(Brookings Institute) – This week, billionaire businessman Donald Trump skyrocketed to a lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. The lead is significant. One recent poll shows him up 11 points over his nearest rival. Nationally, he commands the support of nearly one in four Republican voters.
Personally, I debated whether engaging Trump as a candidate was simply adding to the hoopla. Ultimately, though, he is the front-runner. He is commanding far more support among Republicans than Bernie Sanders is among Democrats nationally (that is not to compare their bona fides, but the realities of public support). What’s more, among every individual running for president, only one candidate—Hillary Clinton—commands more primary support than he does. And thus, I find myself writing about the Republican front-runner.
My internal machinations over Trump’s candidacy pale in comparison to those of the GOP. Republican candidates and the establishment are furious, uneasy, and scratching their heads as Trump—a political novice—has risen to polling prominence. And, he has done so by relying on a scorched-Earth, rhetorically bold, substantively vacant message. Typically billionaires seek to influence politics quietly and out of public view. Trump has decided to do so loudly and publicly. The GOP is surprised, but they really shouldn’t be.