Donald Trump is leading in a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll (tied with Mike Huckabee).
To be sure, some — who want to disparage Republican voters — will attribute Trump’s success solely to the “birther” issue. While that may certainly be a factor, there are several other reasons why Trump — whether his campaign is a publicity stunt or not — is catching fire:
1. Confidence. As Joe Scarborough noted Wednesday morning of Trump: “He’s getting in Barack Obama’s face”. Toughness and boldness are highly-prized attributes among today’s primary voters — probably more important than ideology. Trump is aggressively going after Obama, and some conservatives are eating it up. My guess is that a lot of people who don’t buy into the “birther” stuff still like the fact that Trump has the moxie to bring up what is, decidedly, a dangerous and politically incorrect issue.
2. Duh, winning. Trump has been a successful businessman. Some people believe that if you can be successful in one sphere of life, it is transferable to another. This may be a fallacy, but it works politically — especially when times are tough, the GOP field is decidedly weak, and people are looking for a savior.
3. Coolness. He’s famous and has mainstream bona fides. Conservatives can talk all they want about not liking Hollywood, but they are arguably more enamored of celebrity than anyone. Because Trump is seen as “cool” and because he is considered a legitimate celebrity and a winner — conservatives may perceive that he can escape the mockery from the mainstream media that Republicans have traditionally had to endure. What is more, maybe Trump can legitimize conservatism and make it “cool” (or, at least, not lame) to be openly Republican?
4. Freedom. Trump may not truly want to be president — a fact which may liberate him from the bonds that make politicians sound like politicians. Remember how funny Bob Dole was after he lost his presidential race? Now compare that to his demeanor during the campaign. There’s something freeing about doing something for fun when you don’t have much to lose. Trump would do well to remain unguarded — even if he does decide to take this seriously.
5. He’s not a politician. There was a time when political experience meant a lot. In the old days, Trump would have had to parlay his business success and fame into being elected governor before making a serous run for the presidency. One gets the sense that those days may be over. The old rules are either gone, or are perhaps going. In fact, Trump may be aided by the fact that he has never had to cast a vote or appeal to a parochial constituency. His style seems to match the current tea party zeitgeist.