X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week. If you receive it, you’ll also find your subscriber number at the top of our weekly highlights email.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.spectator.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050. If you’ve only just subscribed, you may not yet have been issued with a subscriber number. In this case you can use the temporary web ID number, included in your email order confirmation.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

If you have any difficulties creating an account or logging in please take a look at our FAQs page.

Politics

Sorry establishment Republicans, The Donald isn’t dead yet

Even if his bubble was burst in Iowa, his campaign has exposed deep cracks in the GOP power structure

6 February 2016

9:00 AM

6 February 2016

9:00 AM

If Donald Trump had won in Iowa on Monday night, everybody would still be saying what a brilliant candidate he is. His decision to shun that Fox News debate, just four days before the caucuses, would be seen as a tactical masterstroke. Looking at his poll lead ahead of the New Hampshire primary next week, journalists would be saying that he had effectively secured the Republican party nomination.

He didn’t win, though. He came second, almost third, and now the narrative about the Trump phenomenon can be turned upside down. Trump’s refusal to abide by the established rules of campaigning was foolhardy. Ducking the debate was a big mistake. The victory of Ted Cruz, the conservative ‘grassroots’ candidate, proved the enduring power of organised politics. And the late surge for Marco Rubio — who surprised everyone by finishing just 1 per cent behind Trump — showed that, despite all the disgruntlement among Republican voters, the party establishment can still come out on top. Trump’s barmy rebellion now looks ready to collapse, and people will ask if the celebrity businessman was ever that serious about becoming president.

Before dismissing Trump’s candidacy, however, it’s worth examining what he has achieved. He won 24 per cent of the vote (against Cruz’s 28 per cent and Rubio’s 23 per cent) in Iowa, a state in which, until a few weeks ago, nobody thought he had a chance. Trump has rather sweetly spent almost $500,000 on ‘Make America Great Again’ baseball hats. He appears to have spent almost nothing on boring but important activities such as canvassing or researching voter preferences, however. He has given his campaign about two-thirds of its $19 million funds (‘It’s not worth it!’ he tweeted this week), but that sum looks piddling compared with the $47 million raised by Cruz or the $112 million behind Hillary Clinton. Still, through the sheer force of his personality, and his media shock value, he almost pulled off a ridiculous victory.

Trump’s campaign may well melt away — just as the Democratic populist Howard Dean’s did in 2004. But bear in mind that Trump had only a seven-point poll advantage before the voting began on Monday. In New Hampshire, where the next vote will take place next week, it is 20 points. And even if the Trump bubble has popped, his campaign has exposed deep cracks in the Republicans’ power structure. Party loyalists and self-described moderates are now flocking to Rubio, who after his strong finish in Iowa looks poised to scoop the nomination. Rubio should now be able to mop up the support of the failing establishment alternatives — Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Chris Christie — and emerge as the pragmatic choice against Ted Cruz, whose hard conservatism frightens the mainstream. In a match-up against Hillary Clinton (the still-presumptive Democratic nominee, just), 44-year-old Rubio polls better than Trump or Cruz.

[Alt-Text]


Rubio is far from an ideal candidate, however. The success of Trump and Cruz suggests that voters are looking for a hard man for tough times. They don’t want a pretty boy who wears high-heeled boots. Rubio, a.k.a. ‘The Republican Obama’, has for years been hyped as the Grand Old Party’s coming saviour, but he has never been as popular with conservative voters as he has with the right-of-centre commentariat. As a devout Catholic (and also an ex-Mormon), he may be sufficiently pious to woo the religious. He’s also aggressive enough in his foreign-policy statements to satisfy those who want to reassert America’s might in the world. But as one of the ‘Gang of Eight’ senators who in 2013 put forward a liberal immigration reform bill, he is mistrusted. Not all Republican voters are preoccupied with keeping out Mexicans and Muslims, yet the fact that Rubio has subsequently ‘flip-flopped’ on his own proposed legislation means he is easily portrayed as lacking principle. Trump was on to something when he called Rubio ‘lightweight’.

Moreover, for all his elite credentials, Rubio has got on the wrong side of a number of senior Republicans, who feel that he has jumped in front of them in the queue. The GOP establishment may be ruthless, but it rewards loyalty. Its last two presidential nominees, Mitt Romney and John McCain, were older men who had served their time. This year, the party intended to elevate Jeb Bush, who had waited so patiently to carry on where his father (the 41st president) and his brother (the 43rd) left off. Trump’s insurgency tore that dynastic plan apart, leaving a path open for Rubio. Rather than accept defeat, however, Bush’s allies turned on the young pretender. They spent millions on television advertisements attacking Rubio as ‘just another Washington politician’. Even when it was painfully obvious that Bush’s campaign was dead, elderly warhorses such as Senator Lindsey Graham pledged fealty to the Bush clan.

After Iowa, the old guard must accept Rubio as their man. But they underrate the significance of Trump and Cruz at their peril. Cruz might be an unattractive figure — he’s a bit like a Texan Gordon Brown — but he is fiercely intelligent. He cleverly cultivated a ‘bromance’ with the poll leader in the last few months of 2015. He let Trump savage lesser opponents. Then, in the last few weeks, he attacked him for being an establishment stooge and a New York liberal.

In the last two presidential election cycles, evangelical Republicans have started brightly, only to be defeated by establishment candidates. But Cruz is more threatening to the existing order than the last two Iowa winners, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.

Cruz represents the increasingly powerful and rich Republican counter-establishment. His coalition is a sprawling yet highly mobilised mass of Tea Party types, conservatives and evangelicals, who are all disillusioned with their party.

Trump’s fans were also angry, albeit less ideologically driven. The question now is whether they will turn to Cruz as the anti-Washington candidate, or hop on the Rubio bandwagon. They might decide that they are better off sticking with The Donald.

Freddy Gray is deputy editor of The Spectator, and was literary editor of the American Conservative in Washington DC from 2008 to 2010.

Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.


Show comments
Close