CLEVELAND- Going into the first GOP presidential debate being held in the city that will host the Republican National Convention in eleven months, there’s no question who won the summer: Donald J. Trump.
The bombastic billionaire real estate titan has dominated both the media coverage and unsurprisingly, the polls, having twice as much support as his next closest rival, former Florida governor Jeb Bush.
And Trump has managed to do so in spite of having stumbled into tar pits of controversy that would have swallowed up the candidacies of practically anyone else.
First there was the non-issue of Trump’s statement on illegal immigration- that there were hardened criminals crossing over from Mexico to the United States.
Despite the fact that government statistics (and unfortunately the murder of Kathryn Steinle) support his position, Trump’s comments were declared offensive by the left and their confederates in the ideologically homogenous media-entertainment complex.
Weak-kneed corporate executives always looking to show they’re progressive (lest their third-world manufacturing practices get targeted next by the professional outrage circuit), followed their lead and began cutting business ties with Trump, not only contributing to the appearance that Trump said something worse than he actually did, but also hitting him in the pocket.
However, in contrast to the behavior of many high profile Republicans who fall into a catatonic state in the face of controversy, particularly when accusations of “insensitivity” are mixed in, Trump did not walk back his comments but stood his ground.
When the Left went for his wallet, Trump did not issue a mea culpa but shrugged off the business loss while mocking the left’s useful idiots at Macy’s (“I have never been happy about the fact that the ties and shirts are made in China”) and threatening to sue Univision and NBC for abandoning his Miss USA pageant.
Perhaps the moment where the Trump seemed on the verge of implosion came at the Family Leadership summit in Iowa when responding to US Senator John McCain’s criticism that Trump was the candidate of the “crazies”. Trump first mocked McCain’s bottom tier graduation from Annapolis before questioning whether someone who was captured was truly a “war hero”.
The reaction by the GOP establishment, presidential candidates and even grassroots activists who are no fan of McCain and very sympathetic to Trump’s message was swift and unanimous: McCain was a war hero and Trump should not have denigrated the Arizona senator and former POW’s military service.
It was a Hindenburg situation as you could see the Trump candidacy falling from the sky in a giant fiery explosion.
Yet at the end of the brouhaha, Trump weathered that controversy as well and veterans were swarming campaign events in South Carolina not to picket The Donald but to rally for him.
It should be noted that Trump came the closest to apologizing for what he said while McCain appears to stand by his less than charitable characterization of the conservative voters upset over the state of the country’s porous southern border.
When his fellow Republican presidential aspirants tried to escape the statistical polling shadows and curry favor with the media by trashing him, Trump swung back hard and connected, costing the senior senator from South Carolina his cell phone.
If the Trump candidacy ended tomorrow, he will have at a bare minimum schooled his fellow Republican candidates how to deal with a belligerent media- and all of the contenders for the GOP nomination should come to the realization that the press does not just hate Trump, but all of them- without exception…even Jeb.
Americans have flocked to Trump not because they like him personally- I suspect in this age of White House promoted economic jealousy and class warfare, a sizable portion of the country does not- but they like to see a potential president with swagger and guts, especially as the eight year apology tour that has been the Obama Administration draws near its final lap.
America, and particularly the Right, loves Trump’s fearlessness, both in word and deed.
As the fight for the GOP nomination transitions from the Trump-centric “earned media phase” to the “pre-Iowa caucus debate phase”, there’s no question who won the first round. By a landslide.
How The Donald handles taking live fire from nine mostly media-famished rivals hungrily coveting his polling stats and his limelight will determine whether he can sustain his sizable lead.