Is Trump on His Way Out?

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

My colleague Molly considers the question in the wake of the second GOP debate. A reader’s response:

First of all, if the “blood coming out of wherever” remark didn’t hurt Trump, a quiet night won’t hurt him.

Secondly, the zeitgeist that both Trump and Sanders are tapping into—exasperation with the status quo—hasn't gone away, just because Trump had an off night. If anything, Fiorina might also tap into that as an “outsider,” although her positions are fairly straight-up, standard Republican fare.

Another reader goes even further:

Actually the “quiet night” HELPED Trump. It really showed a much more subdued and warm guy. His face was beaming, even though he was tired, due to the many events he had this week. I really don’t know when that guy sleeps or where he gets his energy!

More readers sound off:

I don’t think that Trump’s supporters are going to abandon him. Far from it.

The thing is, that debate was loaded with Republican Establishment people. They are the very people that Trump has been attacking this whole time as damaging the U.S., and with considerable accuracy I might add, unlike his other inflammatory remarks.

People who think that Trump will decline because of that misunderstand the Trump base. They are the type that have seen for years the growing gap between what the GOP says it will do—especially when it uses the combo of god/gays/guns/dog whistling—and what it actually does.

Trump’s appeal to his base is due to his wealth, which they think makes him qualified, his “political incorrectness,” his unapologetic confidence, and his attacks on the Establishment, which they loathe. As for those who predict his doom, they did so after his remarks with Megyn Kelly and several other incidents, but his support increased.

The reason why he is so dangerous to the Republican Establishment is due to his racist and sexist remarks at a time when they have been trying to court the Latino vote and other minority groups, particularly as their core demographic of voters ages and declines as a percentage of the population. In other words, they cannot control him.

The ones that try to “out Trump” Mr. Trump are just going to come across as inauthentic, kind of like Mitt Romney in 2012 was. It’s great because I want to see this one eat the GOP, especially if it leads to a Sanders election.

Regarding our reader’s point that “Trump’s appeal to his base is due to his wealth,” be sure to check out my colleague Chris’s great post, “How 'Caddyshack' Explains the Presidential Race,” namely his distinction about why immense wealth was a liability for Romney but not for Trump:

Pretty much everyone in America would like to have more money, obviously. What they don’t want is to think that wealth would fundamentally change who they are. This is a basic democratic credo. Most Americans don’t want to be rich so that they can develop a taste for fancy French cuisine to be enjoyed over polite repartee with their fellow snobs at the country club. They want to be rich so they can do whatever they want and never have to take crap from anyone. They don’t want to be Judge Smails, in other words; they want to be Rodney Dangerfield.

A parting thought from a reader:

Cruz admitted why he invited Trump to the anti-Iran deal carnival he held on the National Mall. It was because hundreds of news cameras are following Trump around. Where Trump goes, the media goes. He is just too good for ratings. Until the media can no longer prosper off of Trump, will he fade. I don’t think that will be anytime soon.