From the moment Donald Trump entered the presidential race, the news media and pundits predicted his political demise. Each time his poll numbers went up instead of down, they rationalized it in irrational ways. For example, the news was flooded with Trump’s supposed missteps and guffaws. But when his poll numbers went up instead of down, the pundits claimed it’s because he’d gotten so much “free publicity”—never mind that the publicity had been given with the goal of making him look bad.
I’m not a political analyst. This is neither a defense nor criticism of Trump or any candidate. It’s a political outsider’s nonscientific attempt to explain what continues to befuddle so many. The seven counterpoints to conventional wisdom as to why “Trump can’t win…” are built from conversations with regular folks and nothing more. And here’s a bonus prediction based solely on these anecdotes: if Trump stays in the race, he’ll pick up support from Democrats, independents, African-Americans and women that will continue to befuddle his critics.
Trump can’t win because…
1. Trump doesn’t know the names of terror leaders.
Trump’s supporters think that anybody can memorize names of terror leaders and talking points about strategy. They believe those who do know the names have done a disastrous job on terrorism policy. They think it’s more important to have a leader who will stop following advice that keeps proving wrong than to have someone who can recite names.
2. Trump doesn’t have a plan.
Trump’s supporters believe that politicians who do have plans have messed up things pretty badly. They think Trump’s leadership skills make him more likely to accomplish a goal than a politician who has a plan.
3. Trump isn’t conservative enough.
Trump’s supporters don’t care that he doesn’t walk the party line. In fact, even if they don’t agree with all of his positions, they see his range of views as evidence that he won’t robotically bow to the will of a party above the people. His divergent views also appeal to some Democrats and independents.
4. Trump has flip-flopped.
Trump’s supporters, like many Americans, have changed their mind on issues over the years and it doesn’t bother them that Trump has, too. When Trump is criticized for flip-flopping, it only solidifies the idea among his supporters that the news media is stacking the deck against him. For example, the same reporters have not highlighted Hillary Clinton’s and President Obama’s flip-flops on gay marriage (both said through at least 2008 that they opposed it). Nor have they singled out Clinton’s change of heart on illegal immigration (in 2003, she said she was “adamantly against illegal immigrants.”)
5. Trump personally insults people.
Trump’s supporters don’t think his penchant for insult outweighs the skillset he has to accomplish things that matter. Further, they believe Trump is giving as good as he gets whether it’s Democrats and other Republicans calling his supporters crazies, likening Republicans to terrorists, making fun of his hair, claiming he’s never read the Bible “because he’s not in it,” or saying he is a narcissistic clown.
6. Trump is against immigrants.
Trump’s supporters are wise to the propaganda effort that seeks to conflate illegal immigrants with legal immigrants. They know that Trump has spoken out in strong support of legal immigration, but opposes illegal immigration, as they do.
7. Trump won’t apologize.
Trump’s supporters are sick of the apology culture in which the media and pundits dictate appropriate behavior and demand apologies for perceived transgressions. They think a politician’s apology doesn’t change the deed and is rarely sincere; it’s simply a way of saying “I’m sorry I got caught” or “I’m sorry that what I did hurt my poll numbers.” Trump’s supporters believe his defiance of the apology culture demonstrates he will not be subject to the whims of media demands du jour.
Scott Lenz says
Sharyl - I've been a huge supporter of yours for several years, you speak truth and back it up w facts about whomever it is (male, female, repub, dem, black, white, etc, etc). I am super conservative and was for Ted Cruz before the media even spoke his name a few years ago. However, the 7 items you lay out pretty much nailed my internal struggle w why I now support Trump over anyone else. My dream scenario is for Trump to serve 1 term w VP Cruz, and then for Cruz to serve the next 8 yrs as Pres. That gives us the first 4yrs to get economy turned around and better deals negotiated (aka Iran, etc) and then 8 yrs to get back to the constitution.
Keep up the awesome work on your investigations, I try to read every word you write. You are a great American.
Ron Wagner says
I would prefer 8 years for Trump and 8 for Cruz. Prefer Cruz. May have to settle for Carson if enough swing to him.
Paul K. says
Hello, Scott...I agree with your response wholeheartedly and, like you, would like to see Trump win the 2016 election. It's becoming great fun to see his numbers rise nearly dailey, isn't it? I hope this continues.
Your 'dream scenario' is understandable, but I believe that when Donald Trump, with his professional, highly successful business acumen, gets our economy turned around and begins climbing upward, makes and breaks deals that have a great effect on our country...why change and prohibit Trump from a full two-term administration? After all, the business of America is business. And, the best business is good, honest business. And, I believe, this is essentially what the United States Constitution is all about and that it works best. Doing what we hope Donald Trump will do will be absolute proof that it does.
Charles samuels says
Way to go. Look forward to more of the same
I think you left out a very important objection to Trump, and that is his upstaging of the attempted assassination of Pamela Geller, and company. It was this single incident, and his response to it, that ended his campaign.
Trump said a number of interesting things including that he was a bigger supporter of free speech than Pamela Geller, and Pamela Geller was dumb, and that he was smart.
He said he didn’t know why she was doing this.
Pamela had been planning the contest for weeks where it was discussed frequently on her web site, and she made it clear it was called in response to an ICNA convention which was held at the same building, and in defiance of the “Je Suis Charlie” campaign. Pamela’s event was a continuation of the rally cry --Je Suis Charlie.
Trump is not only ignorant on this subject, but he is uninterested. We have seen further indications of this from the Hugh Hewett interview, and his telling us we should take in some refugees.
We need somebody who doesn’t think fighting for the first amendment is “dumb”. We need someone who will stop pandering to Muslims on this issue the way Trump obviously intends to do. We don't need a third rate insult comic.
The reason people like Trump is because he is a celebrity, and he makes them feel good. When that wears off, the headaches will begin.
Can't find a thing wrong with this analysis. Spot on Sharyl.
We must be talking to the same people. This is what people, real people and real voters, are saying. Excellent and succinct. Thank you.
The real big deal is Trump is getting democrats just like Reagan and he will win the purple states easily. The dems can't beat him let's see if the GOPe can, I don't thinso Lucy!!
Stone Bryson says
An interesting perspective. I admit these issues have crossed my mind, thus I appreciate your objective analysis of them.
To be honest... my biggest complaint about Trump is based on who he is: A salesperson, in the worst sense of the title. He's been a flim-flam artist for all of his adult life, selling the vapor of dreams as reality, and now that he is selling himself I don't know what we will be getting if he is elected.
As we knew (and still know) too little about Obama due to rigid secrecy, we run the same risk with Trump, only with him it is due to bluster burying everything else. Simply put, I cannot trust anyone I do not feel like I know.
I am not against the 'outsider' dynamic, by the way - it's one of the reasons I have been supporting Carly Fiorina from the early days of her campaign. I just enjoy her... shall we say, 'saner' approach to the nomination more than other methods being deployed.
But that is just me. Many do love the bombast, after all.
Louis "Skip" Sander says
Right on. What about the pundits, etc. who say that calling Rosie O'Donnell a fat pig, or criticizing Carly Fiorina's face is equal to Trump "hating/disrespecting women"?
Latrese Mcgowan says
Yes...to everything she said
James Schulze says
Sheryl Atkinson and Caroline Glick (Jerusalem post columnist) are the two smartest women in the world. Having a glass of champagne with them and Winston Churchill would be fantastic!
Mike Jones says
Trump/Attkisson 2016 is the ticket of my dreams.
Colt Lending says
You have described me as a Trumpster exactly. I would only add, Trump has actually created jobs.
Yea, some of the entities he hand a hand in went bankrupt, but when you have had a hand in as many ventures as Trump, some are going to go bad.
And yea, he got a start with family money. Typically, the estate doesn't grow decade after decade.
Trump has actually built stuff.
He has a big ego? How do you move in the circles he does and not have one? He's just honest about his.
I love your work.
Ever more success at FOX.
William Peck says
I think it's simple - the passion and depth of the Tea Party movement has found a voice. Fearless and alpha male. Sick and tired of getting stiff armed by the Republican Party. What's so hard to understand. Also, there's more of us than there are of them, and Trump's poll numbers prove it.
Paul from Texas says
I’m not a political analyst.
Sharyl should be, because that's the most accurate, honest and objective assessment of what's going today I've read in years, in total contrast with both Left and Right sources. Sharyl was the only one on MediaBuzz who brought up the fact that Carson, Fiorina and the others attacked Trump first with cheap shots, while the other analyst ripped Trump and his supporters. Stephen Hayes: "[Trump supporters]...don’t care about basic things like facts, reason and logic." 99% the staff at Fox News has become just as biased as MSNBC lately when it comes to political commentary.
Not saying I will or will not vote Trump. Still a long way to go. However, I believe his appeal is as simple as this:
People believe he is on their side, i.e that he is Pro America. What they see in Obama is not Pro America and certainly not Pro American People.
I totally agree, a cogent assessment of the "Trump Phenomenon." Excellent work, Sharyl.
Paul from Texas says
Compare these examples of celebrity journalists descriptions and explanations of Trump supporters compared to Sharyl Attkisson's reporting:
Jonah Goldberg: groupie-type fanatics, addicts who need an intervention, infatuation, amusement, entertainment, mouth breathing anti-Semites and white nationalists, Trumpenproletariats
George Will: unaware he's secretly working to get Hillary elected, Trumpkins find Trump entertainingly naughty, have remarkable cognitive dissonance, disdain for the separation of powers
Kevin Williamson: homoerotic, due to masculine envy, fooled into believing Trump is the perfect conservative
Gene Schwimmer: no-information voters, cannot be bothered even to learn what other candidates might even be in the race, let alone what their views and qualification might be
I've been compiling a list, and the above is just a small example.
Shoot 'em up Paul, great observations.
That's because these are all establishment pundits whose goal is to trash Trump to protect the establishment status quo at party headquarters. Those outsiders willing to honestly and objectively assess the situation by actually listening to Trump supporters have come to the conclusion that Americans are pissed and looking for someone to completely blow the establishment up! We're sick to death of the Republicrats driving America into the ground while rewarding their fat cat crony corporatist donors at our expense! Trump honestly confirms exactly what we've known all along: that the system has been rigged against us by progressive Democrats perpetuating their evil agenda and gutless establishment Republicans who surrender faster then the French at the mere mention of opposition from Obama!
I hope Trump blows the entire establishment completely out of the water to such a degree that they are permanently destroyed with no chance of ever coming back to haunt us with their quisling ways! Like the rest of Trump's supporters, I'm madder than hell at having this crap forced down my throat and I'm looking for someone to put a stop to it! I'm sick of the lying media, the gutless establishment Republicans, the evil progressive Democrats, and the entire culture of hypocrisy surrounding them all!
Just found your site and very happy for it.
Good synopsis of how many of that are backing Trump feel. The establishments willful cognitive dissonance has raised the ire of the folks to a level far beyond their reckoning. Their plan to anoint Jeb! and rewrite the early primary process to castrate the grass roots has been trumped (sorry), and they have no idea how to compensate. Meanwhile, the mainstream press is finding they shall dance to the Donald's tune and not the other way around.
It truly is a beautiful thing to behold.
Looking forward to watching/supporting your new show Sharyl. God Bless you in all your endeavors.
Trump is the first, and only one 'telling it like it is'. Trump is the only one of the [group] that raised a question on Obama's constitutional eligibility.
He's number one on my list; and I certainly can't vote for Cruz, Rubio and Jindal of the Republican party who are as constitutional ineligible as the usurper in office.
Actually, it was Hillary's camp who first brought up Obama's birth certificate.
This is about the only un-biased report that exactly describes how I, a Trump supporter thinks. Thank you and keep on being one of very few journalists left in the world. And I am not exaggerating.
Sharyl, your article describes how I feel as if you had actually interview me. Trump is rising because a greater number of US are awake or waking up to the scam being forced on us. I have had enough and will not take it anymore.
keith howard says
"People may not remember what you said but they will remember how you made them feel while you were saying it."
Politicians are worried about the content of their talk. We, as Americans, have learned the typical lingo and it's boring. It's the same old blah, blah, blah. We've learned that it's just that - talk. Empty promises, just to get elected. Donald Trump comes along without the blah, blah politically correct talk and starts saying things that make us say, "Wow! That's just what I've been thinking. Finally a person who has a big microphone and is saying just what I've been feeling." "I like this guy." "He makes me feel proud to be an American."
We're remembering how Trump makes us feel and that's much more important than what he's saying. Personally, he makes me feel like a proud American just like Ronald Reagan did.
Trump will win in a landslide just like The Great One. "God Bless America."
margie clark says
Thank you for being truthful . I saw Fiorina on U tube making fun of Boxer's hair and nobody has talked about that . I hope people find out that she's not as nice as she pretends to be.
Sarah Garci says
Very perceptive analysis. Most of the media are unable to objectively analyze politics like Sharyl. It has been disappointing watching so many pundits that I used to respect insult Trump supporters and offer such out of touch description of them.
Dar from Colorado says
Excellent article Sharyl, excellent! Only you and Hannity are honest about what is happening here with Trump. We've had it with our spineless GOP they've given Obama everything he's wanted on a silver platter! We're sick of it! We want a fighter, pure and simple.
Thanks Sheryl for a complete accurate analogy. Perfect. Your the best.
joanne reed says
i used to LOVE trump, but i'm breaking up with him.
and donald, you really NEED my vote...
i'm in an early primary state and it's a swing state in a general election...
i wrote 100s of supportive posts.
i watched every news conference.
I watched and CHEERED every speech.
I listened to every radio interview.
i forgave him for criticizing a genuine war hero.
i overlooked his insensitive remark about P.O.W.s
i excused him for the 'blood attack' on megyn kelly.
but donald, you broke my heart... you broke my heart donald...
a totally unnecessary and bullying insult on fiorina's appearance...
followed by insults to the great and accomplished dr ben carson calling him: "just an OK doctor" and "looks like he memorized that bible verse just a couple of minutes before his speech"
donald, are you still in the 2nd grade?
looks like it.
so many people have said you do not have the 'temperament' to be president.
now i believe it.
GO CRUZ GO!
Early on the journolist meme went out that any questions about the veracity of Barack Obama's biographical narrative had been "widely debunked." No actual debunking needed to take place in a real investigative sense; rather, it was enough (they thought) just to keep repeating the verbiage that only crazy fringe dwellers entertained the notion that Obama might be lying about his past. And yet, seven years later polls are still finding that a highly significant percentage of Americans still have doubts.
Donald Trump is among them, and is not afraid to say he is not wholly convinced the long form birth certificate pdf posted to White House.gov is legit. He has not of late pushed the issue to the fore as he once did, but neither has he ever apologized for being a birther. Given their statistical significance , I think analysts are making a mistake when they discount how this favorably resonates with this demographic.
Nadine Carroll says
But it's still possible that Trump is a only bigger, better version of the candidates that shot to the top before crashing in 2012. Appealing personality, stage presence, a great life story and a great stump speech -- these things can get you in the door and sustain you for quite a while.
But there comes a time -- and who can say when it is, exactly? -- that even Trump supporters will start to say, "Yes, great lines on immigration and trade, but we've heard them many times before. Now tell us some of your other ideas and how you intend to fix other pressing issues. What about wage stagnation, dysfunction in DC, corruption in government, ISIS and Iran?"
Either Trump will be ready to sound insightful on other issues, or he won't be. At some point bluster will get old, even for The Donald. JMHO and TWT
Paul from Texas says
I wish they would ask all candidates in the debates about where they stand on many more issues instead of asking 'gotcha' type questions about statements they made in the past. Like:
* What are your plans to fix the IRS and simplify the tax code?
* What are your plans to deal with the millions of people here illegally?
* What are the (5) biggest problems facing our country?
I wish they would get rid of the celebrity debate moderators and focus on the candidates, and not their own fame and fortune.
Juinius Adams says
The trouble with the establishment is that they still don't realize that finally most voters want someone they can believe when statements are made, and the persona to make them come true instead of saying we just can't do this because it will never work, no matter the details or plans that never seem to come true. Trump struck a nerve for which the career republicans in politics and the media don't have a medication with which to relieve the pain, so they attack him personally. Seems like I've heard this before.
Robert Klein Engler says
Many Trump supporters I know have been waiting to support Trump. They were waiting for someone like him for years, someone who will stop the fundamental transformation of America. They have seen enough. There's not much Trump can do to change their minds. Trump for them is revenge, revenge against the Republicans they voted into office and have done nothing. Revenge against those Democrats who are transnationals, those Democrats who care more about the party than the nation. But Trump also represents hope: "Make America Great Again" says it all. Can't you feel it? There is a bubbling excitement. Nothing sticks to Trump because the pundits are really shills for liberalism to begin with. Can't you see it, a sly twinkle in the eye. Trump supporters don't mind that he is rich. It tells them he can't be bought. Even today, after almost 8 years, if you want to know where things stand politically, make a dare. Dare Obama and Trump to release their college transcripts. You know what will happen. That's why, in a nutshell, people support Trump.
Lysander Spooner says
The viciousness and callousness of the attacks on Trump by the National Review scribblers is all the more remarkable for the fact that Trump has spent his life and career in the private sector creating jobs and economic opportunities for others in the private sector based on merit. Given that Trump's career is the kind of thing that National Reviewers would normally consider praiseworthy, their scurrilous screeds do more damage to their own reputations than they do to Trump's.
It is also interesting to note that the estimable Kevin Williamson, upon finding out that Arizona law enforcement officials presented evidence indicating there was probable cause to believe obama's identity documents were forgeries and a fraud may have been committed, chose to vilify the law enforcement official rather than simply recommend obama waive his privacy rights to the vault copies to clean up any confusion or misguided law-enforcement conclusions.
With all that in mind, an argument can be made that a lot of today's conservative pundits are simply impostors, and Trump has somehow prompted them to expose themselves.
Excellent post, Lysander.
Rick berry--rodguy911 says
The Donald is "apolitical". Basically, he doesnt care about the parties. Also he's a leader at a time when we have no leadership. Add that to Sharyll's brilliant analysis and you have a winner.
John from Nevada says
You got it.
But you missed one.
#8. NOT a politician.
I am seeing that most people are fed up with sock puppets who attempt to be all things to all people-----until they are elected.
From all sides of the isle and the rafters too, an honest conversation, and "damn the torpedoes" without equivocating is a breath of fresh air from the carefully written pablum we have been accustomed to.
Exactly! He's not beholden to any lobbyists.
I am tired of the current batch of crooks in office.lets elect Trump. At least he knows how to make money in the real world. And dosent take any crap ffom the crooked media. Should make for a fun 8years of the media getting shut up and learning how to report with honor. They can write a fiction book if they cant control themselves!!! Trump for Pres
Great article Sharyl. Those people are stuck in 'politics as usual' mode. They are out of touch with what many people are saying about the business as usual crap. And the wimpy, limp roll over and play dead Republican establishment leadership just does not get it. Trump will rock the boat to see who falls overboard first. Elect Don "the Donald" Trump and lets have a new boss who won't take any *** .
I think Trump might be able to win the democratic nomination to , If he switched sides
Bhagat Singh says
fools all of you thinkng democracy or politicians can save this country. A country built on and maintained through blood, genocide , slavery and terrorism WILL fall. We're still under the yoke of the Declaration of Independence and the constitution, both outdated documents, sterilized from conception. This scoundrek Lysander Spooner stealing his name from a true original thinker who said we have NO obligation to perpetuate this failed system. NO people, ANYtime and ANYwhere have ever attained liberty through voting. But hey people get the government they deserve! The people are the problem, not the politicians...I'm glad little white teenagers are joining ISIS, you've offered them nothing else worth living dying for