In the movie “Back to the Future II,” Michael J. Fox’s character, Marty McFly, is transported to the fall of 2015 and encounters a world of self-tying shoes and hoverboards. He finds himself trying to make sense of how people behave and the choices they make.
Lately, I too feel like I’ve been transported to autumn 2015.
That fall, Republican Party officials, donors and operatives were brimming with hope that the field of presidential contenders facing Donald Trump would shrink, clearing the way for a one-on-one matchup between the then-unthinkable Mr. Trump and a more conventional nominee, like the senators Ted Cruz of Texas or Marco Rubio of Florida. As one Michigan donor put it, “Just like everyone else, I’m waiting for this field to consolidate, and it doesn’t seem to be consolidating.” Arguments ensued over which candidates should take the hint. If only the field were smaller, the thinking went, surely Mr. Trump would be defeated.
If only, if only, if only. This line of thinking became an excuse for candidates who didn’t want to take any real swings at Mr. Trump. It was the field — not Mr. Trump — that was the problem. No top contender took him on aggressively. No one really hammered away at his weaknesses in the kind of sustained, nimble assault they would have needed to topple him from his position as the front-runner. And even as Mr. Trump’s opponents dropped out, some of their voters wound up drifting to Mr. Trump as a second choice, keeping him at the head of the pack.
Something similar is happening today. From the Republican debates to the campaign trail, the other candidates aren’t making a real attempt to dent the front-runner’s lead; instead, they are sniping at one another, pleading with donors and engaging in magical thinking. While there is some truth that having more candidates helps Mr. Trump win the nomination, consolidating the field alone is not likely sufficient to defeat him.
We are confirming your access to this article, this will take just a moment. However, if you are using Reader mode please log in, subscribe, or exit Reader mode since we are unable to verify access in that state.
Confirming article access.
If you are a subscriber, please log in.