Trump uses his strength to lead the polls – Fresh from attacks on all sides at the second Republican Presidential debate on Wednesday, Donald Trump is trying to keep his momentum going on the campaign trail. Trump entered the presidential race in controversial style back in June when he claimed that Mexican immigrants were criminals and rapists. He has continued this aggressive rhetoric since then, saying John McCain, who spent more than five years as a POW in Vietnam was not a war hero because, in Trump’s words, “I like people that weren’t captured”.
Trump has also made derogatory remarks about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, and fellow presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina, leading to calls that he is sexist and out of touch with women. He refuses to apologies for his remarks, and regularly doubles down when asked to comment. Despite all of this, Donald Trump has been leading in all the polls and is the clear front-runner in the race to become the Republican nominee for President. This is all the more surprising when looking at the list of candidates running against Trump. They include, the son of President George H. W. Bush, former two-term Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush; the current Governors of Wisconsin and New Jersey, Scott Walker and Chris Christie respectively; and three prominent Senators: Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.
The crucial reason why Donald Trump has surged in popularity is the fact that he is showing strength. He has depicted himself as a strong leader, one who will project power and not be pushed around. This could be seen at the recent debate, where Trump would talk over the other candidates, and openly mock them for their low numbers in the polls, almost to the point of bullying. His straight talking, authoritative approach has resonated with the base of the Republican Party, who see Barack Obama as weak and having failed to preserve America’s strong influence throughout the world. These people point to a number of so-called foreign policy failings of the Obama Administration, such as Russia’s annexation of Crimea; Bashar al-Assad continuing to hold onto power in Syria; the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq; the United State’s failed immigration system; and a terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, which killed an American Ambassador.
Donald Trump has obviously recognized that a large part of the Republican Party is crying out for a strong leader and has run his campaign accordingly. In a recent poll, 81% of respondents answered yes to the question, ‘Do you think Donald Trump has strong qualities of leadership?’ In contrast, Jeb Bush, who was an early favourite for the nomination, was only seen to have strong qualities of leadership by 55%. Trump’s strategy has been successful up to now, but it remains to be seen whether he can maintain his lead in the long term.
He has been slow to release any specifics on policies, preferring to answer vaguely, saying things like, “Don’t worry, I have the best plan! I will get it done!” with extra emphasis on the ‘I’ and the ‘best’. If the other candidates are able to change the discourse of the campaign into a more substantive debate, less focused on style, then Donald Trump may be in trouble. One thing is for sure; Trump will not go down without a fight, and no one is going to bully the nomination away from him.