Why Donald Trump wins even if he loses

Trump has won already on the scale of beating all expectations and emerging as a force to be reckoned with inside the Republican party

Joyce Karam
Joyce Karam
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Will he call his running mates losers or will he offend Mexico or China or Japan or Vietnam? These are the questions surrounding tonight's much anticipated debate for the Republican candidates for President and their new frontrunner Donald Trump.

But win or lose the debate, Trump has won already on the scale of beating all expectations and emerging as a force to be reckoned with inside the Republican party. A force that could go well beyond the nomination process.

Trump has won already on the scale of beating all expectations and emerging as a force to be reckoned with inside the Republican party.

Joyce Karam

Almost two months into his candidacy, Trump, a real estate mogul and TV personality has effectively turned the Republican race upside down, beating every expectation out there about his prospects -perhaps even his own-. Today, Trump or “The Donald” as his supporters call him, is leading in all the Republican Presidential nomination polls , and has more Facebook and Twitter followers than the top five candidates combined.

The Trump rise

Trump’s rise is breaking the rules and political algorithms of past campaigns, bewildering experts and elites from both sides of the spectrum. There is no clear logic for his ascendancy except that his style is resonating with the GOP voters. The Republican field with 16 politicians appears to have offered Trump, a TV celebrity, the perfect space to outshine the rest in a blunt and inflammatory style. Even before the Trump announcement early June, the Republican field had no clear frontrunner, in part due to internal squabbling between the moderates and the tea party inside the GOP.

More importantly, the Trump candidacy has directly tapped into this Republican leadership crisis, and into voters’ dissatisfaction and anger at the political machine in Washington. Ironically, the well plugged-in businessman is portraying himself as an unscripted independent outsider, who will not be influenced by the Koch brothers or other donors. In a Ross Perot kind of way, Trump is trying to appear as someone who speaks the language of the voters and not the policymakers. His outrageous remarks against Mexicans, or undermining John McCain’s time as a war prisoner did not slow his rise. The reason behind that is the Republican voters’ anger at illegal immigration and economic disparity that Trump's rhetoric amplifies is much bigger than their emphasis on political correctness or affinity for McCain.

The rise of Trump cannot be seen in isolation of the Republican party’s trajectory since 2000. The party of George H. Bush and John McCain has gradually veered to the right since the campaign of George W. Bush in 1999. This shift exponentially grew after Bush left office in 2008, and with the rise of the Tea Party in 2009. While Trump is not himself a “Tea Party” member, he capitalizes on the movement’s issues to rally his support. He did it in 2011 while championing the infamous quest for U.S. President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, and is doing it now by largely attacking illegal immigration and trade.

A win-win path

With all eyes on Trump for tonight’s first debate, it is fair to argue that the candidate has already won by steering its agenda and dictating the way that the top 10 candidates will interact.

It is hard to predict the outcome of the GOP primary nomination, let alone the 2016 Presidential race, but win or lose, Trump has secured himself a seat in swaying the outcome of the campaigns. Even if the Trump fever dissipates at the ballot box next year, given the popular support that the billionaire has amassed, his endorsement of a future candidate if he loses the elections, could be a game changer.

With a Republican field that has 17 candidates and wins that could be decided by a 1 or 2 points margin in battleground states, the rise of Trump could make him a kingmaker if he loses the race. There are no inevitabilities in this campaign, and the prospects of Trump winning the nomination are no longer wild talk in the U.S. media.

The new frontrunner has not ruled out either a third party run if his bid for the Republican nomination falters. That would be a blessing undisguised for the Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton who sees in Trump’s candidacy a good opportunity to brand the Republican party with anti-immigration policies and loose talk.

For now, however, Trumpism is winning the day inside the Republican party. Tonight’s debate might be neither civil nor contained, and whoever Trump offends, reality is he has become a force to be reckoned with, in the 2016 road to the White House. That, on its own, is a win for "The Donald".


Joyce Karam is the Washington Correspondent for Al-Hayat Newspaper, an International Arabic Daily based in London. She has covered American politics extensively since 2004 with focus on U.S. policy towards the Middle East. Prior to that, she worked as a Journalist in Lebanon, covering the Post-war situation. Joyce holds a B.A. in Journalism and an M.A. in International Peace and Conflict Resolution. Twitter: @Joyce_Karam

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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