Vote to stump Trump

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump meets with attendees during a campaign stop, Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Myrtle Beach, S.C. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

So far, a multiplicity of polls make Donald Trump a solid favorite to win today’s S.C Republican presidential primary. Added to his nearly 20-point victory margin in last week’s New Hampshire primary, that would give the GOP front-runner more momentum going into the next series of contests.

That expectation should be sufficient of itself to encourage voters who reasonably find the prospect of Mr. Trump on a national ballot for president a scary prospect.

The billionaire real estate magnate and former reality TV star has continued to oppose reasoned political discourse, decorum and, finally, the truth throughout the run-up to today’s primary.

Mr. Trump is not alone in his dismissal of the political process as a rational exercise in responsible citizenship. But he has contributed — if that’s the word — the most to its degeneration into demagoguery during this election year.

So far his attention-getting antics in debates and news conferences have yet to discredit him among his hard-core supporters — again, if the polls are any indication.

As columnist Rich Lowry observes in a column on our Commentary page, “... there’s almost nothing he can say or do that will discredit him in their eyes.”

Apparently, Mr. Trump’s candidacy serves as a lightning rod for a portion of the electorate that is mad as hell and isn’t going to take it anymore.

But bombast and personal insult shouldn’t be mistaken for strength or leadership.

Nor should the voters find Mr. Trump’s assertions of his new-found conservative beliefs persuasive. They don’t accord with his past history, or with an analysis of what he actually is saying about immigration, the use of military force, Vladimir Putin, torture by federal government employees, women in politics, etc.

Like Mr. Trump, some of his supporters are probably new to Republican party politics.

And today’s primary is open to all voters. South Carolina doesn’t have party registration, and the only limiting factor to voting in the GOP primary is that the voter can’t participate in next Saturday’s Democratic primary.

The open primary is an opportunity for independent S.C. voters of moderate to conservative persuasion to go to the polls today — even if they have been repulsed by the decline in the level of political discourse that has accompanied Mr. Trump’s foray into electoral politics.

There are positive alternatives to Mr. Trump in today’s election. In our view, the most thoughtful and experienced is Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a proven conservative and pragmatic leader of long standing.

Prospective voters shouldn’t be discouraged from voting by those polls that give Mr. Trump a lead going into the primary contest today.

Indeed, they should be motivated to make a statement to the contrary, recognizing that the only poll that finally counts is the one that voters participate in on Election Day.