Donald Trump has certainly made a splash into the political arena and Presidential race recently. The most recent media frenzy being over the GOP debates Thursday night where Fox’s Megyn Kelly took Trump to task over several issues including the question of him even being a republican (which Trump never really answered).
That question, as well as the opening question of the debate, where it was asked who would not “pledge to not run a 3rd party candidacy if not nominated” were driven out of the threat that Trump has put out there that he might. Some have even questioned if he might be a “Hillary Clinton mole” in reality.
Trump was the only candidate of the 10 to raise his hand (which meant not pledging to abstain) by the way.
The old guard of the GOP as well as many of their party faithful are concerned that Trump might indeed make good on his threat.
They shouldn’t be.
People are forgetting exactly who Trump is and what he does. Trump made his fortune as a real estate developer. A job that requires some pretty good negotiating skills. Say what you want about Trump and his recent statements, but Trump does know what he is doing. For those familiar with the cutthroat industry known as real estate development they know that there are a lot of people looking to reach as far into that developer’s pocket as possible. Many large jobs have tight budgets that must be adhered to while contractors and other entities are all trying to get a little more for less. Everyone involved is trying to make their slice of the pie a little bigger and Trump, who is a giant in that industry is simply one of the best at making sure his slice was the biggest and everyone else didn’t get any extra.
This run for POTUS is a negotiation to Trump. Would he like to be President? Sure, who wouldn’t. Trump knows however, that the odds are long for that to happen. Trump always looks forward to the next plays, like a good negotiator or a good chess player always does. He knows that being President isn’t the only prize in this game. He also knows that regardless of the ultimate outcome, there will be many opportunities for him to gain “behind the scenes.”
The threat of a 3rd party run is just that, a threat — a negotiating tactic. As they say in New York — fuggetaboutit.
Take a moment and look forward in the election calendar. Also, look at the field on the GOP side. It is a very fractured field with more of a likelihood of a “brokered convention” at the end of the road than the likelihood of a clear winner. For those who don’t know what a brokered convention is, that’s ok — we haven’t had one in decades. They used to be pretty common though. What happens at a brokered convention is that all the people who have delegates (but none having a majority) basically hack it out until there is a clear winner. The advocates for the candidates often make side deals for each other’s delegates or concession. Cabinet positions, a VP nod or maybe just promises of help down the road. All of that can be on the menu among other things. Really there is no limit, within the law, that people are restricted to in negotiating at the convention.
Imagine Trump coming in with some delegates. Perhaps not the most or enough to pull an eventual majority but no matter what he has, they will have a lot of value. Those delegates will also get him prime speaking time, something else that can be used for negotiations.
Trump knows that a 3rd party candidate can’t win in our two party system. The resources necessary are too staggering, even for a billionaire. Beyond the dollars even, the parties have tremendous organizational advantages. There would be no way that Trump could match that in a matter of weeks or even months. He knows that, he really isn’t stupid, folks.
Threatening to run this early on plants a seed. A seed that can grow big by convention time.
Even if Trump fades in popularity before the primaries, in all likelihood he would still retain those “10 percenters” that in some states would be enough to snag a delegate or two. If he totally crashes and isn’t even a candidate by next January, Trump still has retain-able assets from this run. He has already has an universal “front runner” status after early polling. Now, if he fades or crashes, he has that evil media to blame — including the insidious Megyn Kelly who dared to challenge him. He can ride that banner and blame the media for as long as he wants. If he goes up in the polls, it’s all him “speaking the truth” and if he drops, it’s the media’s “unfair treatment” of him to blame. The crowd he is attracting will eat that up.
He doesn’t need to be President to use that in his future ventures. Plus, at this point, in case no one has noticed — Trump has hardly had to spend anything on campaigning. The media is advertising for him. he doesn’t need to run any ads. His travel is something he does regularly anyway. Yeah, maybe Trump wasn’t planning on going to Texas that day, but I bet he was planning on using his jet to go somewhere that week. Texas may have even been a shorter, more economical trip for all we know. Nothing in this race is costing Trump anything, and I doubt he will even spend much in the future on direct expenses like ads and hiring lots and lots of staffers. He has everything he needs to put on his show within his business already built in.
See his 3rd party threat for what it is, a threat. One he can use all the way to Cleveland next year at the convention. What it might gain him is of course anyone’s guess but Trump is a businessman who’s specialty is negotiations. Expect him to walk away with something of value when all is said and done. It won’t be the Presidency, but it will have value — at least to him. He has the “do this or I run 3rd party” card to play, and he will play it for all it’s worth when the time comes.
The only way he does make a general election independent run is if he CLEARLY sees where he can win a state or two that would cause neither of the parties to have an electoral majority. Like the primary, he won’t be “in it to win it” but in it for a piece of negotiating leverage. That of course would revert the process to another negotiation and his card to play against the democrats is that if he simply does nothing, the GOP House of Representatives get to make the call — and that means whomever is the GOP nominee will get the Presidency.
Again though, go back to the fact that just winning a state is pretty darn tough for a 3rd party candidate with all the disadvantages. Depending on what Trump looks like in the public eye (if he has a pretty good primary season and summer next year) it might not be impossible with his money to run a “2 or 3 state” campaign just to throw a wrench in the works. Of course, the voters of those chosen states would have that “maverick” motivation to “finally tell the parties where to go.” In this age of disgruntlement with Washington, that could be enough.
My prediction is that Trump plays his cards next summer and walks away with a pretty good prize from the GOP for not running in the fall. Presidential campaigns are expensive, and organization (whatever kind he can put together) will be necessary. He won’t be able to live off the media limelight when there are two opposing candidates vs 16 who are all basically on the same side but just not as colorful as him. At that point serious “vote driving” needs to happen and that is expensive and tedious. He can walk away much more a winner in the summer of 2016 all in time to deliver up another season of the Apprentice or whatever his next venture is.
While other billionaires are spending their money on donations, Trump is using his celebrity and will probably spend about what some of his buddies spend except his will be spent on directly gaining votes and delegates because he can. He has the celebrity and personality to do it and get what he wants “eliminating the middle man.”
Many people don’t look at him like a “billionaire” but a “regular guy” and he can play that up a bunch. No one in the Walton family can do that. Neither of the Koch Brothers can do that. Sheldon Addelson couldn’t do it, but Trump can — and he is.
Featured image via http://jaybookman.blog.ajc.com