After months of ignoring him in hopes he would just go away, the Republican establishment is nearing panic mode over Donald Trump. The reality that Trump is likely to be the Republican nominee is finally sinking in. This has freaked out the establishment to the point that a super Pac has been organized to wage a “guerilla campaign” against Trump. Republican candidates are starting to run negative ads attacking Trump—a violation of Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment.
“He has a real shot at this. He is the clear front-runner,” Ron Bonjean, a consultant and former aide to GOP leaders on Capitol Hill told Niall Stanage of “The Hill Friday.” “Months ago, we all discounted Trump as a candidate,” Bonjean said but now he acknowledged that it seems safe to assume that Trump is going to continue with this strong momentum right into Iowa.
Republican leadership and the media have largely discounted Trump. In their experience, Trump’s message, his penchant for outrageous statements, and personal attacks would ultimately implode his campaign. For a short time, Ben Carson began creeping up on Trump, but that gave no comfort to Republican insiders. Carson, as it turned out, was a clone of Trump when it comes to outrageous statements.
For months, the centrist media has predicted that each of Trump’s latest over-the-top statements would do him in. It never happened. Then after the attack in Paris, as Trump made even more outrageous statements—even by Trump standards—he went up in the polls. Trump is the clear front-runner by a big margin.
Trump has turned his attention from bashing Mexicans to bashing Muslims. He has recently called for closing Mosques and requiring Muslims to register and carry ID cards. He said that on 911 he saw “thousands and thousands of people” cheering in Jersey City as the twin towers fell. That statement is a lie. No such thing happened and Trump did not see it according to every fact checker and news outlet that reported on 911 at the time. Trump did not back down, he tripled down.
Tuesday, Trump mocked a New York Times reporter, mimicking a person with a congenital condition called arthrogryposis that limits the movement of joint. “You ought to see the guy,” Trump said flailing his arms in apparent mockery of the journalist’s movements. When he was blasted for his behavior, Trump did not issue an apology, he demanded an apology. He said never met the reporter claiming that he has “one of the best memories of all time.”
As it turns out, that was yet another Trump lie. The reporter, Serge Kovalski, covered Trump for years. “We were on a first name basis,” Kovalski told the NY Times. “I’ve interviewed him in his office. I’ve talked to him at press conferences. All in all, I would say around a dozen times, I’ve interacted with him as a reporter while I was at the Daily News.”
Establishment Republicans fear that not only will Trump be the nominee, but he will hurt the Republican brand. That is a double edge sword because Trump appeals to a large portion of the Republican base, and they support Trump because they believe he is what the Republican brand should be.
The Wall Street Journal broke the story that GOP political strategist Liz Mair is starting a guerilla campaign to take Trump down. Rick Wilson, a Florida GOP strategist has agreed to help produce TV ads for Mair’s group. John Kasich’s PAC is running anti-Trump ads as well.
It remains to be seen if the attacks on Trump will work or backfire. The ads may make Trump’s supporters more determined. Every other time pundits thought Trump has gone too far, they were wrong. This is uncharted territory. Get out the popcorn and enjoy the show.