I debated about filing this column, worrying that writing anything — anything at all — about Donald Trump would only fuel the existing chatter about a possible presidential bid for the Republican nomination by the celebrity businessman.
I decided, however, that a painfully honest appraisal of Trump’s prospects and of the Draft Trump movement was overdue.
Talk of Trump as a future president or even as a serious contender for the GOP nomination is so far beyond stupid that I almost don’t know where to begin. I can’t believe that so many people are chattering about the possibility that he might run and could be elected, though admittedly most of them are laughing about the absurdity of the prospect.
The press release announcing the formation of the committee to draft Trump for the Republican nomination said organizer Nick McLaughlin “has never been active in politics before” and has never met Trump. Yet McLaughlin said, “I am certain [Trump] is the man America needs.”
A Marine who served three tours in Iraq and earned the Purple Heart and other medals, McLaughlin deserves our admiration for his military service to his country. But there is no indication that he or anyone else knows much about Trump other than what they (and we) see on television and in newspapers. And yet, McLaughlin is “certain” that the country needs Trump. Ridiculous is the only word to describe it.
Trump has created an image of himself as a straight-talking, shoot-from-the-hip businessman who “fires” people on his TV show. His massive ego and bluster may make him appealing as the host of a reality show, but no serious person could yet regard him as material for the White House.
In the world of real estate and business, Trump is a wheeler-dealer. I don’t know anything about his finances and past deals, but I know that other businessmen with extensive holdings and financial dealings have proved to be the mother lode of opportunity for opposition researchers.
I’m sure that Trump, who knows how to get publicity and relishes in it, understands that his personal life and all of his business dealings would become a matter of public record and public scrutiny just as soon as he announced his intention to run for president, and that alone makes it hard to believe that he is seriously considering a presidential (or any other political) bid.
A Feb. 12-15 Newsweek/Daily Beast poll of 918 likely voters found Trump trailing President Barack Obama by only 2 points, 43 percent to 41 percent. Doesn’t that show that Trump would be a serious threat to Obama and that voters wouldn’t at all be hesitant to vote for a celebrity who has never held elective office?
No. The poll results show that if you give people a choice more than 20 months before Election Day, they will make one. It also shows that some Americans so disapprove of Obama that they will even tell callers that they would vote for Trump rather than Obama.
The Newsweek/Daily Beast survey is a perfect example of why some people and organizations shouldn’t conduct polls.
The poll doesn’t measure how Trump would really do against Obama because people aren’t giving serious attention to the 2012 presidential race and their responses say little or nothing about what they will really do in 2012, after they learn about Trump and after they’ve spent time considering their options.
CNN tested Trump in late March and found him drawing just 10 percent in a multicandidate hypothetical primary ballot test.
Of course, even the CNN survey provides a distorted view of Trump’s potential in a GOP contest. That’s because the Republican nomination isn’t decided by a national primary but, rather, in a series of state contests, starting with Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
Is Trump really going to spend months at diners and in people’s living rooms in Iowa and New Hampshire? Will evangelical voters, who made up a majority of participants in the 2008 Iowa caucuses and South Carolina primary, really find a thrice-married celebrity who owns casinos and has never held public office an appealing choice for their party’s nomination?
Again, the answer is obvious.
Everyone who follows politics understands that, as Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) put it, Trump “has absolutely no chance of winning.” And the Senator is also right that the Trump buzz “says more about the media” than about Trump’s political prospects.
For too many in the media, entertainment is more important than information, and while Trump or Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) or Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) aren’t serious presidential contenders or political heavyweights on Capitol Hill, they are good for a giggle or a laugh.
Treating Trump as a serious presidential hopeful may draw a chuckle, but it also trivializes the race and wastes the time of someone better covered in the style section than in the news section. And if you are looking for entertainment, Charlie Sheen is a lot better topic than Donald Trump.
Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.