What a strange but fascinating race for the Republican presidential nomination this year.
Whatever one thinks of Donald Trump’s candidacy there is little doubt but that he has turned this contest on its ear. Six months ago the cognoscenti were certain that he would have faded by now, and yet here he is as bold as brass and still the straw that’s stirring the drink, as Reggie Jackson might have put it.
He may be the post-reality show candidate but he certainly reflects our times. Fascinated by power, riches, and celebrity, many are thrilled that he talks back to “the man;” especially when politically incorrect.
Although he repels others with his outrageous statements he has obviously tapped into a national vein of discontent, particularly in the ranks of the Republican Party.
I often wonder if he is for real or, like a gifted carnival barker, does he merely sense which way the wind is blowing? We’ll begin to find out on the night of Feb. 1st at the Iowa caucuses.
Will Mr. Trump’s disaffected legions show their muscle and turn out? It’s one thing to pick up a phone and lambast some faceless pollster. Quite another to brave the Iowan winter on a freezing Monday night, stand before your neighbors,and declare your contrarian views.
Much will depend on the weather. Should Mr. Trump’s troops confound the skeptics by caucusing en masse in sub-zero temperatures then he will have proved that he’s not just a curiosity candidate but a Huey Long who has correctly taken the pulse of America.
He doesn’t even have to win Iowa just not lose in an embarrassing manner; victory will more than likely go to Senator Ted Cruz. No, the Kardashian candidate just has to demonstrate that celebrity and obnoxiousness can transfer into votes. For if a somewhat socially liberal New York Republican can insult a war hero like John McCain and still poll well in evangelical Iowa, there’s no limit to how he can do in the rest of the country.
And what of Mr. Cruz? Despised by his senate colleagues he has gauged correctly that this lack of affection does him little harm nationally where DC power players have never been so unpopular. Oddly enough it’s rarely ever been harder to unseat a sitting member of congress – go figure.
Well, Senator Cruz has figured it out. God, money, and boundless ambition allied with a terrific work ethic will get you far in contemporary politics. Add the fact that he’s a great debater - although he does succumb to the occasional slip. Pledging to “carpet bomb” areas of Syria and Iraq so thoroughly that he’ll discover if “sand can glow in the dark” will hardly endear him to humanitarians around the world, let alone the citizens of those much blitzed countries.
Make no mistake, though, this man has a distinct chance to go the whole way. We should be elated; after all, leaving aside Gov. Martin O’Malley, Senator Cruz would appear to be our most Irish-American candidate.
And what of Senator Rubio? A couple of months ago his star seemed on the rise. He’s obviously a man in a hurry, unwilling to wait his turn and back his mentor and once close friend, Governor Jeb Bush.
But is it just me or is there something insubstantial about the man, he brings to mind Madonna for some reason. Everything seems on the surface with him, especially as he pivots rightward to keep within an ass’s roar of Mr. Trump and Senator Cruz.
I will say that for sheer drama the Republican race leaves the Democratic one in the dust, although a win for Senator Sanders in Iowa would put the cat amongst the proverbial pigeons. Still, I feel certain that the surprises are far from over on the Republican side – never count out a Bush or a New Jersey governor.
Eventually, however, the Republican establishment will settle on a candidate who will challenge the two brash outsiders, Trump and Cruz. Then what?
With the South and evangelicals behind him, Senator Cruz could be the premier Irish-American candidate in 2016. The Lord save us, I suppose there’s an outside chance that we’ll find out if sand indeed can glow in the dark.