On my weekly appearance with The Hugh Hewitt Show, we discussed several topics, including the September 11th anniversary, of which more here. But, on the usual grubby, low, partisan political stuff, Hugh asked me about the Rolling Stone article on Donald Trump:
HUGH HEWITT: It's by Paul Solotaroff, and in it he writes, Trump is rising "because Trump's central claim is he's not them." What do you think of that thesis?
MARK STEYN: Yeah, I think that's it. What's interesting to me is that the narrative since he declared four months ago has always been that he would implode. And it's clear now that he's not going to implode. If you want to get rid of the Trumpenstein monster you've got to actually be prepared to drive a stake through him and pump silver bullets in him yourself. But what's fascinating, I think, is that at least in polls in my neck of the woods in New Hampshire is that some candidates themselves have imploded – the "real" candidates. They're people who are officially still in the race, but have seem to have just sort of faded away. And I think the message that "he's not them" is actually correct and whoever's going to take him out has got to, in a sense, match him in size. And that's the challenge for any of these guys. This debate you are doing with him next week, Hugh, basically he's saying to CNN, "Look, take me out of this debate and there's two hundred thousand people who are going tune in to watch Jeb Bush debate Jim Gilmore or whoever it is. So if I bring another twenty million people to the table then you've got to play by my rules..." He understands that he's Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack and he has turned the quiet staid country club into something else entirely.
So how's that Trump implosion going?
The latest ORC poll has, for the first time, a candidate with more than 30 per cent - Trump, of course, at 32 per cent, with Ben Carson in second place at 19 per cent. Excepting Carly Fiorina's three per cent, that leaves all 14 candidates of the professional political class with 46 per cent between them.
In the same poll three months ago, Trump had 12 per cent. Two months ago, he had 18 per cent. One month ago, he had 24 per cent. That's not a comet who blazes across the sky and then flames out. That's a steady methodical climb that, if anything, has slightly accelerated in recent weeks. Experts keep assuring us that Trump is a turn-off to millions of people and has a ceiling of support. Yet the ceiling keeps getting higher. The first candidate from the Blowhard-American community or the Buffoon-American community or whatever sneer Kevin Williamson and George Will are currently using keeps shattering that ol' glass ceiling and moving up.
Yet there was Charles Krauthammer on the telly last night using the same line he's been using for months - okay, Trump's the frontrunner, and sure,
12 18 24 32 per cent looks impressive in a 17-man race. But wait'll the field narrows down to just two or three candidates...
Gotcha. So it'll be Trump 32 per cent, Bush 68? Are you sure about that?
As I said to Hugh, there has certainly been an implosion over the last few months - but it's not Trump's. From that ORC poll:
Bush in June: 17 per cent;
Bush in September: 9 per cent.
Okay, but what about that fellow all the experts assured us won the first debate?
Rubio in June: 7 per cent;
Rubio in September: 3 per cent.
Oh, and let's not forget the other guy we were told had an impressive first debate, with his thoughtful invocation of his faith balanced with his inclusive answer on same-sex marriage:
Kasich in June: 3 per cent;
Kasich in September 2 per cent.
Paul in June: 8 per cent;
Paul in September: 3 per cent.
Christie in June: 3 per cent;
Christie in September: 2 per cent.
Perry in June: 4 per cent;
Perry in September: an asterisk.
[UPDATE: Iowa implosions:
Walker in July: First place, 18 per cent;
Walker in September: Tenth place, 3 per cent.]
[UPPERDATE: Perry's out.]
There's certainly a lot of imploding around at the moment ...but not at the Trump end. The only "professional politician" to have gone up in the last three months is Senator Ted Cruz (fourth-placed at 7 per cent), who's basically running on a pay-no-attention-to-that-word-beginning-with-'s'-in-front-of-my-name-I-hate-the-GOP-as-much-as-you-do platform. So Trump, Carson, Fiorina and Cruz account for 61 per cent, and the 13 "mainstream" "electable" guys mop up what's left.
Then you look deeper into that poll: Trump is the first choice of 32 per cent, and the second choice of 18 per cent. Sure, a 50 per cent ceiling looks impressive now, but don't worry, when the field thins out to a two-man race, Trump will have difficulty pushing that 50 per cent ceiling to 50.01 per cent.
Jeb? Bush is the first choice of 9 per cent, and the second choice of 10 per cent. Walker is the first choice of 5 per cent, and the second choice of 3 per cent. Rubio is the first choice of 3 per cent, and the second choice of 7 per cent.
More from my interview with Hugh:
HH: But what people smile about – and I heard this articulated many different ways – is that there are no conventions for Donald Trump which is what people [are] tired of bridge conventions dominating politics. You bet three no Trump, I'll go four spades. And the conventions have bored us to tears.
MS: They're boring, and they haven't worked. I'm here in New Hampshire, and we have had this boring John Kasich ad running for what seems like half my adult life - where he goes on about being the son of a mailman and I could care less about that, this sort of soft-focus ad... I'm wondering if Jeb Bush is going to say, "Well, I had it tough growing up. I was the son of a president, but in those days, we only had the twenty-car motorcade, not the big forty-car one they got now. So I understand regular Americans." It would be fine if it works, but it works for the Democrats - and the conventions and the consultants and the donors, that whole racket doesn't work for fifty percent of the country, and fifty percent of the country wants to see all the rules torn up and wants to see the conventions blown sky high.
John Kasich was on TV last night and Sean Hannity asked him how many of these belligerent young Muslim men posing as "fleeing refugees" America should take, and he blathered on a bit about our good hearts and putting safeguards in place to ensure that fellows with ISIS membership cards would be asked to resign first and a lot of other twaddle. And then he said limply something like, "Your families and mine both came here as immigrants, Sean."
That's it? Sentimentalist rosy-hued Ellis Island twaddle as the Middle East (here's that word again) implodes and ISIS games the system? And Trump's supposed to be the moron?
Waiting for Trump to implode won't work. If the donor class don't want him as the nominee, they're gonna have to put their chips on someone capable of blowing him up.
You can find the entire interview (very erratically and sometimes incomprehensibly transcribed) here.
~As for that new book of mine that Hugh was kind enough to mention, it's called "A Disgrace to the Profession", and it's about the guy who's suing me for calling his cartoon climatology "fraudulent". It's the most consequential free-speech case in decades, and while the court's sitting around twiddling its thumbs I thought I'd do a little pushback. You can get it personally autographed direct from SteynOnline - or, alternatively, signature-free but impressively discounted at Amazon. Or it can be yours instantly, anywhere on the planet, via Kindle or Nook.
I'll be back on the plug circuit in the days ahead, talking to Heartland's Jim Lakely, Ben Mathis of KickAss Politics, the Sean Hannity radio show - and don't miss this fun extended appearance on my return to the Ricochet podcast.