Donald Trump comfortably defeats his Republican presidential rivals in South Carolina’s GOP primary.
‘It suggests that the party’s intellectual leaders, who organized the base around the National Review/Weekly Standard consensus: Small government, free trade, pro-Israel, deregulation, low taxes, social conservatism and an aggressive foreign policy — have been generals of a phantom army.’
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Donald Trump, with supporters in North Carolina.
Trump’s resounding victory isn’t simply a boon to his prospects for winning the Republican presidential nomination, an outcome once thought impossible that is looking increasingly more plausible. It is also an embarrassing repudiation of conservative orthodoxy that has dominated Republican politics for decades.
It suggests that the party’s intellectual leaders, who organized the base around the National Review/Weekly Standard consensus: Small government, free trade, pro-Israel, deregulation, low taxes, social conservatism and an aggressive foreign policy — have been generals of a phantom army.
The troops, instead, are marching with Trump, who bested his rivals in South Carolina by campaigning against nearly everything the Bush family, the Republican Party and neoconservatives who supported military interventions advocated for. Among his many breaks with the elite consensus, Trump declared that former President George W. Bush had lied about weapons of mass destruction to march the country to war; blamed Bush for the 9/11 attacks, arguing that he ignored intelligence community warnings; defended Planned Parenthood; boasted that he was the only Republican who would not cut Social Security or Medicare; said he approved of the individual mandate in Obamacare; and promised to slap onerous tariffs on companies who outsource jobs.
And where Washington and New York-based GOP leaders pledge outreach to immigrants, moderate Muslims and other minorities, the reality TV star plays more overt racial politics than any national candidate since George Wallace. Trump’s brand of nativist, nationalist isolationism marked the path to victory.
Sen marco Rubio (R-Fl) finished second in South Carolina
Conventional wisdom said that Trump was going to have a difficult time in the Palmetto State. After all, the brash real estate mogul failed to sway evangelicals in Iowa, a key group that is similarly prevalent across South Carolina. The thinking further went that Trump would also face an uphill climb with many veterans in the state, who are drawn to a candidate ready to assume the sober responsibilities of commander-in-chief. More than anything, however, Trump was expected to hit a wall named George W. Bush. The former president remains overwhelmingly popular among the state’s Republican voters, but not even he could convince enough South Carolinians to support his forlorn brother. At the end of the day, Jeb could only manage a distant fourth place finish in South Carolina and instantly suspended his campaign.
Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Gov. Jeb Blush: Suspended campaign after yet another disappointing finish.
In the weeks leading up to the primary, Trump incessantly mocked Jeb Bush for relying on the aid of his famous family — first his mother, Barbara, and later his brother. He gleefully tweeted that Bush “desperately needed mommy to help him. Jeb — mom can’t help you with ISIS, the Chinese or with Putin.”
During last week’s presidential debate in Greenville, South Carolina, Trump unloaded on George W. Bush’s presidency in a tirade that earned him plaudits from anti-war groups like Code Pink. He insisted that the former president “lied” to America about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in order to start a war there.
“How did he keep us safe when the World Trade Center came down?” Trump asked, referring to the GOP refrain that “Bush kept us safe” in the aftermath of the attacks, a line that helped him win re-election in 2004. He further stirred the pot after the former president re-emerged on the campaign trail on behalf of his brother, posing the question, “is he fair game for questions about World Trade Center, Iraq War and economic collapse? Careful!”
The attacks were especially jarring because they didn’t come from a Democrat or anti-war liberal still sore about George W. Bush’s presidency — but from someone leading the race for the GOP nomination.
Trump violated another core Republican Party standard on the eve of the primary when he vowed to stay “neutral” in conflicts between Israel and Palestine, with hopes of negotiating a deal between the two sides during his presidency. “You understand a lot of people have gone down in flames trying to make that deal,” he said in an interview on MSNBC this week. “So I don’t want to say whose fault it is — I don’t think that helps.” That statement was at odds with the rest of the Republican presidential field, and the GOP more broadly, which offers largely knee-jerk pro-Israel rhetoric to appeal to evangelicals across the American South.