Donald Trump Is the Quintessential 'Establishment' Candidate
Every four years, conservative Republicans get excited at the prospect of nominating a true believer, and every four years, they find themselves outmaneuvered by a moderate with high name recognition and serious difficulties differentiating himself from Democrats on major issues. That moderate candidate generally sweeps up the nominating contest with a strong showing in the more liberal Northeast, states like Connecticut, Delaware, and New York.
After real estate tycoon Donald Trump won those states in the "Acela primary," media outlets and Republican operatives started accepting his [rather quite false] declaration that he is the "presumptive nominee." These very actions led Erick Erickson to say that Trump's major challenger, Ted Cruz, must have some serious wind behind him. Erickson noted that the reports of Trump's inevitable nomination "read not so much defeatist as suppressive." Could this be because Cruz has an increasing chance at winning Indiana, after Governor Mike Pence's endorsement?
Indeed, the attacks against Cruz have strained credulity. Former House Speaker John Boehner actually called the Texas senator "Lucifer in the flesh" this week. At the same time, Boehner noted that Trump was his golfing buddy, and fit in some praise for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. This led U.S. Senator Mike Lee to say, "Donald Trump is the establishment."
While many Republican leaders are joining The Donald's campaign rather late, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie backed him in late February. But these are sideshows to the real argument as to why Trump should be considered an "establishment" candidate. That has less to do with the GOP leaders backing him, and more to do with his history of crony capitalism and his manipulation of the media.
For the full reasons why Trump is the ultimate "establishment" candidate, we have to turn back to the beginning of the race and understand how the tycoon with no government experience led all the early polls, and how this "shocking" development virtually ensured his rise. There are three major reasons why Trump had the headwind for most of the primary -- reasons that have very little to do with his support for a border wall or his insistence that our foreign policy should be "America First."
1. The Power of Name Recognition
Did you ever wonder why incumbents have a much better chance of being re-elected over their challengers? This is especially true in primaries, where more conservative candidates (or more liberal ones) often challenge a sitting congressman or senator who seems to have sold out his or her principles for power.
Challengers face an uphill battle less because the incumbent is popular and more because the voters actually know who that person is. Name recognition is a huge part of any primary, and sitting congressmen or senators have numerous benefits in this regard: News outlets report on their actions and votes, companies and local public institutions often praise or at least mention their names, and the incumbents can reach out to constituents year-round, before and after every election. Incumbents usually win because voters know who they are, while challengers are shrouded in mystery.
On the presidential level, this problem is magnified a hundred-fold. Media outlets try to cover candidates as much and as fairly as possible, but that's far from easy -- especially when you're dealing with 17 (!) different candidates. When a pollster calls and asks the average voter, "whom do you support of these people: George Pataki, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich, or Donald Trump?" that voter is probably not going to know who most of the people are. Especially early in the race, very few of the candidates were well-known, or known much at all.
Next Page: Surprise, surprise, everyone knew who Trump was.