Is there anything worse than a President Trump?

Donald Trump’s presidential bid is still being treated with a mixture of scorn and fear over here, while in the States he is currently winning the Republican race for their nomination, while liberal American looks on in terror and the Republican establishment still can’t quite believe their eyes.

I have grown mildly addicted to the nomination race on the Republican side, and while it’s true Trump has said some controversial things during the campaign, he has also made it one of the most fascinating contests I can remember. A lot of people on the left seem to tremble at the thought of Trump winning the nomination, and celebrated when he lost the Iowa Caucus, but if we look at Trump’s competition, it seems to me he is by far the best candidate on the Republican side. Here’s who he’s up against:

Ted Cruz

With the style of a quack televangelist, Cruz is a gigantic arsehole. Everyone who knows him well seems to despise him. Cruz was accused of some seriously shady practices in Iowa, including telling voters one of his rival candidates was dropping out, and sending other voters mail saying they had committed a “voter violation” and would be in trouble of they did not vote. Cruz is also the most right wing candidate in the race. If you are worried by Trump winning, you should be terrified at the prospect of a Cruz win (but don’t worry he won’t).

My rating: 0/10

Marco Rubio

Youthful looking and somewhat charismatic, Rubio is one of the Republican establishments main picks along with Jeb(!) Bush. That is to say he is bought and paid for by big business. If Rubio wins there will be a continuation of the status quo. Rubio had some momentum after the Iowa Caucus where he came third but his debate performance on the eve of the New Hampshire Primary killed that momentum dead. The higher ups of the Republican Party still haven’t given up on Marco though, so he is probably second favourite at the moment. This clip from the New Hampshire debate is a joy to watch. He is now known by many as Marco Roboto.

My rating 3/10

 

Jeb(!) Bush

Another establishment favourite, but who seems to be losing big at the moment. Bush started his campaign wanting to distance himself from his brother’s legacy, and so all his posters said Jeb! rather than Jeb Bush. That didn’t seem to work so he’s recently taken his Mum and brother out on the campaign trail with him (reminds me a bit of Jacob Rees Mogg and his nanny). Also bought and paid for, Bush has been given a tough time by Donald Trump. He spent $36 million on his campaign in New Hampshire only to come a distant 4th.

My rating 3/10

Ben Carson

Dr Ben Carson is a brain surgeon of some repute. By all accounts he is a good man. Sometimes says some odd things. Can’t win and will almost certainly drop out after the South Carolina Primary on Saturday.

My rating 4/10

John Kasich

Current governor of Ohio. Likely to go back to his day job shortly. Labelled the ‘moderate’ of the contest. Kasich came second in New Hampshire, but won’t go much further.

My rating 5/10

There are only 4 people who could feasibly win the Republican nomination at this point (and 2 of them have little chance). Trump, Rubio, Cruz and Bush. Ultimately, it will probably come down to Rubio vs Trump. To me, Trump would be preferable to all of those. I would even prefer him to win the Presidency than Hillary Clinton who seems to me hopelessly compromised. A Trump vs Bernie Sanders race would be interesting, but I can’t see Hillary losing to Bernie at this point. The Democrats just wouldn’t allow it.

If you look beyond the lurid headlines about Trump, he seems to me to be the best candidate bar Sanders. To me, a Cruz, Clinton, or Bush (again!) presidency would be a much more scary prospect.

Could Donald Trump become the next US President?

Betteridge’s law of headlines says that any headline that ends with a question mark can be answered with the word ‘no’. This law nearly always holds, but in this case, I think we have to consider the possibility that the answer might be yes.

A lot of people still react with incredulity to this suggestion, particularly after some of the very public statements he has made. There was the time he branded Mexican immigrants rapists. Or the time he said John McCain wasn’t a war hero because he got captured by the North Vietnamese. Then there was his apparent mocking of a journalist’s disability. And then the biggy, when he recently called for a temporary ban on Muslims travelling to the US.

If most people running for office had said or done just one of these things, their campaign would be over, but Trump has actually been improving in the polls and his lead over his Republican rivals is now in double digits. Has the world gone mad? What is going on?

Conventional wisdom to now has been that Trump is not serious about running, he will drop out early, or that the latest controversy will finish him off. None of these predictions has so far been borne out. One person has consistently been making correct predictions about the Trump campaign, and his reasons for making these predictions are rather interesting. That person is the creator of the Dilbert cartoon strip, Scott Adams. He has written a series of blogs arguing that rather that committing heinous blunders, everything Donald Trump is doing is pre-planned. Trump, Adams argues is using ‘persusion’ skills to convince the American electorate that he is the only candidate that has answers to America’s great problems (Trump often uses the word problem), and that he’s actually just saying what everyone’s already thinking. It does seem to be working.

This video is quite a good explanation of how Trump communicates when answering a question:

A recent study looked at the campaign speeches of all the candidates for President and compared them against reading ages. While you needed a high school level of English to understand the speeches of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, Trump’s speeches could be comprehended by anyone with a reading age of above grade 4 (when kids are around 9 years old). This makes him accessible to nearly all US citizens. Being able to communicate your ideas at that level might seem over-simplified, but if you want to reach the widest possible audience, it can be a really smart move.

Trump also has an uncanny knack of swatting away rivals with a simple put-down that seems to stick. Jeb Bush was the front-runner 6 months ago, but is now polling less than 5%. Trump had labelled him “low energy”, and he hasn’t seemed able to shake that off. Trump seems to be setting his sights on Hilary Clinton next. He has also said she lacks stamina and recently said “women don’t like Hilary”. We’ll see if any of that sticks.

At the moment then, I’m quite taken with Scott Adams’ hypothesis about what Trump’s strategy may be, but being a Brit, and not really plugged in to what’s going on in the States, I can’t be sure if he’s right. He is certainly bullish about Trump’s chances, predicting a landslide victory.

What do you think? From this side of the Atlantic, it seems unbelievable that Trump could get anywhere near the Presidency, but there are signs it may not be as fanciful as many think.