Donald Trump's appeal to 'angry' Republicans keeps hopes alive

Donald Trump has insulted women, veterans and Mexican-Americans. While he continues to outdo his fellow Republican presidential hopefuls in the polls, how likely is it that the blunt businessman will be able to keep that momentum going?

But can his momentum continue past Republican primary season?

Donald Trump's supporters 'tend to be Caucasian males with lower levels of educational attainment,' says Emily Ekins, a research fellow at the CATO Institute. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Donald Trump seems to have a knack for insulting wide voter demographics — Mexican-Americans, veterans, women — at least according to his critics.

Despite frequently making headlines for these crass remarks, Trump continues to come out ahead of his 16 opponents in the race to secure the Republican U.S. presidential nomination.

The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll, taken after last week's first candidates' debate and Trump's celebrated feud with a female television anchor, found him with essentially the same support, 24 per cent, double his closest rival, that he had going into the event.

"There's an old saying that nobody ever went broke underestimating the good taste of the American people," says Lewis Gould, author of The Republicans: A History of the Grand Old Party.

The politically incorrect, tell-it-like-it-is wannabe politician is an example of that, Gould says.

Trump has capitalized on many Republicans' anger and frustration with their party's performance over the past several years.

But can that momentum be sustained if he should gain the Republican nomination and face off against Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton for the votes of the majority of Americans, not just those within his party?

Resonates with frustrated Republicans

A large segment of Republicans are angry with their party leaders for failing to follow through on some of their promises, like repealing Obamacare, says Gould, and Trump speaks their language.

This is the kind of change America needs.- Trump supporter's Reddit comment

For example, when he announced his presidential ambitions, Trump lamented that "the American dream is dead" and Chinese leaders are smarter than their American counterparts. He pledged to use his business smarts to #MakeAmericaGreatAgain.

These are the kinds of frustrations Americans express around the water cooler, Gould says.Trump "speaks to their most intense anxieties and anger about the American political system."

If you want a sampling, a recent Reddit thread of Trump supporters argued that he would change  American politics for the better.

"I feel like he would actually make a difference," one comment reads. "Too many presidents have come and [gone] without trying to upset everyone. Effectiveness should replace political correctness, and I think this is the kind of change America needs."

Non-university educated white males tend to make up the bulk of Trump's supporters, wrote Emily Ekins, a research fellow at the CATO Insitute, in an email.

Echoing the sentiment of the Reddit thread, they feel he's "authentic, aggressive and willing to take on the Washington and GOP establishment."

Scandals don't matter to 'Trumpistas'

Many supporters seem to justify his offensive comments, and Gould says that is because he resonates with about half of the Republican base as "the answer to their anger."

Trump has already weathered several controversies since he joined the Republican nomination race.

Early on in his campaign, Trump insulted Mexicans by saying their government sends "criminals, drug dealers, rapists" into the U.S.

A few weeks later, he claimed Senator John McCain was "not a war hero" and asserted he preferred "people who weren't captured."

During his first Republican presidential debate, Trump dismissed questions about his past disparaging comments about women. He ignited more controversy by suggesting afterward that Fox moderator Megyn Kelly treated him unfairly and "had blood coming out of wherever" during the debate.

People predicted Trump's McCain and Kelly comments would do him in, Gould says. But he's emerged relatively unscathed.

That was even after NBC and Televisa severed ties with Trump and announced they would no longer broadcast the Miss Universe Pageant  that he was involved with after his comments on Mexicans.

Ekins points to two recent polls that showed his support among Hispanics declined. Following his comments about Kelly, Erick Erickson, editor of RedState, a Republican news and commentary site, uninvited the real estate tycoon from a gathering the publication hosts with many of the Republican candidates.

Still, Trump continues to lead the Republican candidate polls overall.

"I don't know what he could do to disturb the Trumpistas," Gould says.

'Very small group' of supporters

Currently, he's battling for a small segment of the American population — people who vote in the Republican primary race, says Heather Cox Richardson, a history professor at Boston College. 

Colby Delaney of Kennesaw, Ga., wears his homemade Donald Trump shirt to the RedState Gathering tailgate party on Aug. 8. Delaney, who has been a Trump supporter, was disappointed that he was no longer going to speak at the final event. (Ben Gray/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Associated Press)

"This is a very small group that is attracted to him right now," she says.

He would "absolutely not" be able to muster up the same level of support from the general population should the Republican Party select him as their 2016 presidential hopeful, which Richardson says is unlikely.

American demographics would make it difficult for him to succeed in the race.

At this point, he's basically turned off anybody who isn't a die-hard supporter, Richardson says of his disparaging comments.

What's more, millenials now outnumber baby boomers in America, and that younger generation is "overwhelmingly on the left."

There are also about 54 million Hispanic people living in the U.S. — or about 17 per cent of the country's total population — as of July 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's population estimates.

Gould agrees that Trump would face difficulty in winning over the broader American population.

"If it were a Trump-Hillary Clinton match? I think most bookies would rather put their money on Clinton."


  • This story originally reported that Donald Trump said Megyn Kelly "had blood coming out of whatever" during the debate. He actually said "wherever."
    Aug 11, 2015 9:24 AM ET


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