The ever-bolstering support for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump saw an upward tick Jan. 19 at a campaign rally in Iowa when former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin officially endorsed Trump. Palin’s endorsement likely attracted even more supporters for the once unlikely candidate.
Trump’s June 16 announcement took everyone by surprise thanks in no large part to his comments about Mexico and the Mexican people: “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people.”
Not many expected his candidacy to last very long after such controversial statements. Yet despite an entire summer full of more of Trump’s controversial statements, the billionaire has found himself a front-runner for the Republican nomination.
There are many aspects to Trump’s potential as the nominee, such as his debate style, his character and the current climate of the U.S. political system to find out where Donald Trump stands today.
Laurance Strait, assistant professor and director of the speech and debate team at USM, discussed how Trump gains support through his speaking narrative.
Strait said Trump gains support through his narrative and identification with the audience.
“In certain occasions and context, I think Trump does very well,” Strait said. “I think he ends up doing really well in these kinds of debates and political rallies.”
Strait, however, has criticism for Trump. Strait said the de- bates that Trump has been a part of for over two months are not real debates.
“What I consider to be a real debate—you make a bunch of arguments and someone else answers those arguments and provides new arguments,” Strait said. “That’s not really what those debates on CNN are.”
Strait said despite this weakness, she believes he does well on television because the format favors him. Because of Trump’s high poll numbers, he receives more time and more attention from the media.
A reason for that is the entertainment value that Trump brings to every public event, according to Taylor Rhodes, president of College Republicans at USM.
According to Rhodes, people are entertained by Trump and what he says in front of a camera. Comedians, such as retired Daily Show host Jon Stewart, have made light of Trump’s comments.
“Trump is an entertainer,” Rhodes said. “The things he says are just entertaining and that draws in viewers.”
It is because of this entertainment factor that CNN drew in record breaking viewership towards its Republican debate.
Donald Trump’s entertaining rise has also given questions as to the state of the American political sphere. Hattiesburg fifth ward councilman Henry Naylor said he hears a lot of disgruntlement toward establishment politicians.
“I agree that people do have a tendency and perhaps even now to some degree look for that candidate who is not a politician,” Naylor said.
Naylor believes social media has played a big part in Trump’s success because through social media people are better informed about the political spectrum.
Naylor said social media has allowed candidates, like Donald Trump, to post opinions about something or someone. People would buy into exactly what that is before looking at the facts and the candidate would add ‘This is why I’m running for President.’
Naylor said that this strategy works, and most people will not come back to see if they are right in their belief.
When asked whether Trump would receive the kind of sup- port now if he ran for office 15 years ago, Naylor does not believe so. Naylor thinks time has changed, and 15 years ago, people were not as tuned into politics as they are now.
Of course when people do tune into politics, they are taking quotes at face value rather than analyzing true intentions.
Robert Press, associate professor of political science at USM, describes what is termed as theatre politics.
Out of all the candidates, Press believes that Trump truly excels at the kind of grand- standing and posturing side of election campaigns that is the state of America’s political environment. Trump’s boasting and incendiary speech is made in an attempt to look more presidential than President Obama and the other candidates he is running against.
When asked whether he believed Trump looked or sound- ed presidential, Press responded with an emphatic no.
“He’s rude, he’s crude, he doesn’t get along with people and some of the things he says are just outlandish,” Press said.
Press said in order to be president, you have to learn to get along with your colleagues and to compromise on certain issues. This aspect has Press concerned about Trump’s chances further down the line in campaign season.
It seems given all of these problems, Trump’s race to candidacy and the White House would have been over in the summer months of his campaign. Yet here we are at the start of the election year, and Trump is not only still around in the campaign, he’s thriving.
Trump, despite his flaws and with a change of voter opinion over the years, has somehow managed to become a front-runner in the race for president.
A recent CNN/WMUR poll on Wednesday put Trump at 34 percent, which is a 20-point lead over his rival and second place runner Ted Cruz.
As the saying goes, perception is reality. The reality is Donald Trump has a chance to become the Republican nominee and possibly president of the United States.