Donald Trump has changed the game.
In a firestorm of politically incorrect rhetoric, Trump went from “vanity candidate” to “GOP frontrunner,” and only seems to be gaining steam. The Republican establishment, predictably, can’t stand this state of affairs, and the anti-Trump machine seems to be getting started.
“The Donald” first started making waves by referencing the high rates of criminality among illegal aliens, remarks the mainstream media took pains to characterize as intolerant of all Hispanics. In the wake of his remarks, several of Trump’s business associates, including NBC and Macy’s, severed ties with him.
Trump refused to back down on the issue, citing FBI crime stats and advocating tighter border controls and stricter deportation guidelines. Subsequently, he shot to the top of the Republican Party polls, and is also the highest ranked “second choice” among likely voters.
Repeatedly, Trump has refused to back down. Instead, he continues to attack, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. CNN’s Anderson Cooper tried to pin him down on the “birther” controversy, and Trump brushed aside the question and got back on message. He told an MSNBC reporter that she clearly didn’t know what she was talking about. He tweeted that Hillary Clinton couldn’t even satisfy her man, so clearly couldn’t satisfy America. At a press conference, he called out a reporter for misquoting him, and then told the entire assemblage that they are a bunch of liars.
Aside from standing up for his message and refusing to be cowed, Trump has also proven adept at stirring patriotic sentiment. He has said over and over that America can be great again, and he intends to help make it so. In Phoenix, he came out to Hulk Hogan’s (yes, that Hulk Hogan) theme song, “I am a Real American.” During that same speech, he drowned out a heckler by starting a “USA! USA!” chant.
It is not all sunshine and roses for Trump, though.
During just his visit to Arizona, he was snubbed by the Republican governor, and both Republican Senators of the state were decidedly negative about Trump, saying he is “coarse, ill-informed, and inaccurate,” among other unflattering snippets.
The biggest potential hurdle for Trump, though, comes from Jeb Bush. Bush has been the “beltway leader” in the Republican primary seemingly since the 2012 elections ended. Trump has targeted the former Florida governor early and often, calling him “weak” and “a total disaster” during the aforementioned Cooper interview.
In his campaign kickoff speech, Trump asked the crowd of Bush “how the hell can you vote for this guy?”
Perhaps most provocatively, Trump’s official Twitter account retweeted “#JebBush has to like the Mexican Illegals because of his wife.”
Bush took the bait, telling a New Hampshire crowd “You can love the Mexican culture, you can love your Mexican-American wife and also believe that we need to control the border.” Later in the same speech, he attacked Trump’s immigration ideas more specifically. “I honestly think we need to provide a path to legalize status, not citizenship,” he said. “The idea that we’re going to round up 11 million people and send them back — it’s not real. It’s not grounded in reality.”
Bush also pooh-poohed Trump’s current ascendancy, saying he wanted to focus on his campaign and what’s best for the country, and not “someone who I doubt will be president and is not a constructive force for our party.”
Other Republicans have evidenced clear retreat from Trump, with most sounding a refrain along the lines of Ted Cruz on Meet The Press: “I salute Donald Trump for focusing on the need to address illegal immigration. The Washington cartel doesn’t want to address that… And I salute Donald Trump for focusing on it. He has a colorful way of speaking. It’s not the way I speak. But I’m not gonna engage in the media’s game of throwing rocks and attacking other Republicans. I’m just not gonna do it.”
Former Texas governor Rick Perry had no qualms about engaging in that game. “I’ve said very clearly that Donald Trump does not represent the Republican Party,” he said. “I was offended by his remarks. Listen, Hispanics in America and Hispanics in Texas, from the Alamo to Afghanistan, have been extraordinary people, citizens of our country and of our state. They have served nobly. And to paint with that broad a brush that Donald Trump did is — I mean he’s going to have to defend those remarks. I never will.”
With all the furor he has caused, Trump’s signature issue continues to gain traction in conservative media and with voters. Breitbart reports that 347,000 convicted illegal aliens remain at large, and these illegals accounted for 37% of all federal sentences in 2014. Immigration went from a non-issue six months ago to front and center, and message boards are lighting up with pro-Trump posts.
Clearly, the establishment GOP has a Trump problem. So far, Donald has played the best cards.