Media Buzz

Bushes abandon Trump, but he's running against the GOP brand, not just Clinton

'MediaBuzz' host Howard Kurtz weighs in on why Donald Trump is still safe even if he breaks with the Republican orthodoxy, such as the Bush family

 

If Donald Trump wins the White House next week, it will be without the support of the last two presidents named Bush.

That, at least, is what George W. Bush’s nephew told a Republican rally in Texas. And while George P. Bush, a budding politician himself, later told the AP he was just “speculating” that the two family members would potentially vote for Hillary Clinton, it’s pretty clear, given the clan’s tight-knit nature, that this was meant to be a signal. 

We already knew, based on a conversation leaked by Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, that George H.W. Bush plans to vote for Clinton.

It’s a stark reminder that Trump not only clobbered the Republican establishment in winning the nomination, but that as he tries to capture the last few states that would get him to 270, he is doing it despite the opposition of the party poohbahs.

John Kasich announced that he had written in the name of John McCain. Paul Ryan said tersely he had voted for Trump, but in recent weeks has followed a self-imposed policy of talking only about House candidates. If Mitch McConnell has had much to say about Trump lately, I haven’t seen it.

Jason Chaffetz endorsed Trump, un-endorsed him and then re-endorsed him, not exactly a ringing affirmation. The same for Nevada congressman Joe Heck. Kelly Ayotte retracted her debate comment that Trump was a good role model for children. Ted Cruz bombastically refused to endorse Trump in Cleveland, telling people to vote their conscience, before quietly getting back in line.

Clinton is touting the prominent Republicans who are backing her, including Colin Powell, Hank Paulson, Richard Armitage, Michael Chertoff and Brent Scowcroft.

But the truth is that Trump doesn’t really need their support. He is running as a different kind of Republican and assembling a very different kind of coalition.

The very essence of his candidacy, in fact, is to break with the GOP orthodoxy of the past.

The media have made much of the fact that Trump is in danger of losing such reliably red states as Utah and North Carolina. But the fact that he has some hope of snatching away Wisconsin, Michigan or even Pennsylvania—where he’s down 4 points in a poll yesterday--shows that Trump has an appeal to white working-class voters that typical GOP nominees do not. 

He is a populist outsider and former Democrat who is more interested in shaking up the system than in meeting an ideological litmus test.

So much of the race has turned on Trump’s persona, and controversial comments, that issues other than immigration have often been overshadowed. But it’s clear that on subjects like trade, entitlements and Russia, he is far from a Ryan Republican. 

Of course the regular Republicans would rather have had Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio or even Cruz. Trump doesn’t owe them anything. His relations with the RNC have been strained.  

It’s hardly surprising that the Bush family isn’t on the Trump bandwagon. Trump eviscerated “low energy” Jeb during the primaries. He also ripped Bush’s brother for invading Iraq and kept noting that 9/11 happen on his watch.

What’s more, Trump’s build-a-wall platform is the polar opposite of Bush 43’s failed effort at immigration reform. And his insistence on protecting Social Security benefits is a far cry from Bush’s attempt to privatize the program.

Trump often casts the GOP as part of the problem. His “drain the swamp” rallying cry doesn’t exactly distinguish between the two parties that dwell in Washington. 

Win or lose, Trump is creating a movement that will either change the Republican Party or break away from the party the Bushes helped build.

Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.