Donald Trump was never in the 2012 presidential campaign for the long haul. I am not saying he had no interest in being president, I think he did. He probably still does. But this is my take of how this all went down.
The 2012 campaign began almost the day after the election in 2008 but it really started up after the 2010 campaign. Speculation about who was going to run on the GOP side seemed to be everywhere. If there is anyone who understand the adage that “no press is bad press,” it’s Mr. Trump. I grew up on Long Island where we seemed to get a ring side seat to the Trump Show. I think he had been asked to do this and thought his campaign would be credible; a credible stunt. Now, because he has a considerable ego, had been considering this, maybe his real interest was at 10 percent. Anyone who has worked on a presidential campaign has seen the cottage industry that springs up when someone looks like they are running for president. Would be candidates end up surrounded by a growing chorus of people telling him to run. I used to wonder about candidates who have no chance, do they have no one in their life who can tell them this is a bad idea? No, no there is not.
So after a bit of this, Mr. Trump’s seriousness may have grown but I can guarantee that he did some checking into this – before he announced he was looking into it – and one of the very first things he would have learned, was that he would have to release his financials and anyone who has ever really followed his career understands that this was never going past the summer. Add to that his discomfort at shaking hands (a campaign must-do) and hatred of being seriously questioned (another campaign must-do) and you’ve got your three strikes.
I think Mr. Trump started this thinking it would get decent press and raise ratings (can they ever be too high? Not to him). He starts out talking about the issues that he thinks makes him a credible candidate – the economy and our relationship with China. He makes progress in the polls but the progression is more of a stable growing of support (good for politics, not so much for TV ratings) but not the meteoric rise he was looking for (bad for a campaign of a year and a half but good for TV ratings). What’s been the hottest topic for many on the right? President Obama’s birth certificate. Mr. Trump takes a hard turn right and into loonie land, his polls numbers soar and the media eats this up like crazy.
Note to the news media: you have what, 17 months left of this campaign to cover? Ask yourselves if you took his candidacy more seriously – or claimed to – to give you an excuse to cover something interesting. If your answer is that he repeated (over and over and over) how serious he was – his stunt would not have worked without that. If you really believed this, you would take Chris Christie at his word when he tries to make that same claim the other way. Oh, and I also have a bridge in Brooklyn that you might be interested in.
With his poll & ratings numbers soaring (not sure about his actual show but he dominated the 24 hour news cycle), the White House sees some of the crazy rhetoric is having an effect on what average people were starting to think about the President’s place of birth. They release the long form certificate. Mr. Trump is a allowed a small victory lap before his Icarus (thank you Chris Cillizza) candidacy crashes to earth. We all know what happened next, Mr. Trump is eviscerated a few days later at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and to add that last nail, his NBC show is interrupted by the announcement that President Obama caught and killed Osama bin Laden. Done.
I would like to draw a clear comparison between this media type candidacy and that of Mike Huckabee. Governor Huckabee was the clear front runner, which means as much as that can in 1.5 years out. He also wanted to be president but this is a long grueling process. One thing I always try to remind people about campaigns is that there are two things that you always run out of. While you can theoretically make more money (as hard as that is), you can’t get more time. Once the race starts, you get a finite amount and that’s all you get. I think he looked at his life and weighed the real chances – even locking in the GOP nod would not guarantee him the prize, and it probably just seemed to be too much. I am only laying all that out to show just how genuine his reasons for ending his campaign were. No, Cenk Uygur, he did not “get too fat and happy to run.” That’s just petty and mean.
PS. Dear Mr. Trump, this might be a good time to revisit that plan you had to save the Mets. That’s a financial/sad situation that really might need you.