According to the polls, the backlash against Donald Trump for his comments about illegal immigration has only improved his chances of becoming president. Trump's surging popularity has been confirmed by multiple polling groups. He leads Jeb Bush by four percentage points in the latest Economist/YouGov poll, with 15 percent of respondents choosing him as their “preferred GOP nominee for president.” A North Carolina poll found Trump leading among Republican voters in the state with 16 percent of the vote. CNN’s national poll has him trailing Bush, but his popularity compared to the other, more established candidates is undeniable.
Trump’s rise on the right has been similar to that of Bernie Sanders’s on the left. Sanders espouses a populist rhetoric, appealing to the progressive sensibilities of voters who resist the moderate, traditionalist campaign of Hillary Clinton. Trump, like Sanders, claims to be uncontrolled by special interests. Both speak candidly about the troubled economic situation of the country, although both have drastically different ideas about how to solve that issue.
Candidates like Trump and Sanders have a tendency to attract a lot of attention during the earliest stages of the campaign season, only to lose out to more “reliable” candidates later on. One of the most recent examples of this phenomenon is Ron Paul, whose 2008 and 2012 campaigns gave birth to a large libertarian movement but ultimately failed to catch on among more moderate GOP voters. As Matt Taibbi pointed out in his Rolling Stone article “Give ‘Em Hell, Bernie Sanders,” the failures of fringe or underfinanced candidates can at least partially be attributed to the fact that the media dismisses them as unrealistic long-shots for the actual nomination. Everybody expects Clinton and Bush to be on the ballot, so everyone else in the race is forced to navigate a much more difficult campaign trail.
Although his policies aren’t discussed as often as the few controversial sentences he muttered about immigration, Trump has been dominating media coverage lately. According to the New York Post, Trump accounted for 48 percent of all social and traditional media political conversation last week. His reactions to statements from other presidential candidates, his brash Twitter account, and his refusal to apologize for his statements about Mexican immigrants all have been making headlines on a daily basis. For now, the media coverage is boosting Trump’s possibilities of actually becoming president. Whether that interest can be sustained when the coverage dies down and the debates begin remains to be seen.
According to a recent CNN analysis, Trump has almost no chance of securing the Republican Party’s nomination. A company called Pivit — which, of course, has partnered with CNN for this election — puts Trump’s chances of winning the nomination at an estimated 1 percent. It’s difficult to determine whether the data is trustable. It’s accompanying press release shows political bias, and seems counterintuitive compared to Trump’s recent high placement in several different polls. “The number of Trump sponsors also shorting the Trump brand is growing: NBC Universal, Univision, Televisa, Macy’s, NASCAR, Serta, ESPN, PGA of America and others have either terminated or are evaluating their commercial deals. At the same time, the public’s confidence that he is willing to take continued pain has decreased just as quickly,” the statement reads. “The lesson here? At the potential expense of future branded skyscrapers, Mr. Trump may want to slow his roll.”
Trump may have committed business suicide with his comments about immigration, but the polls show that his political dreams aren’t dead yet. For some reason, however, it seems inevitable that Trump will never actually be the name on the ballot associated with the Republican Party. Even if the public continues supporting him, Trump is not necessarily welcome in the party for which he's seeking the nomination. His expected entrance to the official debates has other GOP candidates worried, mostly because they don’t take him seriously as a contender. While unorthodox candidates like Trump don’t typically sustain the type of attention they can receive early on in election season, the fact that the real estate mogul is polling so high should be a sign to the rest of the candidates that voters aren’t content with the GOP norm. His presence in the race will at least force Washington insiders on both the left and right to reflect on the issues that he’s not afraid to bring up in a provocative way. There's always the chance that he'll win.
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