It has only been two days since his second place finish in Iowa, but Talking Points Memo has already flagged multiple instances of Donald Trump sounding like a sore loser. This is exactly how Trump – who can’t stop being Trump, after all – is going to lose the nomination, if he loses.
Here, Trump whines about people not giving him credit for self-funding his campaign, petulantly tweeting that he “will keep doing, but not worth it!” Like he’s doing us a favor by running and this isn’t still fundamentally the self-funded ego-trip it started as back in June. We’ll see, but my guess is that voters don’t like being told they should be grateful for the existence of some billionaire made rich through inheritance.
Here, Trump whines about people praising Marco Rubio’s surprisingly strong third place finish in Iowa. We’re supposed to believe that Trump, a guy whose stump speech before Iowa had been centered on how great he was because he was leading in the polls, doesn’t understand that his underperformance in Iowa and Ted Cruz and Rubio’s overperformance is a big deal? People, even Trump supporters, see through this kind of nonsense.
Finally, here we have Trump mocking Cruz’s victory speech in a tweet. Trump’s taunts work when he’s punching down at people. But when the bully is no longer the biggest and strongest, witless insults lose their efficacy. Come on Donald, this is Bullying 101.
The Republican base is looking for an alpha male. Trump has played that role brilliantly, somehow attuning himself with the base’s reactionary wavelength despite being a rich playboy from New York. The Republican base is tired of its leaders losing all the time. Never mind that Republicans can’t have everything they want because a Democrat is in the White House. Republican leaders have been promising the moon but not delivering. The Republican base doesn’t understand the structure of the US government and just how constrained Republican officials have been, so here we are: the Right is tired of not getting results, tired of feeling it’s being lied to, and tired of being called a bigot or a racist whenever it expresses its cultural and racial resentments. Trump somehow understands all of this, but he’s now in danger of losing his alpha male status. Alpha males don’t whine about not getting enough praise for placing second in a contest. Second, after all, is first loser.
I’ve written on a number of occasions that Trump ought to be considered the favorite to win the Republican nomination. But I’ve always maintained that there are ways he can lose, and lose quickly. The quick route is for Trump’s bullying act to implode thanks to signs of weakness. Iowa exposed Trump’s weaknesses. These are the terms of debate Trump chose – who’s stronger, me or those losers? – so it will be fitting if he loses because he started losing.