Trump may alienate supporters if attacking Cruz too hard
It almost goes without saying that the latest debate for The Election Like No Other will again produce a record TV audience. Donald Trump will legitimately claim credit for that but, happily, CNN have refused to bow to his hilarious demand for a $5M appearance fee.
Why are people watching, besides entertainment value? Undoubtably a section of the US population are genuinely inspired by his candidacy, but many more are disgusted. 47% now hold a ‘very negative’ view, compared to 33% and 35% respectively for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton – who are hardly short of haters from their opposing side.
That tells me that, in addition obviously to actual GOP primary voters with a genuine interest beyond Trump, plenty are watching to see him get taken down. Is tonight the night?
I felt Trump made little impact in the last two debates, but nobody actually damaged him. John Kasich certainly made an effort, so too Rand Paul, but neither saw any poll bounce as a result. Perhaps because their brand of Conservatism is fundamentally different to that of Trump supporters.
Now, though, with Ted Cruz surging past him in Iowa, the challenge is very different. Cruz hasn’t attacked Trump throughout, instead praising his hardline focus on immigration. Outside the debate arena, he’s made it clear that Trump voters are in his sights, as the race develops.
So now, as Trump opens fire on his new rival, he risks alienating his own supporters. Since that dramatic weekend Iowa poll, he’s questioned Cruz’ judgement and labelled him a ‘maniac’.
Interestingly too Rush Limbaugh, that bellweather of ultra-Conservative opinion, came to his defence in his radio show. Despite being one of the few mainstream voices to defend Trump’s planned ban on all Muslims entering the USA, Limbaugh went after him on this, saying:
“A genuine conservative, even in the Republican field, would not go after Cruz this way. So that just raised a red flag for me, made me somewhat curious.”
At risk of ramping my own bets on Cruz – and this is definitely his biggest test yet, finding himself a target for the rest, who mostly despise him – I think Trump has finally picked the wrong fight, and met his match.