The political-media world is speculating endlessly about which brave and hardy GOP soul will attempt a daring move against Trump, despite the certain threat of immediate, serpent-toothed retaliation. “I hope they attack me,” Trump said recently to a reporter from the Wall Street Journal, “because everybody who attacks me is doomed.”Perry was killed by Trump? Oh, please.
Publicly, former Texas Governor Rick Perry ended his presidential run on Friday afternoon. Privately, those who do this for a living used a bloodier term of the trade: He was killed (politically, of course), the first of what may turn into many campaign scalps claimed by the fiercest killer in this race, Trump.
Donald Trump entered the GOP presidential contest on June 16. Twenty national polls of the race were conducted between January 1 of this year and June 14, according to Real Clear Politics. In nineteen of those polls, Rick Perry scored between 1% and 4%. (In the twentieth poll, he scored a whopping 5%.) So Rick Perry's campaign wasn't killed because he fought with Trump -- it was moribund long before Trump entered the race.
The reason is obvious. Republican voters choose candidates based one one criterion: Who's likely to be the most powerful antagonist against liberals and Democrats? Sometimes, on this basis, they choose someone who seems to have the power of the Establishment behind him -- John McCain or Mitt Romney. Even then, they want Establishment Man to attack what they think we love (Romney vs. Obamacare) or defend what they think we hate (McCain and the Iraq War). At other times, they choose someone a bit closer to the edge. But regardless, they want to believe their choice makes us squirm. It's all they care about.
Perry didn't frighten us at all, and Republican voters grasped that. After 2012, they knew we thought of him as a joke. If we didn't fear him, they didn't want him.
But Halperin has a narrative and he's sticking to it:
From the get-go of his entrance in June, Trump has engaged intuitively in kill-or-be-killed tactics. He’s shown a hair-trigger impulse for payback, game to needle, insult, or slam rivals from all points on the poll spectrum, whether they be purported chief challengers such as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, or subtler contenders struggling in the polls, such as South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and former New York Governor George Pataki. It does not seem to be a coincidence that three candidates who have seen their nomination prospects rise of late (Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Ohio Governor John Kasich, and retired surgeon Ben Carson) have avoided tussling with Trump, although the billionaire did participate in a brief scuffle with Carson last week (after which Carson apologized). On Friday, as noted, one of Trump’s most energetic brawlers, Perry, became the first candidate to leave the race.But, as Halperin says, Carson has mixed it up with Trump a bit -- and he's still rising. Kasich really hasn't -- but go look at his numbers: After a slight uptick following the Fox debate, he's back in the 2%-3% range in the latest polls. ("Kasich on the rise" is another legend Halperin is eager to print -- I guess it's a "fact" that's too pleasing to check.) So that leaves Cruz -- whose numbers are steady, but not actually rising.
The guy whose candidacy really has been destroyed by the rise of Trump is Scott Walker -- and Trump has barely said a word about him. That's because, pre-Trump, Walker was the guy who seemed to have ground liberals' faces in the dirt back home in Wisconsin. Trump is the new Walker not because he went after Walker, but because he seems (to gullible GOP voters) as if he can take revenge against his enemies the way Walker did.
But Halperin can't acknowledge that. He's crafting a plot line, presumably, for Game Change 2016 or whatever it will ultimately be titled. The plot line is a lot of nonsense, and it's Trump's nonsense, so you'd think a reasonable person wouldn't fall for it. But I guess the only people dumb enough to believe Trump's BS are Republican voters and mainstream political journalists.