On Saturday night in South Carolina, Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump appeared to cement his status as the party’s frontrunner – and, perhaps more importantly, that much closer to becoming its nominee. And then, a notable domino came crashing down.
After Trump landed a decisive win in the state’s primary, Jeb Bush, the GOP’s presumed establishment candidate, dropped out after finishing in fourth place.
In an instant the Bush political dynasty was history, and a long chapter in American politics closed. How? How could a campaign bankrolled by $150 million with such name recognition fail?
How could a billionaire businessman who has never held elected office, whose campaign depends on Twitter, personal insults, public anger and charisma have unseated such a powerful family?
Pundits and experts alike point to many factors and missteps by Jeb – among them, underestimating Trump’s appeal. Ultimately, what the outcome seems to say is that the rules of the game to the White House have changed.
Donald Trump’s Perfect Foil
Peter Beinart – The Atlantic
…Jeb’s candidacy gave Trump an excuse to attack George W. Bush. When Trump began disparaging the former president last October, and then resumed his derision last week, many politicos warned that he was making a mistake. “I can’t believe the Republican nominee is going to be [someone] who said George W. Bush lied to the American people about the Iraq war. That comes from kook-land, folks,” exclaimed Lindsey Graham….
It didn’t backfire. Attacking Bush proved key to Trump’s appeal.
Think about the phrase Trump’s supporters use again and again when asked what they like about him. He isn’t “politically correct.” In the professional conservative world, “political correctness” is confined to the left. But for Trump’s supporters, who are less doctrinaire, it means something broader. It refers to the things that elites won’t admit but “ordinary people” (or at least the “ordinary people” who like Trump) know are true.
Donald Trump Takes Ownership of Republican Party
Rick Klein – ABC News
Donald Trump now owns the Republican party….
He’s done it by bringing the party along to his positions. Exit polls show three-fourths of South Carolina voters supporting a ban on Muslims entering the United States – a position Trump enunciated first, and stood for on his own.
He again managed to split the evangelical vote, despite coming in last among voters who preferred a candidate who “shares my values.” He ran strong across income levels, among independents as well as Republicans, and among voters who saw immigration, jobs and terrorism as the top issues.
For Bush, It’s Not His Father’s GOP
The Editorial Board – USA Today
It’s all but impossible to imagine Jeb, or any other Bush for that matter, running against Muslims and immigrants or in favor of government shutdowns. The Bushes have too much history and are too rooted in reality for an electorate that wants its candidates to wage political warfare and take no prisoners….
But the demise of Jeb Bush’s candidacy is more than a party simply tiring of one family fielding too many candidates for too long. It’s a symbol of a party on the verge of migrating too far from the political mainstream for its own good.
After South Carolina
WIlliam Kristol – The Weekly Standard
Here’s the contrary argument:
Trump lost ground over the final week in South Carolina, and also did a little less well than he’d done in New Hampshire.He doesn’t have real momentum, and the ceiling at around a third of the vote looks real. Trump also did relatively poorly in the parts of South Carolina that look more like the big voting areas in Ohio, Florida and other major states going forward—he lost Charleston and Richmond Counties to Rubio, despite Bush and Kasich poaching 20 percent of the moderate vote, and only won Greenville narrowly. Bush is finally out of the race, and Rubio (presumably) picks up most of that vote and a ton of money….
So Trump’s vulnerable, and the most significant thing to happen in South Carolina was not Trump’s victory but Rubio’s comeback. It showed candidate skills and resiliency, and it very much increases the odds of a Trump-Rubio showdown.
South Carolina Shows How Donald Trump Has Reshaped the Republican Party in His Image
Michelle Hackman – Vox
Take Trump’s proposed blanket ban on Muslims entering the US. Once considered an extreme proposition of questionable constitutionality, the idea won over 74 percent of Republican primary voters — whether or not they ultimately even voted for Trump.
In fact, only about 41 percent of Muslim ban supporters actually picked Trump; a solid 20 percent broke for Rubio. Of course, after Trump began trumpeting his anti-Muslim views, Rubio countered with what my colleague Matthew Yglesias argued is an even more radical plan, to shut down any meeting place (including coffee shops) where Muslims might gather….
The lopsided margin of voters who favor the idea should drive home how thoroughly Donald Trump has implanted himself in the minds of voters, so that even if he doesn’t ultimately become the party’s nominee (which, it must be said, he very well might become), his ideas will continue to shape the race.