A Fox News poll released on August 16th, showed Donald Trump continuing to enjoy a dominant lead in the Republican race for the 2016 presidential nomination. Trump polled at 25 percent in the 17 candidate field, well ahead of retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson who was in second place with 12 percent support. Ted Cruz was in third place at 10 percent, with no other candidate in double digits.
Trump’s commanding lead is no longer surprising, given that he has been comfortably ahead in several recent national surveys, released from multiple different polling firms. What makes the Fox News poll so frightening for GOP strategists, however, is that Trump’s nearest competitors are not establishment favorites like Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio. Instead, if Trump falters, Ben Carson or Ted Cruz appear to be next in line to ascend to the top of the GOP pack.
Pundits have long argued that Donald Trump will eventually fade as voters take a more sober look at the Republican options and cease their reckless flirtations with candidates on the fringe. However, that “conventional wisdom” is predicated on the notion that Republican voters both want to win in 2016, and that they recognize that choosing a more moderate candidate is their path to victory.
However, the Fox News survey suggests that GOP voters are disinterested in choosing one of the Republican establishment candidates with extensive experience governing. In fact, given their preference for political outsiders like Trump and Carson, Republican voters may even see elected experience as a liability. “If you’re part of the government, you’re part of the problem”, they reason. The notable exception to that adage is Texas Senator Ted Cruz, whose main accomplishment as senator has been as an obstructionist who keeps the U.S. Senate from getting things done.
Republican party leaders have spent the better part of the last two decades stirring up their base with anti-government rhetoric. That strategy has helped them win victories over Democrats, but not without consequences for establishment GOP politicians, who are now facing the wrath of the anti-government voters they helped cultivate. With GOP voters looking at Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz as their potential saviors, its pretty clear that the angry mobs are not just upset with Barack Obama.
They have grabbed their pitchforks and torches to go after the Republican establishment as well. Jeb Bush and Scott Walker may not have noticed yet, but Republican voters aren’t looking for somebody with executive experience as governor. Instead, they are looking for a candidate with little or no experience, because they have been conditioned to virtually reject the idea of governing at all.