One of the explanations for Trumpmania’s durability is that Trump is basically immune to political attacks. Doesn’t matter what you throw at him — between the cult of personality formed by his hardcore supporters and the outer ring of populists who see voting for him as a way to give Washington the finger, anything you hurl is spitballs off of Superman’s chest.
There’s some truth to that. But what if another explanation for his seeming invulnerability is that there just haven’t been many bullets fired? Here’s one of the most staggering figures you’ll see this year. Remember, this guy has led nearly every poll, in every state, since last summer with 30+ percent of the vote:
Trump, whose nomination threatens to detonate the modern Republican coalition, has faced less than half the attack dollars that Gingrich did four years ago, and that’s in a cycle where Super PACs have spent far more than they did in 2012. How come? One reason is strategic: The primary has been one long game of “Survivor,” with every top-tier candidate convinced that if he can just eliminate the competition and force Trump into a two-man race, the anti-Trumpers within the GOP will unite behind him and propel him to victory. That strategy seems increasingly dubious, but it was Jeb Bush’s plan and later became Ted Cruz’s plan and now it’s essentially Rubio’s plan. If a match race with Trump is the goal, then obviously a lot of the early spending will be aimed at rivals for the anti-Trump slot in the final two rather than at Trump himself. That’s how you end up with Right to Rise dropping many millions on attack ads to blow up Rubio while their attacks on Trump are mostly left to Jeb shouting “Stop being mean to my family!” at the debates.