By Zachary Toillion
After skyrocketing in the polls, a new Donald Trump has begun to emerge after months of bombastic comments that led the candidate to utterly dominate the media cycle. Trump is employing a two-part strategy. The first is getting attention that would establish a base of support. Trump’s second phase is to establish himself as a plausible president.
Trump compared undocumented immigrants to rapists and criminals. Shortly thereafter he made light of Sen. John McCain’s time as a POW during the Vietnam war. Trump later made comments to Fox News debate moderator Megan Kelly that were widely interpreted to be sexist. Trump didn’t stop there, releasing fellow Presidential candidate Sen. Lindsay Graham’s personal cell phone number to the public. Later, in a Rolling Stone interview he claimed presidential contender former HP CEO Carly Fiorina shouldn’t be President, exclaiming “Look at her face”. Trump has personally attacked Sen. Rand Paul, Sec. Clinton, Sen. Sanders, Gov. Jeb Bush, Dr. Ben Carson, and Gov. Rick Perry-calling them “haters”, “losers”, and “low energy”.
Trump has also been combative with journalists including Jorge Ramos and Anderson Cooper. More recently Trump appeared undisturbed by a town hall questioner who suggested Obama was a Muslim and that Muslims were destroying America.
Trump’s combative tone has led him to much success in the Republican primary. According to most political polling, Republican voters favor a non politician. Nationally, 53.4 percent prefer a candidate with no political experience. In Iowa that percentage is 56.2 percent. For New Hampshire, that number is 50.8%.
In the beginning, Trump offered almost no specific policy outlines or even general ideas. This has started to change. Trump has stated he wants to raise taxes on financial institutions, has blasted exorbitant CEO pay and supports a plan where the wealthy can opt out of receiving Social Security benefits. Trump has stated money in politics amounts to bribery and is anti-Super PAC, opting to self finance his campaign. Despite being opposed to the recent Iran nuclear deal, Trump has stated he would aggressively “police” the agreement. Additionally, Trump supports a major investment in infrastructure, and opposes the Trans Pacific Partnership. Ironically, many of these positions are similar to Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders
Trump’s new demeanor was on full display during the recent CNN Republican debate in which he took on a more mellow tone while fending off a litany of attacks, often cracking jokes with both the moderators and fellow candidates. This was also the case when he visited Urbandale Iowa September 19th. During his remarks, Trump offered a more optimistic message free of attacks on other candidates instead opting to address policy questions asked by the audience. Trump made it a point to appeal specifically to women and Muslims whom he has had a rocky relationship electorally so far. Before the rally was over, Trump stated he would be releasing a series of policy papers in the coming weeks to flesh out his campaign’s intellectual backbone. Perhaps most importantly, Mr. Trump has hired staff in the key first two states of Iowa and New Hampshire in order to build an organization to lead him to wins in the critical first two states.
Trump’s pivot is likely also a direct response to the rise in political fortune of Dr. Ben Carson and CEO Carly Fiorina who have gained significantly in the polls. Fiorina now narrowly leads Trump in New Hampshire according to the latest polling, and Ben Carson is less than five points away from surpassing Trump in Iowa. Still, the Trump campaign has a lot to be happy about. The candidate still leads Nationally, and over 20 different states. Only time will tell if Trump’s gambit will work.