Whether he is fielding questions from the press or talking to voters, Donald Trump is consistently comfortable in his own florid skin and flamboyant hair. To the amazement of veteran journalists, political operatives and the other Republican candidates, that is making him a very formidable contender for the GOP presidential nomination.
Distinct from his competitors who showed up at the Iowa State Fair studiously dressed down in blue jeans and ready to feign enthusiasm for any deep-fried delight that was thrust in their faces, Mr. Trump landed in his personal helicopter wearing his standard navy blue sport coat and dress shirt. He took only a single bite out of a pork chop on a stick. Then, he proceeded to give a horde of kids free rides on his helicopter. In a political world where candidates are stage-managed to project a poll-tested image of what voters are supposed to want, Mr. Trump, the reality TV star, is simply himself -- a blunt, confident rich guy -- and that comes across as strangely authentic.
His speeches are disjointed, stream-of-consciousness rambles. Mr. Trump gets up, starts talking, leaps from one digression to another, abandons trains of thought before they have arrived at the station and eventually makes a few boasts about being a tough negotiator and sticking it to the Chinese and Mexicans. Mr. Trump employs none of the rhetorical tricks common to other candidates whose speechwriters pile on the inspiring phrases and patriotic imagery until a crowd is predictably brought to its feet. Mr. Trump's audiences struggle to find clues about when they should applaud.
By all conventional measures, a Trump speech is a shambling disappointment, but, so far, the disappointed Trump enthusiasts are hard to find.
Last Monday night, Republican pollster Frank Luntz held a focus group session with 29 Trump supporters and reportedly came away completely convinced that The Donald could become The Nominee.
"He is much stronger, his support is much more solid than I ever would have expected," a flabbergasted Mr. Luntz told reporters.
Mr. Luntz found that the Trump voters are disgusted with both political parties, disillusioned with the Republican-controlled Congress and convinced that, as a world power, the United States has shrunk to the level of Tahiti. Mr. Trump is the guy who gives an unfiltered voice to the complaints in their minds. They do not see Mr. Trump's "negatives" -- his rude talk, his boastfulness, his ostentatious wealth, his flip-flopping on issues -- as negative. They see him as a proudly successful businessman who unapologetically sticks up for himself and boldly states uncomfortable truths.
One woman told Mr. Luntz, "There's something about Trump. He looks you in the face, he doesn't care what you think of him." Another woman added, "I like the confidence. It makes me feel confident."
In a recent essay for the conservative WND website, Kent G. Bailey, an emeritus professor of clinical psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University, approvingly classified Mr. Trump as the type of "strong warrior male" the human species has always depended upon.
"Donald Trump is the prototypical, archetypal and testosterone-driven alpha male who rules by the sheer force of his personality, imposing physique, quick wit, mastery of repartee and almost hypnotic control over his gathering masses of adoring followers," Mr. Bailey said.
The "hypnotic control" element is an overreach, but it does appear that Mr. Trump's alpha male persona is what makes him appealing to those voters who believe politically correct, feminized wimps are selling out America to Vladimir Putin, the conniving Chinese, the invading Mexicans and the fanatical Muslims.
One could nitpick and point out that Mr. Trump's policy pronouncements are no more astute than the simplistic rants one could hear from any belligerent drunk on a barstool, but that does not matter in the slightest to Mr. Trump's fans (many of whom probably are belligerent drunks on barstools). Nuance, complexity and verifiable facts are not of particular concern to those who long for a warrior male to lead them.
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Horsey is a political commentator for the Los Angeles Times. Go tolatimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/ to see more of his work.