Has the topic of this thread now moved on from Merkel to Trump, or broadened to include how any candidate will deal with immigration and terrorism? I don't want to be too OT, but the last time I tried to help move a discussion, people didn't like that either.
I also don't think Trump can win in Iowa or New Hampshire. (Not so sure about South Carolina.) But just because he has enough money to keep running whether he wins or not, and because of this ludicrous debate system where a difference of 1% in the polls can mean you get free advertising (= the debate) or not, he could still do a lot of damage between now and whenever he drops out.
There was an article by Harvard professor Jill Lepore in the Nov. 16 New Yorker magazine about how much less reliable and useful polls have become now that so few people have land lines, and those of us who do are a certain older, more rural demographic. I found it very sobering.http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/11/16/...
I do think that Iowans will be able to get a feel for candidates' personalities and competence by seeing more of them up close. But on the other hand, the more negatively Trump shoots off his mouth, the more primary voters will also be blitzed by other negative advertising, either from vicious but efficient people like Cruz trying to court the far right by pushing a hard, mean-spirited line as far as they can without going quite
as far as Trump, or from nice but inept people like Jeb Bush trying to counter Trump but also get in a dig against Cruz, Rubio, Carson, et al. You can't hear that much negativity over and over for months on end without being affected by it.
And the other problem is, who is there that's really much better in the field? As long as there isn't any really positive alternative, primary voters are going to have to pick the worst of the evils, but it's not going to be at all obvious who that is. Christie has too much corruption baggage and zero appeal outside the Northeast. Fiorina was a failure as CEO. Carson is soft-spoken and appeals to some evangelicals, but has zero experience or competence for this job, which actually requires a much broader range of skills than brain surgery. Rubio represents a hope that he could win Latinos, but he's young, he's been disloyal to Jeb Bush, and his background is also full of question marks, not least his financial incompetence, which I would hope would give conservatives pause. There were unsettling articles on Rubio and Carson Nov. 30 in the New Yorker as well -- anyone with relatives in Iowa might like to pass them on.http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/11/30/...http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/11/30/...
Jeb Bush has at least run a state, and he can speak Spanish (which Cruz can't or won't), and he doesn't seem mean or vindictive, all of which makes him stand out in a largely weak field. But he just seems to lack a spark somehow -- he comes across as even a bit less alert and competent on the campaign trail than Bush 41 and Bush 43. In order to even stay in the running, he has to keep wooing donors away from all these other people and outlasting them all in the polls, which he isn't yet succeeding at doing.
So far Cruz seems to be beating him pretty hard, because Cruz is just a lot more ruthless. It has been interesting to hear David Brooks on the PBS NewsHour say more than once that Cruz won't be elected because "no one likes him" -- everyone he's ever worked with, apparently, from Harvard straight through to the US Senate. Evidently he's just a cold, cold guy concerned only with his own advancement. But I'm not sure enough Iowa primary voters care about that -- or rather, there may be enough, from the far-right angry-white-male demographic that's fueling Trump and the Tea Party, for whom that meanness is exactly what they want. They want someone to go out and be vicious to Muslims -- Cruz has said all sorts of appalling things about bombing in the Middle East and so on. He is definitely not any more immigrant- or Muslim-friendly than Trump. And out of the other side of his face, when he's speaking to evangelical groups, he promises to be a crusader against social change, fighting against gay marriage and abortion and so on, and some of them like that fighting spirit too. (Like the guy who shot up the abortion clinic ...)
The outliers who actually have some of the skills sorely needed to do the job, like Lindsey Graham, are running so far behind that they're probably completely unrealistic choices. Or John Kasich, whose name I can never even remember -- I had to look it up just now.
The most recent unsettling article in the New Yorker (sorry, I'm afraid you probably can't read all these for free, at least not on the same day) was one this week, Dec. 14, about the Freedom Caucus, the group of far-right Republicans who pushed John Boehner out as speaker of the House of Representatives.http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/12/14/...
They also represent a scary trend, and the big question currently up in the air is how they and Paul Ryan, his replacement, will work with each other over the budget negotiations. Ryan is another person who seems more competent than many in the current Republican field, but I don't think they can draft him to run when they need him where he is. And even though he has some concrete proposals, a lot of them are really far-out, like abolishing Medicare -- a program that has saved the lives of many seniors, regardless of where they are on the political spectrum.
There have been murmurs the last week or so about how a back-room consensus is forming in the Republican establishment (what there is left of it) that if Trump is still leading by the time of the convention, they will join forces to draft a compromise candidate from outside to head him off at the pass. The problem is, who would that compromise candidate be? Some say Romney-Ryan again, but if they couldn't win before, why would they win this time? Neither of them has any more experience against terrorism, jihad, etc., than Obama did when he ran. Surely Clinton would stand out in that race as by far more competent internationally, especially if she could get someone like (sheer guess) Bob Gates as her running mate.