There are a lot of bad reasons people have for supporting Donald Trump's presidential campaign. A lot of his supporters name Jeb Bush as their second choice. Since Trump and Bush have the best name recognition among the candidates, it's likely that much of Trump's support at this stage is a result of name recognition. And he's a protest candidate for some people. But a moderate protesting conservatism is supporting Trump for reasons inconsistent with those of a conservative who's supporting Trump in protest of moderation. Then there are the people who are supporting Trump out of anger. But different people are angry for different reasons, sometimes for inconsistent reasons. Even among those with more similar motivations for supporting Trump, such as concern about illegal immigration, they have no reason to think that supporting Trump will accomplish anything significant on that issue. I often see Trump supporters refer to how their critics "don't get it", as if there's one reason or one universal set of reasons people have for supporting Trump, and any critic who doesn't recognize it is guilty of criticizing a movement he doesn't understand. But the fact is that the Trump movement is diverse, and a lot of his supporters don't get that fact. They're the ones who don't get it.
One of the reasons why the Trump movement has been so successful is a reason I haven't seen discussed much. That's what I want to focus on in this post.
People like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Matt Drudge keep giving Trump a lot of positive coverage he doesn't deserve. Limbaugh and Hannity also give a lot of positive coverage to Ben Carson. We have two bad candidates who never should have entered the race, Trump and Carson, getting a lot of positive coverage from some of the most influential sources in conservative media.
And I suspect that a lot of conservatives, as well as some non-conservatives, avoid criticizing people like Limbaugh and Hannity because they want to avoid the potential pushback. Limbaugh rarely gets criticized by conservative media, relative to how often he deserves criticism.
His treatment of the Thursday debates on his Friday program was ridiculous. The best performers in the debate - Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio, and Carly Fiorina - got far less attention than Trump and Carson.
Limbaugh sometimes refers to how he plays golf with Trump, and he said on Friday that he's gotten to know Carson over the last several months. I suspect the quantity and quality of coverage he gives both of them has a lot to do with those relationships. Hannity has also referred to how Trump keeps in contact with him (Hannity) off the air, and I know Trump recently made some positive comments about the Drudge Report, more than once. It's paid off. Limbaugh and Hannity are giving him far more coverage than he deserves, coverage that's often positive. They're influencing many millions of people who know little and/or care little about electability and the dangers of third party candidates. Those millions of people, largely influenced by individuals like Limbaugh and Hannity, are supporting two candidates who would lose badly to Clinton, and there's a good chance that one of those two would run as a thirty party candidate (though he probably wouldn't, but the risk shouldn't be taken).
Imagine if somebody like John Boehner or Jeb Bush had made comments about healthcare like what Trump said in Thursday's debate. Or if they'd donated to the Clintons and other Democrats and had defended it the way Trump did during the debate. Or if they had the record of recently taking liberal positions on so many issues, and making so many inappropriate comments about people, that Trump has. Would people like Limbaugh and Hannity be as uncritical of Boehner and Bush as they are of Trump? I doubt it. Limbaugh, Hannity, and Drudge do far more good than bad overall, but their behavior in this context is doing a lot of damage.
With Limbaugh, I suspect another factor is that Trump reminds Limbaugh of himself so much. Both are largely self-made men, financially successful, outspoken, often opposed by the mainstream media, often criticized for making inappropriate comments, often opposing mainstream Republican leadership, etc. They're different in a lot of ways as well (Limbaugh is more sincerely and consistently conservative, he's more knowledgeable of political and other issues than Trump is, etc.). But there are enough similarities for Limbaugh to see himself in Trump to a large extent. Limbaugh likes what Trump is doing in a lot of contexts that voters shouldn't be taking into account when deciding which presidential candidate to support. Limbaugh may like Trump's outspokenness, his willingness to make comments considered inappropriate, his being opposed by mainstream Republican leadership, etc., but it doesn't follow that Limbaugh's listeners ought to be supporting Trump as a presidential candidate. But I suspect that the lines often get blurred. They hear Limbaugh saying so many positive things about Trump, for a variety of reasons (often reasons with little relevance to a presidential campaign), and that motivates them to support Trump as a candidate.
One thing I like about Michael Medved is that he's made a lot of effort over the years to teach his listeners about the importance of electability and the dangers of third parties and third party candidates. I wish people like Limbaugh and Hannity would do the same. They do it to some extent, but not often or consistently enough. And they keep giving a lot of positive coverage to horrible candidates who never should have gotten nearly so much coverage (e.g., Herman Cain in 2012 and Trump and Carson in this 2016 cycle). Often, the candidate's poor quality will eventually become so evident that even the positive coverage from people like Limbaugh, Hannity, and Drudge won't be enough to keep the candidate going. That's what happened with Cain in 2012, for example. But the candidate never should have gotten so much support to begin with, and changing the situation was made far more difficult than it should have been because of how people like Limbaugh and Hannity mishandled it. With Trump, there's also the danger of a third party candidacy. Instead of giving him so much positive coverage (along with occasional negative coverage that's much less negative than it ought to be), people like Limbaugh and Hannity ought to be giving Trump much more negative coverage and using this as an opportunity to teach their listeners about electability and the dangers of third party candidates.