The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Trump is not a colossus. And his party is a mess.

Former president Donald Trump arrives for his caucus night watch party in Des Moines on Jan. 15. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
5 min

The prevailing wisdom going into Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary sees Donald Trump as triumphant. But don’t mistake him for a colossus leading a mighty band. This view ignores the opportunism behind many of the endorsements he is winning and the sharp split between Republicans who want to govern and those who don’t.

Though there is certainly polarization between our parties, the primary cause of the deep distemper in American politics is the polarization within the Republican Party. Trump’s apparent dominance distracts from what the behavior of elected GOP politicians in Washington teaches us day after day: The party is a mess.

That doesn’t stop the Trump-Is-All-Powerful Industry from predicting he’ll go from strength to strength. Its argument is straightforward: Even if former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley wins New Hampshire, which she could, the obstacles in her way are formidable. In the next major battleground, Haley’s home state of South Carolina, Trump has a big lead. Haley’s problems only got worse on Friday when Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) announced his support for Trump.

Trump’s victory in the Iowa caucuses created the feel of a party falling in behind him. Telling were endorsements from Sens. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.), two politicians the vindictive front-runner repeatedly mocked, humiliated and slandered. On Sunday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whom Trump routinely referred to as “Ron DeSanctimonious,” dropped out of the race and endorsed his tormentor. So much for self-respect.