Trump as the GOP's nominee for President is looking very plausible, whatever the day to day advances and setbacks of his campaign. Many Republicans cringe at the thought that the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Eisenhower is becoming the party of Donald Trump. Meanwhile, many Democrats and progressives smirk, complacent in their belief that Trump would suffer a presidential election loss so huge it would make Goldwater's 1964 debacle look like a triumph. Despite these naysayers, Trump, if nominated, actually has a very attainable path to the White House.
Trump as GOP nominee would seem to be an unlikely winner of the 2016 election. In 2012, President Obama won by about 5 million votes and Trump has the highest disapproval ratings of all GOP candidates (about 60 percent of all Americans have an unfavorable opinion of him). Trump's mere presence on the ballot should energize the Obama coalition and get Democratic voters to the polls.
However, if nominated, expect Trump (like many candidates before him) to make a rush towards the middle ground. Perhaps Trump even plans to play a bit of Prince Hal hoping that (to paraphrase Shakespeare)
When his loose behaviour he does throw off, his reformation shall glow more goodly and attract more eyes, than if it had no history of bad behaviour to set it off.
Imagine a grand convention speech where Trump disavows his more offensive remarks, and commits to wanting to be President of all Americans. America loves contrition in its politicians -- after all, how many times have we forgiven the Clintons their various transgressions?
Let's assume Trump runs a shrewd campaign. Now, combine that campaign with even one of these exogenous shocks:
- A severe and successful "9/11" type attack on the mainland United States (the attack might be conventional, nuclear, biological, chemical and/or cyber -- but severe in effect) occurs close to the election. In the resulting chaos and panic, the GOP (rightly or wrongly) paints the Democrats as soft on terrorism and/or national security -- Trump becomes the man of the hour.
Granted, individually these events have a low probability of occurring, but collectively -- they have a non-trivial probability. Moreover, this list of exogenous shocks that would assist Trump (or whoever is the GOP candidate) is far from exhaustive.
So, if nominated Trump -- who has shown a "giddy, almost childlike, enthusiasm for torturing and summarily executing the suspected enemies of America" (why bother with such niceties as: finding out if the suspects are guilty, the Geneva Conventions, and the laws against torture) -- might be elected our next President. And, for everyone thinking of voting for him in the primaries (perhaps as a protest vote) -- remember, you might get the president you claim to want.