Yesterday I noted a poll that showed Donald Trump at 10 percent in a national Republican presidential preference poll. He seems to take support about equally from Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, and Ron Paul. Aside from Tim Pawlenty, they are the only candidates with noticeable pockets of support. So this has raised questions about whether a Trump campaign would be more than a publicity stunt. I’m skeptical for the following reasons.
1. How liquid is Trump? In determining how financially competitive Trump would be with Romney, the key figure isn’t net worth. It’s how much ready cash he has to spend on a presidential campaign. There are good reasons to question whether Trump is really in a position to drop that much dough on a presidential campaign.
2. How conservative is Trump? The last time he flirted with a presidential bid, Trump floated the idea of a wealth tax and criticized social conservatives. Since then, he has tacked to the right on a number of issues and talked about Obama’s birth certificate. Does this guy stand for anything?
3. Are Republicans ready to go the celebrity route? Conservatives have a habit of criticizing liberal celebrities for their political pronouncements — “Shut up and sing,” as Laura Ingraham puts it — and then latching on to any B-list celebrity who expresses a conservative opinion or endorses a Republican candidate. But Donald Trump isn’t Chuck Norris or Ted Nugent. He’s a Paris Hilton/Britney Spears-style celebrity. I’m not sure that would sit well with the Republican primary electorate.
4. Would he really want to disclose his assets and other financial information? Financial disclosure is often a major sticking point for for super-wealthy candidates and it has deterred celebrities from running for office before. If Trump somehow got elected, I doubt he would want to put everything into a blind trust. That didn’t work out so well for Jimmy Carter.
5. We’ve been down this road before. Jesse Ventura tried to recruit Trump to run for the Reform Party presidential nomination in 2000. Trump left the GOP the same day Pat Buchanan did in 1999, setting the stage for a contest where the Ventura faction of the party would back Trump and the Ross Perot faction would back Buchanan. The early indicators had Buchanan beating Trump, who consequently decided not to run. Both Ventura and Trump left the Reform Party. Buchanan and Trump eventually both returned to the GOP.
Now if you can’t buy the nomination of a minor political party, which was by then in decline, and beat a candidate who was no longer at the peak of his popularity and was threatening to transform the Reformers from a centrist party into a right-wing one, it’s hard to see you being able to buy the Republican nomination. Much less beat established candidates who are in line with the GOP platform.