It possibly seems like something somewhat resembling an eternity since Texas senator, Ted Cruz first declared his campaign for the US presidency back on March 23rd 2015. However, after the Kentucky and Florida senators, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio quickly – and to be perfectly honest, predictably – followed suit in launching their campaigns on April 7th 2015 and April 13th 2015 respectively; the fight for the Republican nomination in the 2016 White House race began to take a rather unexpected turn.
This is because, just under a month later on the 4th May; two candidates with absolutely no experience of elected public office (the world-renowned neurosurgeon, Ben Carson and former Hewlett Packard CEO, Carly Fiorina) set out their stalls for the GOP primaries battle. Subsequently, an array of other US governors and senators, current and former began to seemingly queue up in order to throw their hats into the ring to create an absolutely enormous field of 17 major (i.e. regularly featured in notable national opinion polls) 2016 republican presidential candidates. This represented the largest number of contestants for the presidential nomination of a major US party since the Democratic primaries of 1976, which incidentally had only a mere (if that is indeed an appropriate word!) 15 major candidates. Notably, during this campaign announcement period between May and July; the businessman and reality TV star, Donald Trump publically launched what was initially expected to be very much a longshot campaign for the GOP nomination.
At first glance, it is certainly not unheard of to have notable Republican presidential candidates like Carson, Fiorina, and Trump from very unconventional political backgrounds competing in US presidential primaries (Herman Cain’s 2008 campaign and Steve Forbes’ 2000 campaign both spring to mind). On the other hand, it is definitely extremely unusual – in fact, uniquely unusual if one looks at the history of US presidential elections – for three people with no experience of elected US federal office (executive or legislative) to be the apparent polling frontrunners in a major party presidential primary; as was the case on October 18th 2015, when Carson, Fiorina, and Trump took 56% between them (with Trump leading on 28%) in a national Monmouth University opinion poll of a sample of GOP primary voters.
Even as recently as the 21st December 2015, the aggregate opinion polling average of the Huffington Post has shown Donald Trump as having the support of 37.8% of Republican primary voters. Consequently, although Carly Fiorina (since the middle of October 2015) and Ben Carson (since the beginning of December 2015) have both decisively fallen out of fashion amongst potential GOP caucus-goers and primary voters; with just over a month to go until the first caucuses in Iowa on the 1st February, the race for the Republican presidential nomination still has a clear frontrunner from an incredibly unusual (and to the party establishment, unacceptable) political background.
It is fair to say that to the vast majority of independent and moderate Republican voters in the USA, Trump is a very controversial figure. After making inflammatory comments about groups varying from Mexicans through to individual famous female journalists, Donald Trump has most recently and possibly most extensively been ridiculed in the world media for suggesting that there should be an immediate and total shutdown on the admission of Muslims to the USA for the time being for national security purposes.
Resultantly, it comes as very little surprise that the GOP establishment of US Congress members, RNC officials, and major party donors are absolutely terrified at the unpalatable prospect of Trump being their nominee for the presidency. In reality, it seems a foregone conclusion that the presence of such a divisive candidate on the Republican ticket would easily hand victory in the 2016 US presidential election to the Democratic nominee (who is pretty much definitely going to be Hillary Clinton); due to the alienation of large numbers of crucial voters from demographic groups such as Hispanic Americans and women.
However, do establishment Republican leaders have any hope of avoiding the nomination of a candidate who is quite possibly simply ‘un-nominateable’? Well, in short; yes.
If opinion polls are to be believed, it does seem as though other Republican presidential contenders are beginning to gain significant electoral momentum; making Donald Trump appear to be increasingly under threat in the GOP primaries race. Despite the fact that Trump’s level of popular support is seemingly remaining reasonably stable (even in spite of his recent aforementioned comments on Muslims), other more electorally viable presidential candidates (notably the young senators, Marco Rubio and most notably Ted Cruz) are seeing their support amongst Republican voters rise significantly. Ted Cruz especially has built up an extremely well organised grassroots campaign in early-voting states, notably Iowa; in which primary and caucus victories will provide him with much needed momentum to attract undecided GOP primary voters (and indeed party officials and donors looking to endorse someone in the nomination race) who are looking for the candidate most likely to defeat Donald Trump and actually win in the general election fight against the Democratic candidate in November 2016.
Additionally, as the massively extensive field of declared 2016 Republican presidential candidates continues to narrow down from the present 13; it will in all likelihood be the establishment-friendly candidates with either executive or legislative experience who will benefit, not the marmite-akin figures like Donald Trump.
Although candidates like New Jersey governor, Chris Christie and potentially also former Florida governor, Jeb Bush look set to stay in the GOP nomination race beyond the first few primaries and caucuses; others (notably Carson, Fiorina; and the governor of Ohio, John Kasich) are likely to begin suspending their White House campaigns rather rapidly and in quick succession after poor performances in the first few states to vote, creating a large vacuum in nationwide opinion polls that is likely to be predominantly filled by candidates including Cruz and Rubio. Consequently, it does still seem very plausible that despite all of the (justified) global media hype; the current frontrunner may not actually end up being the eventual Republican nominee in the 2016 US presidential election.
However, ‘very plausible’ definitely isn’t synonymic for ‘certain’; and consequently it is definitely not outside the realms of reasonable imagination about the immediate future that Donald Trump will be the 2016 Republican nominee. For this reason, we will all continue to pay very keen attention as we watch this electoral epic continue to unfold. It does seem completely fair and reasonable to say though that the 2016 Republican presidential nominee will be either Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, or Marco Rubio. As the primaries and caucuses begin to take place over the next few months, it will probably become much clearer who the 2016 GOP presidential nominee will be.