(I don't often post political topics on this blog, but I wrote this post for FB earlier this week and was pleased with how it came out and the discussion it engendered, so I thought it deserved a longer shelf life than the week or two it takes my FB posts to drop into oblivion. The events of the last 24 hours or so only make me more sure of my conclusions in this post.)
I've watched politics my whole life, going all the way back to when I was 12 and Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford in the 76 election. One factor has held through that whole time: the guy who is perceived as being more likable will always win. If you wouldn't have the candidate over to your house for a backyard barbecue, you won't vote for him. Let's run down the list:
Carter vs. Ford - Carter was a simple, down-to-earth guy, a peanut farmer who had never been to Washington, who taught Sunday school at his church and sounded like a good ole country boy. Ford was a career politician - a very nice man according to all who knew him - but he was stained by his pardon of Nixon, and he sounded too much like a politician. Advantage: Carter.
Carter vs. Reagan - Reagan was funny, charming, and great with a one-liner. Carter, by this point, had become a downright depressing individual - clearly out of his depth in the office and blaming his incompetence on America's declining virtue. So, a friendly, joking grandfather figure or a gloomy policy wonk? Advantage: Reagan
Reagan vs. Mondale - Reagan was still his witty, one-lining, enjoyable self, with the added virtue of facing a near fatal bullet wound with incredible courage and good humor. Mondale was perhaps the most boring human being on the planet. A guy whose jokes will keep you laughing, versus a droning pedant who will have your guests snoring in five minutes? Advantage: Reagan.
Bush vs. Dukakis - Bush 41 was less likable than his son, but there was still something endearingly goofy and awkward about this guy. Dukakis, on the other hand, was so cold-blooded that Dave Barry said of him: "You could never listen when he was talking because you kept waiting for his tongue to flick out and catch a passing fly." Goofy aristocrat vs. boring accountant - Advantage: Bush41
Bush vs. Clinton - the awkward charm had worn thin and the President seemed increasingly detached from the people, while Slick Willie was funny, jovial, and very charismatic. Yes, he'd probably put the moves on your wife the minute you were out of the room, but he was SO ingratiating you would just make sure she was out of town next time you had him over. Beleaguered aristocrat vs. cool young governor - Advantage: Clinton.
Clinton vs Dole - The GOP got a bad case of the stupids and nominated a certifiable geezer this time - a cranky old fart who always looked like he was going to accuse you of stealing his newspaper. Clinton's charm had worn off to some extent, but he was still more likable on a bad day than Dole was on his best day. Geezer vs. Likable Skirtchaser - Advantage: Clinton!
Bush vs. Gore - W was, even according to his political rivals, a genuinely likable guy. Yes, he mispronounced stuff and didn't always come across as a particularly bright, but Gore was another Democrat without personality: droning facts and figures and accusing anything he disagreed with of being a "risky scheme" in that droning baritone voice of his. Country boy vs. boring professor of environmental science - Advantage: Bush.
Bush vs. Kerry - W was still cruising on a winning war record and his undeniable affection for our men and women in uniform, while Kerry looked like a Yankee undertaker who would try to sell a grieving widow the most expensive casket in the shop. Aloof and unlikable, his Senate record also branded him, fairly or not, as a flip-flopper. Shady undertaker vs. the patriotic commander-in-chief - Advantage: Bush.
McCain vs. Obama - Having learned nothing from the Dole-Clinton election, the GOP, in a year when their brand was badly damaged already, nominated a boring old geezer with a stellar war record against the coolest, most hip politician since Clinton played the clarinet on Arsenio Hall - and he was America's first non-white candidate to boot! Geezer vs. Hipster - Advantage: Obama.
Romney vs. Obama - Here is the thing: I bet, in person, Romney is a far nicer guy than Barack Obama. But, in front of a crowd, he comes across as plastic and phony - I always said that if Wiley Coyote had ordered a "Presidential Candidate Kit" from Acme, when he opened the box, Mitt Romney would have popped out! Obama, despite his party's drubbing in the 2010 Congressional election, still came across as a cool cat who understood the plight of the little people. Mellow hipster vs. Canned Politician - Advantage: Obama.
So this brings us to Trump. Not to put too fine a point on it, the man is a jerk. He insults his rivals, tosses out offensive rhetoric about minorities that the GOP desperately needs to win over, and now trashes our veterans. So we have a guy who comes across as an annoying blowhard who would spend your entire barbecue talking about himself and how great he is, versus a field of candidates who are all more personable and likable than he is. Conclusion: Trump will drop like a rock once the primaries start, leaving people shaking their heads and wondering how this bozo ever held a lead, even briefly!