by Rod D. Martin
July 31, 2015

This is turning into quite the phenomenon. In the latest Iowa poll, it’s Trump 31%, Walker 15.4%, Jeb 10%, most of the others grouped within a couple points of 5%, Perry 1.7%, and Graham, Paul, Christie and Pataki at 1% or less.

Walker was leading Trump by 9% as recently as the July 20 Monmouth University poll, so this represents continued strong momentum. Trump is also ahead in Arizona mere days after attacking John McCain, in New Hampshire, and shockingly enough in Florida, where he’s currently at 26% vs. 20% for Bush and 10% for Rubio.

Needless to say, if he can keep this up, Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee.

If you’ll recall, Giuliani was in the high 40s in early 2007, and I poo-hooed it. The reason was very simple: Giuliani was not only pro-abortion, he was actually on video repeatedly advocating taxpayer funded abortion as a constitutional right, and I knew and I said repeatedly that there was absolutely no way his allegedly impenetrable lead could survive widespread realization of those facts. As it turned out, his campaign (led by Chris Christie’s current campaign manager) imploded quite completely on its own. But it wouldn’t have mattered: he could never have won the nomination. His lead was a combination of name ID, star power, hero status coming out of 9/11 and an extremely weak field.

None of that is the case now. Trump has issues, but no deal killers so far. His name ID is high, but certainly not higher than Jeb Bush’s. And the field this year is actually very strong: he’s not a standout among midgets.

In short, this is starting to become very real.

Should it? That’s another matter altogether. There are clearly people in this race who are better qualified to be President, in a few cases much much better. Trump is far better than many claim, and his weaknesses are in areas that tend not to get talked about. Establishment types call him a clown; they don’t point out that we know nothing about what kind of judges he’d appoint (and less about whether he’s given that any thought), nothing about what kind of cabinet officials he’d name, nothing about whether he actually understands the Constitution or supports it, really nothing at all. He’s great on lots of things, but only very superficially. We just don’t know much at all about what he’d do.

That’s not why he’s popular. He’s popular because we know how he’d do it. And we know a lot about him.

Normally the media wants a campaign where we “get to know the candidate” but that’s not needed here. And the Establishment wants to minimize debate, because they don’t want their guys to face real scrutiny by the base (or to have to say things they don’t mean that they’ll have to live down later when they start pandering to people who will never vote for them anyway).

But if you want to beat Donald Trump, all of that has to go out the window. You’re not going to beat him with the usual mud-slinging antics. You want to get him in debates: lots of them. Ideally, you want some of Newt’s suggested Lincoln Douglas debates, wherein he has to defend his positions in depth — against smart people who’ve done nothing but think about those things for years — for hours at a stretch.

This is anathema to the Republican Establishment. But this is what it’s going to take to win. People love Donald Trump because he’s decisive. To beat him, you’ll have to show he’ll make the wrong decision. And that’s a very different thing.

This is not to say that Trump can’t stand up under such scrutiny. Maybe he can. He’s a brilliant negotiator, one of the most successful businessmen of all time, and he’s not one to fail to prepare. He might just knock it out of the park, debate after debate. If he does, there may be no stopping him. But if the other candidates have any shot of beating him, other than just hoping for an implosion that may never come, this is it. If he comes across as unready, his star will fall.