The Republican Presidential nominating process continues to evolve and comparing it to previous cycles ignores this unique moment in time. Yes, four years ago, the leading candidates rotated rapidly, but their ability to stay in the race was largely controlled by available funds and thus subject to the whims of both liberal and conservative media. The so-called Party establishment controlled the processes, and they were backed up by the press.
This year, the electorate is avoiding the fickle nature of previous years, and they have glommed onto one individual to carry their dreams. Donald Trump is unlike previous leaders in the polls for a number of reasons. First, he will not stand pat in the face of a negative bombardment, like Newt Gingrich was forced to endure after winning the South Carolina primary. Second, he is significantly different from all the other politicians with the possible exception of Ben Carson. And finally, he knows how to leverage his moment in the spotlight to cling to his position.
Pundits and the rest of the field have been slow to understand these dynamics. They keep comparing this year to 2012 and trying to reassure themselves that Trump can’t possibly be nominated. Chris Matthews, the commentator on Hardball, seems alone in his understanding of the Donald Trump phenomenon and its political potential.
The dynamics of a Presidential horse race are contingent upon many factors, but each cycle is unique in its interactions and results.