrunner for the GOP nomination, instead of a source of mockery (via Inside Sources):

Dave Price of Iowa’s WHO-TV; Ben Hoover, who has spent a decade covering politics in South Carolina; and Erin McPike, formerly of CNN — appeared on a “Race to 2016panel hosted by InsideSources and America’s Power. Each pushed back against the narrative advanced by much of the national press that Trump’s bombastic behavior and incendiary remarks make him an unserious candidate.

“The national media has had this all wrong,” McPike said, referencing recent polls showing the business mogul leading the race nationally as well as in early primary states. “I think they need to cover him as the frontrunner and take him seriously.”

McPike also argued that media mockery of Trump likely accrues to his benefit, and Hoover said he agreed.

“The more he’s beat up by the national press, the better he’s looking in South Carolina,” the Palmetto State reporter said. “South Carolina loves an underdog — especially an underdog getting beat up by the liberal, left-wing national press.”

So, just as our colleagues do every now and then on our sister site–Hot Air–let’s have an open thread about Mr. Trump.

FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver admitted that Trump is a political story, as well as entertainment. At the same time, he described the billionaire as a “the world’s greatest troll.” It really doesn’t matter if this is an underhanded compliment. Trump is dominating the news, thus don’t be shocked if you see more stories about him from various news sites. Yet, this is also how trolls prosper in the media cycle, which is why Silver says we shouldn’t feed them:

In the long run — as our experience with past trolls shows — Trump’s support will probably fade. Or at least, given his high unfavorable ratings, it will plateau, and other candidates will surpass him as the rest of the field consolidates.

It’s much harder to say what will happen to Trump’s polling in the near term, however. That’s in part because it’s hard to say exactly what was driving his support in the first place. Trump wasn’t doing especially well with tea party voters or with any other identifiable group of Republicans. My guess is that his support reflected a combination of (i) low-information voters who recognized his name and (ii) voters who share Trump’s disdain for the trappings of the political establishment and (iii) voters who were treating him as an inside joke or a protest vote, making him vaguely like an American equivalent of Beppe Grillo. None of them will necessarily be deterred from declaring their support for him because of his comments about McCain. Some of them might even be encouraged.

But what if you want Trump to go away now?

[…]

After 12 years of writing on the Internet, I’ve learned that the old adage is true. Don’t feed the troll. The only way to kill a troll like Trump is to deprive him of attention.

Over at The New York Times, Nate Cohn, noted that Trumpmentum in the press is all part of the vetting process. Cohn mentioned how Herman Cain wasn’t really considered news until he was one of the top contenders in the GOP field by the fall of 2011. Then, his 9-9-9 economic plan was criticized and the sexual harassment allegations surfaced. By November, his support was cut in half. Yet, he mentioned how polls showed that very few Republican voters were not turned off by the sexual harassment allegations. So, the good news is that Trump won’t take a dive. It’s too early for that.

Some commenters thought that Trump’s remarks about McCain would have ended them, and then new polls were released shortly thereafter showing the Donald’s unabated rise. Cohn reminded us that these polls were taken before the McCain remarks. He then circles back to Cain:

For good measure, it is not at all clear that we should expect Mr. Trump to suffer discernible losses in the near future. Take Herman Cain, who faced reports that he was accused of sexual harassment in late October 2011. These reports were surely more problematic for his candidacy than Mr. Trump’s comments about Mr. McCain, and yet the early polls conducted after the allegations did not show much evidence that they had any effect on his standing. One month later, Mr. Cain was out of the race.

If sexual harassment allegations didn’t immediately bring Mr. Cain down, there’s not much reason to think Mr. Trump’s ratings should crash either. It will take time for the effects of the scrutiny brought by Mr. Trump’s comments to take their toll. Maybe even a long time. What’s important is that the process of scrutiny, from party leaders and journalists, is now underway.

So, in all three instances, the polling shows that Trump has a longer shelf life than many are assuming, his story is political (as well as entertaining), and because of that he should be covered in the media as the frontrunner.

Hoover’s point about the media loving an underdog in South Carolina is exemplified in Newt Gingrich’s 2012 primary win, where he slammed moderator John King of CNN for bringing up allegations that he wanted an “open marriage” with his first wife. Oh, and he did pretty well in the debate too.

You already know my opinions of Mr. Trump. I’m not fond of him as a candidate, but I admit he’s entertaining. And he’s tapped into an angry electorate who are just sick of Washington and the absence of the rule of law that’s been exhibited by the Obama administration. I’ve said my piece on the matter.

Now, feel free to debate amongst yourselves. Does the Donald deserve to be treated as the frontrunner by the media, or is his surge really about the impact less educated Americans have on politics, as the Washington Post  pointed out, which probably means the press still won't take him seriously? At the same time, how does one feel about a GOP frontrunner who used to be opposed to the most basic tenets of conservatism in his past?  Should he be given a chance like Mitt Romney, or thrown into the pit? 

Either way, Trump is here to stay.