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Donald Trump has slipped in Iowa’s respected Des Moines Register poll and suddenly finds himself 10 points behind Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the state. Not one to take rejection lightly, it’s probable that Trump will bash Cruz in Tuesday's debate -- and anyone else who dares criticize him.
Cruz said that he didn’t trust a President Trump with his “finger on the button,” presumably the button that orders a nuclear attack. On Sunday, Trump — the same man who has recklessly disparaged Mexicans, a female news anchor, Muslims, African-Americans, and immigrants, to name a few -- said of Cruz that in the Senate he's "a little bit of a maniac.”
“I don’t think he’s qualified to be president," Trump added, "because I don’t think he has the right temperament. I don’t think he’s got the right judgment. ... You can’t walk into the Senate and scream and call people liars and not be able to cajole and get along with people.” Trump was referring to Cruz’s notoriously bad relationships with fellow senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Trump added: “He’ll never get anything done and that’s the problem with Ted.”
That Trump-Cruz exchange is likely a preview of what could occur at the debate — as well as in the weeks ahead during the primary season.
Regardless, the Trump candidacy, which is now firmly established, benefits Democrats seven ways:
1. His near-monopoly of TV news coverage has blotted out the sun on news coverage of Democrat Hillary Clinton. These days, when asked about Trump, she beams, chuckles and says very little, barely hiding her delight at his rise to prominence. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders seems offended by Trump’s rise, having had difficulty cracking network TV as he had in the summer with his large rallies.
2. With Trump a distinct possibility as the Republican nominee, GOP insiders are already looking to overthrow him at their convention and substitute someone more to their taste, someone who won’t cause the Republicans to lose elections from president to Senate to House to governor to mayor to every office where partisanship is a factor.
3. Trump’s reaction to an insiders’ brokered convention is to claim it will never happen because he will win the most delegates. As for the nonbinding loyalty oath he signed, pledging not to run as a third-party candidate, he laid the groundwork for not honoring it saying he’d be “greatly disadvantaged.” For a man who signed pledges to pay back money he borrowed on four occasions, then declared bankruptcy on four occasions, a loyalty oath wouldn’t be difficult to ignore.
4. If the Iowa poll is an indication that Trump may be faltering, he won’t waste a second before criticizing those ahead of him in the polls (see Cruz, above), or for that matter, any candidate who knocks him. He will spend the primary season, roughly Feb. 1 to mid-June 2016, attacking, belittling and smearing any opponent. In other words, he will give Democrats plenty of ammunition for the general election. In some ways, he already has.
5. Should he decide to run as an independent, something businessman Ross Perot did in 1992, he would be able to pay enough people to get him the signatures needed to get on the ballot. Perot made it onto every ballot. Any place Trump is on the ballot, he is bound to take votes from the Republican nominee, a devastating splitting of the vote that should benefit the Democrats.
6. As an independent, he would turn his attacks on those who wronged him and made an expensive third-party candidacy necessary -- you guessed it, the Republicans.
7. Even if Trump withdraws entirely, he will remain a media star, and Fox News won’t be able to resist getting his opinions on everything from President Obama to Kim Kardashian. We are living in the Season of Trump and it will not end soon or quietly.
Dan Payne is a Democratic political analyst and regular contributor to WBUR Politicker.
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