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Can he Trump the field?

June 16, 2015

At 11 a.m. EST or thereabouts, Donald Trump declared he is an official candidate for President.

He spoke for approximately 48 minutes, and it took about that many seconds for the talking heads to start picking at the speech and the man.

Recent polls show that somewhere in the neighborhood of 71% of the people polled say they would never vote for him, so what impact can he have?  Is he, as some allege, just doing it to increase his personal brand recognition?

Trump has threatened to run before, and as recently as an hour before his declaration, some of  the pundits were betting 70-30 that this was just going to be more of the same.

So why did he do it?

Money?  Only an idiot would think Donald Trump needs the power and influence of the presidency to make money. It’s likely that he could spend at least a quarter of his 9 billion net worth to get through to the general election.

Name recognition?  Not likely, since you’d have to be living in a cave without access to the outside world not to know who he is.

Ego trip?  Maybe, at least in part. Trump has long said that he can turn America around and make it great again, and he can’t prove he can do that if he isn’t the country’s CEO.

Patriotism?  Probably a lot more than his detractors want to acknowledge. This country has been very, very good to Mr. Trump, and he both knows and appreciates it. Moreover, he knows why it has been such a good place to build a business. It would be the height of folly to tell him “… you didn’t build that.”

Frustration? Absolutely. Mr. Trump has backed other politicians in the past eight years. None of them have closed the deal successfully.

And it’s that last point that could make him a very serious opponent.

If the American public is nothing else,  it is frustrated. That’s the one thing that Donald Trump and a New York bartender or beat cop have in common.

Frustrated that every year they make less money and what they do make has less buying power, frustrated that they can work for a lifetime and have some asinine government policy jerk the rug out from under them, frustrated with being told they are bad, evil people for wanting to do more than just survive.

In fact, the list of things they are frustrated about could probably fill the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

So can Trump actually win the 2016 election?

There were points in Trump’s speech that sounded a little like Ross Perot about the time he went off the deep end in his presidential bid.

Conversely, there were parts of the speech that made you believe that he can fix America, and that it damn well wouldn’t take him decades to do it.

Trump may not be anyone’s idea of a smooth politician, but he is a master marketer. He will learn very quickly what sells and what doesn’t, and if he is serious about the Oval Office, he will adjust the message to the market.

He will learn to talk about what he puts out in payroll costs, and how many people the Trump brand employs. He will find the success stories among the people that work for him and talk about all the people that have benefited from his money.

The danger is that he isn’t serious, and just wants to pull the Republican field his direction. If he does that he will share another distinction with Ross Perot. He could stay in long enough to influence the election toward the Democrats.

Perot probably didn’t actually cost Bush 41 the election…his own inability to deliver on his no new taxes pledge did that, and oh yes, and a consummate glad-handing retail politician named Bill Clinton.

Still, Perot drew almost 19% of the popular vote, and Bush lost the popular vote by 5.5%,  43 to 37.5%.

For the country’s sake, the Donald damn well better be serious.

If he is, it won’t be long before he talks enough for people to decide whether he’s just a rich crackpot blowhard, or a serious contender.  If all he’s looking for is a sound bite or two, then people and the easily bored media will stay interested, just on the off chance he might have the answers they want.

From → op-ed

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