If you want to understand why Donald Trump leads the Republican presidential field, look no further than the current inhabitant of Oval Office.
That’s the theory floated by president Obama’s former chief strategist, David Axelrod, who wrote a piece in today’s New York Times arguing that the race to succeed a two-term president is almost always dominated by a knee-jerk reaction to that president’s attributes:
Open-seat presidential elections are shaped by perceptions of the style and personality of the outgoing incumbent. Voters rarely seek the replica of what they have. They almost always seek the remedy, the candidate who has the personal qualities the public finds lacking in the departing executive. …
“The most influential politician in 2008 won’t be on the ballot,” I wrote to Senator Obama in 2006. “His name is George W. Bush.”
[Today,] the Republican base is infuriated by Mr. Obama’s activist view of government and progressive initiatives, from health care reform to immigration, gay rights to climate change.
Beyond specific issues, however, many Republicans view dimly the very qualities that played so well for Mr. Obama in 2008. Deliberation is seen as hesitancy; patience as weakness.
And who better to appeal to those anti-deliberative, impatient impulses than Trump?