The last round of polls are leading the more optimistic members of the chattering class to wonder if Donald Trump may have peaked. He's still ahead of the pack, but he seems to have hit a plateau at around 25 percent with Republican voters, which isn't going down (except in the Quinnipiac poll, where he went down from 28 percent to 25 percent).
Is there a limit to how many voters think the next president and first lady should be the television host and his third wife (who would certainly be the first first lady to have posed nude)? I always wonder, as I hear candidates and their supporters condemning others, how they square Donald Trump's words with his actions. The short answer may be that most voters — even Republican voters — are not taken in by hot air and petty insults. Maybe they think such behavior is beneath the dignity of a candidate for president. Perhaps that is why 75 percent of Republicans are not supporting Donald Trump.
Which should be the answer to the question: Will Trump really be the Republican nominee? He should not be, not only because he can't win in any matchup with a Democrat come November, but also because he can't win in February and March, if the field is narrowed to the point that 25 percent doesn't give you victory.
There are a disconcerting number of "ifs" in that answer. First, how long will it take for the Republican field to narrow? The fact that Scott Walker and Rick Perry have already suspended/withdrawn establishes that super PACs cannot keep alive a campaign that has failed to attract other support; after all, super PACs can't pay for the bread-and-butter costs of campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, including all those plane trips and hotel rooms and organizers and rental cars and phones and the rest of the non-paid media stuff of campaigns. On the other hand, the super PACs can make a difference; they may not be enough to prop up a candidacy that is tanking, but they can help keep alive one that is struggling somewhere in the middle, keeping those candidates in the race longer, which helps Trump stay alive, and maybe even win, with a minority of the voters.
Donald Trump is the living and breathing argument for the two-party system. Because there is no way that Donald Trump wins majority support of any group, there is no way he should be his Party's nominee, much less the president.
That is, unless the process fails; unless it takes too long for the Republicans to winnow their field; unless we end up, come November, with three (or more) candidates in the race, with Trump running as an independent, or Bloomberg running in response to Trump — really, there are so many ways the system could go wrong. And remember, the media's interest is diametrically opposed to that of the Party establishment, to the extent there is one. The media wants a race: does anyone think 22-24 million people have tuned in for the debates to watch Ted Cruz go at it with Marco Rubio? The media will go after Trump for sure, as they do every candidate, but they are not out to kill him — quite the contrary. While it's not true that any press is good press so long as your name is spelled right, it is true that so long as he is a ratings magnet, the media needs him as much as he needs them. He isn't going away anytime soon, and certainly not of his own accord. He is having the time of his life.
Nope, at the end of the day, the media won't do it, and the candidates won't do it unless they really have to. It's up to the voters to select as their nominees two candidates who are each capable of winning and governing. Most years, by some miracle, that happens. But given the system, it is by no means a sure thing, and if the primary process fails, then the general election will almost certainly invite additional suitors, who will be welcomed (or not) based on the perception of who they help or hurt.
To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.