23 Oct 2015
Despite offending women and Latinos, Donald Trump could still be named Republican candidate for the US presidency. Can the outspoken property mogul do no wrong?
Critics have accused Donald Trump of making comments that are more outrageous than his carefully crafted coif since he entered the race for the US presidency. But the billionaire property tycoon and reality TV star may have the last laugh if he is named Republican candidate for the White House.
An ABC News poll on 21 October showed that 42% of Republicans expected Trump to win. His nearest rival, Ben Carson, only had 15% of the backing, while support for Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio stood at 12% and 5% respectively.
“When Donald Trump announced his candidacy on 16 June 2015, the Huffington Post promised to only cover him in its entertainment section,” said Pushan Dutt, Visiting Professor of Economics at London Business School.
“They were making the point that his candidacy was non-serious and akin to a reality show rather than meaningful politics. But Trump refuses to go away. The latest polls show him continuing to lead the Republican candidates by a significant margin.”
Despite making a string of controversial remarks while campaigning, Trump’s popularity among Republicans remains as strong as ever. In June 2015, Trump was labelled an “extremely silly man” by America’s largest Latino civil rights organisation after accusing Mexico of sending “rapists” to the US.
“[Mexico] are sending people that have lots of problems, and they are bringing those problems to us. They are bringing drugs, and bringing crime, and their rapists,” Trump said during his campaign launch.
The disparaging remarks were quickly followed by an attack on Senator John McCain’s war record, with Trump dismissing suggestions that he was a hero. McCain spent five years in a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp, after his plane was shot down over North Vietnam.
“He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured,” Trump said. He also claimed not to like McCain after he lost to President Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, saying “I never liked him after that, because I don't like losers".
The attack came after McCain spoke out against Trump’s controversial comments about Mexican immigrants.
Most recently, Trump incensed women and Conservatives when making an alleged menstruation jibe at Fox News journalist Megyn Kelly during a phone interview with CNN. The businessman slammed Kelly for asking him “ridiculous” and “off-base” questions while she hosted the Republican debate in August.
Kelly irked Trump during the debate when asking him about misogynistic comments he made in the past, such as calling some women “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals”.
Donald’s in demand
While his comments have angered many, Trump’s no-nonsense approach and ability to tap into issues high on the Republican agenda have seen him emerge as the party’s frontrunner to replace President Obama.
“What is Trump’s magic? Apart from leveraging his comfort with reality-show-like politics and skill with social media, Trump seems to have chanced upon some issues that divide the Republican base (Conservative political base) from the establishment in Washington DC,” said Professor Dutt.
“The Republican establishment is relatively pro-immigration and pro-trade compared to the base, which remains wary of both and fiercely opposed to social safety nets.”
Professor Dutt added that Trump’s tax proposals had won favour with Republican voters, particularly opponents to the carried tax loophole, which gives billionaire financiers preferential treatment on a large proportion of their compensation.
“Trump’s latest tax plan promises zero taxes for the low-income (individual incomes below US$25,000 and couples with incomes under $50,000) and eliminates the carried interest loophole used by hedge-fund managers and private equity chiefs.
“Even though the bulk of the Trump tax cuts go to the rich, these two features allow Trump to claim the populist mantle, appealing to Republican voters who are angry with the rich.”
Unlike his rivals, Trump has found common ground with some voters on financial and social issues. This could be the key reason why he is elected as the Republican candidate to run for president, according to Professor Dutt.
“Trump has staked out a relatively left-wing position on economic issues, while hewing to the standard conservative line on social issues, such as gun control and gay marriage, and interventionist foreign policy,” he said. “This seems to have been a winning combination with the base, leaving the establishment candidates perplexed and floundering.”