I've tried to avoid writing about Donald Trump but that has become increasingly harder to do as his numbers climb in the polls, numbers matched perhaps only by the sheer madness of it all. With a new poll out today from Public Policy Polling (PPP) now showing the irascible tycoon with a nine point lead over his nearest would be rival, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Trump's rise in the polls is impossible to ignore.
Still in looking at the PPP poll, Trump's lead isn't what surprises me the most but more on that in a moment. Trump has a name recognition advantage over his rivals for one and the media-craven self-annointed maven has over the past few weeks benefitted from appearances on The View, the Today Show not mention just about every time slot on Fox News as well as from rather public feuds with Gail Collins of the New York Times and Juli Weiner of Vanity Fair.
Each of these episodes have, in turn, had a multiplier effect with each new outrageous statement being assiduously rebroadcast across every medium imaginable. Never one to shy from publicity, Donald Trump has basked in the glory of his own self-adulation reveling in every word uttered by admirers and detractors alike. There is no greater cause to Donald Trump than Donald Trump and in his mind there is no such thing as bad publicity even as he writes his own political obituary.
The question now is whether this rise in the polls will lead our narcissist-in-chief to put his money where his mouth is and actually run for commander-in-chief. Stay tuned. If he does run, Donald Trump will convert the Greek tragedy that is today's GOP Presidential field into a full blown Roman farce.
The PPP numbers in all their farcical proportions:
Only 38% of Republican primary voters say they're willing to support a candidate for President next year who firmly rejects the birther theory and those folks want Mitt Romney to be their nominee for President next year. With the other 62% of Republicans- 23% of whom say they are only willing to vote for a birther and 39% of whom are not sure- Donald Trump is cleaning up. And as a result Trump's ridden the controversy about Barack Obama's place of birth to the highest level of support we've found for anyone in our national GOP polling so far in 2011.
Trump's broken the perpetual gridlock we've found at the top of the Republican field, getting 26% to 17% for Mike Huckabee, 15% for Romney, 11% for Newt Gingrich, 8% for Sarah Palin, 5% for Ron Paul, and 4% for Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty.
The number that jumps out at me is that 23 percent of Republican primary voters are only willing to vote for a birther. That's just insane but it speaks to level of insanity that has beset the GOP. What began as a fringe theory pushed by avowed racists which certain elements in the GOP chose to countenance for their short-term political gain now threatens to drive the Republican party off a cliff causing long-term political damage.
That 23 percent number is not only bound to keep Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty up at night but also Karl Rove and Reince Priebus. It would be nice to think that this is only a GOP nightmare developing but frankly it doesn't serve the country to have a quarter of Republican voters to be so profoundly delusional.
Still, I've had the misfortune of actually listening through some of these interviews and it's not difficult to see why Trump appeals in these uncertain times. He's not much for subtlety or nuance. In a country that has always been looking for the next Teddy Roosevelt to charge up Capitol Hill and take no prisoners, Trump plays to the under-educated, over-zealous, often xenophobic hyper-nationalist crowd. He is unapologetically the voice of the America First crowd.
His economic creed is that of right-wing populist that plays on the fears of a working class that has seen their living standards decimated by globalization and free trade deals gone awry. On Libya, he's only interested in removing Qaddafi if we can grab their oil. On Iraq and Iran, he is just as blunt suggesting on his brand new “Mondays with Trump” segment of Fox & Friends that American soldiers will have died in vain if we leave Iraq and let Iran go and take the oil fields.