Two weeks ago, Trump’s attacks against Megyn Kelly worked shockingly well.  He successfully deflected her (and Fox’s) attempt to derail him, briefly took Fox News off the hunt, and boosted his ratings (also known as poll numbers) .

But today, after Kelly’s return from vacation, Trump is back to attacking her and is using fairly sexist lingo (like Bimbo) to do it.

I think he’s making a mistake.

“But Wait!” you, my non-existent readers shout.  “You said in your last post that he was being clever in frivolously attacking Heidi Klum and keeping the media spotlight on him.”

That’s true.  And Trump often seems to have the right instincts on who to attack and how.

Trump is basically inventing a new form of political campaigning: politainment.  Right now, he is dangerously close to being boring.

He already defeated Megyn Kelly (and actually had her sent packing for almost two weeks).  That story line is over, for now. Any continued attacks against this vanquished foe are tedious and repetitive.  Imagine if, in Game of Thrones, King Joffrey put Ned Stark into a coma on week 6 and then beheaded him while he was unconscious on week 8.  That’s not exciting TV.

I may be wrong, but part of what will make Trumps strategy work is to continually shift unpredictably from target to target.  By the time his victim has figured out a way to hit back, the attention has already shifted to the new Trumprage de jour.  But, if Donald Trump stays in the ring with an opponent too long, someone may finally deal a significant blow against his campaign.

OMG he did it again right!  Donald Trump said something off the cuff and needlessly stupid.  This time about Heidi Klum, of all people.

In a sit down with the New York Time’s Maureen Dowd, Trump for some reason decided to comment on the Heidi Klum’s declining sex appeal.  “Heidi Klum. Sadly, she’s no longer a 10.” he volunteered as evidence of how his candid remarks can get him in trouble. And once again, Donald Trump finds a way to drown out every other presidential candidate for another day.

It’s win win win.   Trump gets the headlines for a statement that is more fauxrageous than actually outrageous and will ultimately do him much more good than harm.  Heidi Klum has already jumped on social media to post pictorial evidence that she is, in fact, still a ten and will bask in a week of basically everyone in the media reaffirming how awesome she looks. (It would have been nice if Klum’s response to Trump would be to reject the shallow notion that any individual’s attractiveness or worth can be measured on a crude 10 point scale, but alas).  Her reality show, Project Runway, will likely get a nice little ratings boost too.

But most importantly, the infotainment industry gets what they want: something scandalous but ultimately meaningless that fills time and attracts eyeballs for one more day.

Get used to it everyone, this is the future of presidential politics in the United States.  It is the culmination of a culture that places amusement and entertainment above all other pursuits, coupled with a fragmented  media system that is insatiable for content.   It’s not just that Donald Trump has figured out how to dominate this new system that gives him an edge, he’s also better than everyone else at it.

Mr. Trump’s success so far goes beyond endless amusement.  It’s that, like John Stewart or John Oliver, he coats his political messages in a crunchy fried batter that is entertaining. In order for his tactics to work, he has to occasionally blend real politics into the act.

To the voters Trump’s amusement factor is derived from his willingness to be candid and deliver sound bytes and promises about such issues like immigration and foreign trade that are extreme but also tap into that potent combination of fear and prejudice that uncertain economic times produces.

To the media, Trump’s ability to create a headlines that generates monster traffic every 24 hours is literally golden.  This is one goose they will not carve up for a long time.

And to the Republican establishment, Trump may represent a realistic path to reclaim all three branches of government and reverse much of the Obama administration’s legislative accomplishments.

His ability to satisfy the needs of all three of these important entities continues to strengthen his political position.

When Donald Trump first announced his candidacy, I, like many, mocked it’s amateurishness and the crassness of his attack on Latino Americans.  My father is a big and early supporter of Mr. Trump, and at the time I very confidently dismissed the Donald’s chances and reaffirmed my strong belief that Hillary Clinton was going to win this election.  Two months later, and it is clear that my initial assessment was dead wrong and, much like Obama’s rise in popularity, Trump is reflecting a strong desire from the American voter for dramatic change in the way government is conducted and for whom government acts.

Things can change fast in the new political reality.  Secretary Clinton (in shades of 2008) has clearly shown herself to again be a somewhat weak campaigner and political strategist.  In a different time and a different America, her strategy of playing defense and trying to protect her strong political advantage would be a no-brainer.  But the problem with this strategy is that it is inherently conservative and implies to voters a satisfaction with the current economic and social climate.

Clinton’s problem is that Democratic voters, like much of middle America, are living in unsustainable times.  Young voters are leaving college with colossal debt and meager job opportunities and are increasingly abandoning the aspirations of their parents and grandparents.  Unions are being sapped of their influence due in part to political opposition but also as part of an inevitable shift as more and more workers compete for fewer solid jobs.  The affordable care act improved much about health insurance in the United States, but still leaves the middle class vulnerable to rising premiums, huge deductibles, and un-regulated medical and drug costs. It’s no wonder that Bernie Sanders is getting the crowds and gaining in the polls.  At least he is willing to acknowledge the harsh realities of working Americans.

Can Sanders beat Clinton?  Probably not, he’s really not that skilled a politician and Clinton has a massive fundraising advantage.  But Sanders is not Clinton’s only problem: the questions related her use of private email server as Secretary of State could open the door to a death by a thousand cuts.  She is not handling the scandal well and it is providing the Republicans with ample opportunity to attack her.  At this point, Clinton is still the favorite to win the Democratic nomination, but her campaign has to accept the fact that she will not get there unscathed.

So why do I think that Trump is the front runner for the Presidency?  The weakening of Hillary Clinton is one development that works in his favor.  If Clinton enters the race weak or is forced out by scandal, the Democrats have no one to replace her with.  Biden, O’Malley, Sanders, even long-shot Gore can’t win in the current climate, especially if Trump is the nominee (and Trump this week has shrewdly and repeatedly introduced the notion that the email scandals will force Hillary to drop out of the race sooner than later).

It’s not just the current collapse of the Democrats that bolsters his chances.  I think Trump legitimately has a better than 50% chance of being the Republican nominee.  It comes down  to one simple fact: the Republicans don’t have anyone better.  Jeb is the brother of the worst president in recent times (and I don’t care how much money he’s raised, his brother’s wretched legacy is one albatross that can’t be glossed over).  Scott Walker has about the same appeal as a meal of sardines on white bread.  And the rest of them are either too inexperienced or quite frankly just terrible politicians.

But more than that, there are signs that the Republican establishment is shifting towards Trump.  A week ago, they threw everything they had at him and set up a brutal war of words between him and Megyn Kelly.  One week later Megyn is on “vacation”, Trump has mended fences with Roger Ailes (and possibly the Murdoch’s), and he was just top billing on Meet the Press.  Trump’s interview with Chuck Todd was very interesting.  If you look at Trump’s language, it is clear that he is getting some much-needed help on refining his message and improving his image with key groups (most importantly women).  The tone of his discussion on abortion and Planned Parenthood are exactly where he needs to be to win over the women who voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004. His improved politiking suggests two important things: a) that some skilled political operatives are moving into his camp and giving him good advice, and  b) that he is taking their advice.

Over the next few weeks I will go deeper into my analysis of why I think Trump is indeed emerging as a front runner and I will include some historical and statistical analysis to back up my claims.  Being the front runner this early in the game is not an assurance of ultimate victory.  But, given the two surprising turns of events required to get here (Hillary’s stumbles and the GOP’s change of heart), it is an impressive accomplishment for Donald Trump.   One thing is for certain, it is no longer credible to marginalize Mr. Trump as a joke candidate. At this moment, he’s more likely to be the one to sit in the Oval Office in January 2017 than any other person.


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