WASHINGTON: Poll-leading showman Donald Trump faces the first test of his meteoric political career on February 1, when voting to elect a new US president begins.
In just over a week, around 120,000 Iowa Republicans will have the first word on their party’s White House nominee.
They are telling pollsters Trump is their man.
During a six-month campaign, the 69-year-old tycoon has slapped aside conventional political wisdom, blustering and brawling his way to a lead over his rivals.
“Trumpism” is “a toxic mix of demagoguery and nonsense,” said former Texas governor Rick Perry, before crashing out of the Republican race as one of the billionaire’s first political fatalities.
Most Americans have looked on with bewilderment as Trump has insulted Mexicans, Muslims and most of the Republican establishment.
But Trump’s mix of theatrics, populism and refusal to do politics-as-usual has proven a potent brew.
The latest national polls show he has a 16-point lead over his nearest rival, Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
Grassroots white Republicans appear intoxicated by a candidate who exudes confidence, shuns political correctness and challenges professional politicians they see as too timid, and as ideologically suspect.
He appeals, in the words of David Frum—a veteran of George W. Bush’s White House— to “people who are irked when asked to press 1 for English.”
Trump has also enthralled ratings-chasing television executives who are delighted to broadcast his rallies live—as long as he delivers eyeballs.
According to statistics from the GDELT Project, Trump receives roughly as much television coverage as all other Republican and Democratic candidates combined. AFP