The Republican Party is going to nominate Donald Trump or Ben Carson for president, guaranteeing Barry Goldwater-style losses in the 2016 elections and threatening the Republic. Or, as The Washington Post put it on Page 1 of its Nov. 13 issue, “GOP preps panic button,” and “Party elites see doom if Trump or Carson win.”
Granted, Trump and Carson continue to do well in the polls, and Republican voters are so frustrated and angry, including with their own political leaders, that they now seem more inclined than ever to throw out the old rulebook, which places a premium on political experience, knowledge of the issues and a thoughtful, measured, mature approach if someone wants to be seen as a serious contender for president.
But before you do anything, take a deep breath. Voters have not thrown out the rulebook yet, and they may very well not do it in February or later in the nominating process.
As I have noted in the past, it’s easy to tell pollsters that you support this or that candidate in the summer or fall of an off-year. You aren’t really making a decision. You merely are telling pollsters which candidates you like at that moment — and liking what someone says or stands for six months, or even two months, before Iowa is not the same thing as deciding what you will do the night of the caucuses.
At this point in the 2008 cycle, 10 weeks before the Republican Iowa caucuses, John McCain was comfortably ahead of the GOP field according to polling back then, with Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson and a strengthening Mike Huckabee fighting it out for second place. But Giuliani, Thompson and Huckabee were all in the low double-digits, while McCain was in the mid-20s to mid-30s in polling. Huckabee ended up winning by 9 points.