Monday, December 18, 2017
Politics

DeWitt: In the Republican Party, the antiestablishment has become the establishment

Yet another disappointing but unsurprising reaction — or, in this case, nonreaction — from Republican leaders:

As Times political editor Adam C. Smith reported last week, neither Gov. Rick Scott nor our own Blaise Ingoglia, condemned Donald Trump's call to temporarily ban Muslim immigration.

In one way, Ingoglia's failure to join many other state Republican leaders and say the obvious, that such a ban would be unconstitutional and bigoted, is almost as outrageous as the statement itself.

In another way, what else would a self-interested politician do? Look at the results of the most recent New York Times/CBS News poll, and not just the widely reported fact that it showed Trump expanding his lead over his party's rivals, now with the support of 35 percent of likely Republican voters.

Almost as alarming, Sen. Ted Cruz, the preferred candidate of 16 percent of the voters, is in second place and rising fast. Ben Carson, though fading, still has the support of 13 percent of the voters.

You don't need advanced math to figure out that the combined backing of these three "antiestablishment" candidates adds up to a solid majority of Republican voters. In fact, it's almost two-thirds.

The math as applied to supposedly mainstream candidacies is just as clear, showing an inverse correlation between popularity and appropriate alarm with Trump. Jeb Bush, for example, responded to Trump's statement by calling him "unhinged" and is polling at a dismal 3 percent.

A couple of things to mention. The poll was taken before Trump made his statements about Muslims and, of course, before Tuesday's debate. And neither Cruz nor Carson directly supported his call for a ban.

But the source of Trump's popularity, the poll showed, is his hard-line stance on terror, and a more recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found that a majority of Republicans support his outlandish plan.

As for the two other candidates who just as easily could be called unhinged, Cruz, post-ban proposal, applauded Trump for staying focused on securing America's borders and talked inanely about "carpet bombing" ISIS. One of Carson's earlier statements would, in less crazy times, stand out as a jaw-dropping admission of prejudice. A Muslim just plain shouldn't be president, he said.

That they are all vying for the same slice of Republican voters is hardly shocking. It's a huge slice.

And, so, it's hardly shocking that Ingoglia, a Republican state representative from Spring Hill and the chairman of the state party, hasn't uttered a critical word about Trump's latest outrage.

This is true even though Ingoglia has made a dramatic move into the party establishment.

He long ago dumped the open-collared shirts, gold chains and antigovernment bombast that got him noticed.

More recently, he seems to have listened to people in the party who thought he already had enough titles next to his name and dropped his rumored push to become House speaker.

His ability to draw 14 presidential candidates to the party's Sunshine Summit last month, according to Republican-friendly bloggers, was a major feat of unification.

Being the leader of the state party, and an apparently effective one, pretty much defines him as establishment.

But, judging from their support from Republican voters, so are the candidates whom we used to think of as on the fringe.

Contact Dan DeWitt at [email protected]; follow @ddewitttimes.

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