Donald Trump is the de facto Republican Party nominee for the US president’s office. His victory in the Indiana primary and Ted Cruz’s waving the white flag means nothing can stop the real estate developer-turned-reality TV star from winning the nomination.
Even talk of the Republican Party “establishment” stopping him at the convention and selecting a third candidate was dependent on Trump failing to pass the majority mark-and passing that landmark is now inevitable.
Trump’s original base was restricted to about a third of the Republican voters, mostly working class whites who lived in trailer homes and were intermittently employed. But it is clear that base has expanded as he was won the last few primaries with over 50% of the votes cast.
Many in the party seem to have concluded that they didn’t have a real alternative. Ted Cruz was more ideological, much more religious and arguably a more disagreeable individual. John Kaysich, the best of the remaining nominees, was going nowhere.
Either the Republican Party tore itself apart or rallied behind Trump--and then hoped he would prove all bark and little bite. There is some evidence the past few months of scenarios predicting civil war on the convention floor scared many voters. And even more evidence that many Republican voters were angered at the seeming attempts of a shadowy establishment to fix the race against Trump.
Trump is likely to begin tacking to the centre and trying to talk policy sense now that the nomination is secure. His first attempt at a serious foreign policy speech was an indicator. But the real test may be how much he tempers his tendency to speak the outrageous. The foreign policy speech was as notable for the fact he used a teleprompter and rehearsed it beforehand as it was for what he said.
But it will be difficult. Trump is not only disliked by the general voting public, he is disliked something fierce. Electoral number cruncher Nate Silver, taking an average of polls from November to January, showed Trump to have a net unfavourability of negative 25 percentage points. Hillary Clinton, widely seen as unpopular with voters, in comparison was negative 3%. None of the final batch of candidates even come close to Trump in evincing dislike among general voters. Cruz, infamous for being universally disliked by his fellow senators, has a rating of negative 7%. Trump is particularly badly off among independent voters, the roughly 35 to 40 per cent of voters who are the swing in most US elections and particularly important in this one. His net favourability rating among them is minus 27 per cent, again higher than anyone else.
If you think Trump’s rise to the top of the electoral totem pole was a remarkable act, it will be nothing compared to his coming campaign to win the political centre of the US electoral map. And it is an act he will find it much harder to accomplish.