Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 7, 2011

A PUBLICITY STUNT GONE HORRIBLY AWRY.... The headline on Chris Cillizza's morning round-up is a fairly common sentiment: "Donald Trump. Seriously?"

In the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, businessman and reality television star Donald Trump finished second behind only former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in a hypothetical 2012 Republican primary heat.

Trump's 17 percent tied with former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and put him well in front of other well- known GOP contenders like former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and former House speaker Newt Gingrich.

And, among those who identify themselves as tea party supporters, Trump is actually in the lead with 20 percent, followed by Romney at 17 percent and Huckabee at 14 percent.

What gives?

Cillizza ran through some plausible explanations, including Trump's high name recognition and a perception that he's been successful in business (despite multiple bankruptcy filings).

Perhaps. But it's hard to ignore the fact that Trump has been running around to every media outlet he can find, spewing conspiracy theories and bizarre ideas that resonate with easily-fooled extremists. And wouldn't you know it, polls suddenly show Republican voters gravitating to the guy.

This isn't complicated -- the GOP base includes a big chunk of very strange people. When a clownish television personality plays to their worst instincts, these folks are inclined to like what they see.

With this in mind, there's no point in taking Trump's "candidacy" seriously. I still think this is just an elaborate publicity stunt, closer to a practical joke than an actual campaign. Indeed, even the right-wing fringe will balk when they learn Trump was a pro-choice advocate of universal health care, a donor to Democratic candidates, and a supporter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

But what matters here is what the latest polls tell us about the hysterical wing of the Republican Party. A reality-show personality has been whining incessantly about the president's birth certificate, and a sizeable contingent of the GOP base has decided that's enough to earn their support.

Trump's a sideshow. The real story here is the madness that's overcome a few too many Republican voters.

Postscript: Credible GOP presidential hopefuls like Tim Pawlenty and Haley Barbour have to be especially annoyed with developments like these. They're desperate to get some attention and improve their own name recognition, but are struggling at this early stage because ridiculous distractions (Trump, Bachmann, et al) are sucking up all the media oxygen.

Steve Benen 9:50 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (35)

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Comments

Maybe the Donald is doing his part to advance Democrats by sucking up all the media oxygen. Hey, it makes as much sense as any other explanation.

Posted by: ComradeAnon on April 7, 2011 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

Well, there is a broader point to be made about the instability, unpredictability, and plain wackiness of the Republican 2012 campaign. This is the reason people like Bachmann, Cain, and, yes, Gingrich have to be taken seriously. Everyone has a shot at the Republican Presidential nomination, all it takes is money and nerve-- and one may note that there's no lack of money or nerve at the winger end of the political spectrum.

Posted by: MattF on April 7, 2011 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

Trump is tending his brand in a down real-estate market the best way he knows how. He's possibly the most exuberantly vulgar man to portray himself as a success. He's picked a party of classless halfwits to do it in.

Posted by: walt on April 7, 2011 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

And don't forget the Indianapolis 500--Trump will be the grand marshal and drive the pace car. Free
publicity couldn't come any better.

He's not a sideshow. If he runs, he could win the GOP nomination, given the weakness of the field. Ignore him at your own risk.

Posted by: mikeel on April 7, 2011 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

Too bad for the credible hopefuls.

They helped make the bed.

Posted by: Bernard Yomtov on April 7, 2011 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

Trump called into "Morning Joe" this morning, and the guy is either an excellent actor or he's passionate about this birth certificate thing. I think he's passionate. He really believes this nonsense. It's not a stunt.

Here's the problem. Trump goes on and on with his false facts, people listen and shake their heads, but they don't dispute his misinformation. They say, "Move on, Donald". But Ed Rendell and others don't have the facts at their disposal to dispute what Trump says, leaving viewers with the impression that Trump might have a point.

The only journalist I've seen that disputes this crap with facts is Andersen Cooper. If other journalists are going to let him ramble without being prepared to shut him down with the truth, then thanks to Trump, this birther thing is going to grow. I guarantee it.

Posted by: Chris on April 7, 2011 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

No wonder he's doing well!

Trump's playin' 'em for chumps!

Just like the Republican Party has been doing since Nixon.

They're just used to falling for stunts and tricks like this.

It makes me wish I was a 3-card Monty dealer in "The Heartland."

Posted by: c u n d gulag on April 7, 2011 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

It could be that a segment of GOP supporters believe that U.S. should not have an effective government (it should be bathtub-drownable, you know) and therefore any bozo knothead who's fun to watch on teevee (Sarah Palin, Herman Cain) can be put into the White House to say "Yessir, Mr. Koch" for a few years.


Posted by: scott_m on April 7, 2011 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

I've encountered quite a few voters in central IL who sincerely believe that Trump is a successful business man AND that's exactly what we need in the Oval Office--someone with a track record of business success. Voters in Florida elected a man with a track record of defrauding the government; I'm seriously worried Trump could win.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on April 7, 2011 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

True story:

I am working here in North Florida temporarily. Last weekend, I'm having Sunday lunch in a local bar/restaurant. This is a rural area, lots of farmers, ranchers, country types, etc.

I overhear two locals and one of their wives discussing the affairs of the day...accoeding to them, the government is a mess, those people don't know what they're doing....etc.

One guy says to the other "What do you think of Trump? The other guy says firmly- "I'd vote for him! We gotta get a business man in there!"

There are far too many of these yokels who have been bamboozled by Fox News and the Republicans

Posted by: marty on April 7, 2011 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Politics have become just another Reality TeeVee Show. Serious folks like Gerald Ford and Pat Moynihan would not even get on stage today. And Frank Sinatra would never get a chance to sing into an American Idol microphone.

Posted by: DAY on April 7, 2011 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

ComradeAnon, that will be the next line coming from repubs, Trump is a Democratic plant sent to destroy the GOP's hopes in 2012. By close of business today, that's what they'll go for. They've seen the poll placing him in the #2 spot behind Romney and are now starting to realize that this joke of a Trump presidential candidacy has gotten out of hand. See: RWNJ Amanda Carpenter who was on Twitter this AM wondering why MSNBC was giving him a platform to discuss this nonsense. Media Matters helpfully reminded her that he got his start on Fox.

Posted by: LKT on April 7, 2011 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

Chris Cillizza? You mean the fellow who agreed with Mark Halperin, yesterday, on Hardball that Ryan's budget plan showed "leadership" in taking on entitlements. The only difference between Mark and Chris C was Chris didn't believe anyone would have the political will to cut them. I thought Matthews was having a dicsussion with the RNC.

Posted by: berttheclock on April 7, 2011 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

"... he's been successful in business (despite multiple bankruptcy filings)." sb


Not to mention, the story I was told, is that Trump got a $250K jump-start from his papa, along with an insiders view and contacts with concern to the muckity-mucks and the who's who of the development world in NYC. Of course this was all back in the early 70's when $250K was a real chunk of change. If this story is incorrect, then I will assume he truly is a 'self made man' if it is true, then what in hell makes him any different then any other rich kid that got all the breaks?
Personally, I think the man comes off like an ass, no matter his politics...what is it with Americas infatuation with douche bags?


Posted by: H.Finn on April 7, 2011 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

"The only journalist I've seen that disputes this crap with facts is Andersen Cooper. If other journalists are going to let him ramble without being prepared to shut him down with the truth, then thanks to Trump, this birther thing is going to grow. I guarantee it."

He's there to ramble on idiotically. It's his schtick, and he's getting a lot of attention AND publicity. It's sort of convenient that his current season of Celebrity Apprentice is kind of a bore, and viola! here's The Donald drumming up all sorts of controversy.

He's not getting challenged by anyone on these "news" shows because he's being booked to do his "act." That's what he's there to do. I have no doubt that his contract to appear on those shows is very specific as to what he will do, and how the hosts will react. He's an entertainer out there working an angle to beef up his reality series.

After Paul Ryan's budget scheme blows up in his face don't be surprised to see him on a season of Trump's show.

Posted by: SaintZak on April 7, 2011 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

Trump is merely the Republicans' Great White Hope of the Day. Tomorrow it will be some other jackass.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on April 7, 2011 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

What Lifelong Dem says (10.08) is rather serious. Look at Berlusconi, whose appeal is not all that different.

Posted by: davidp on April 7, 2011 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

Frankly, I'm waiting on him teaming up with Orly Taitz.

Posted by: sue on April 7, 2011 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

The people squirming here are the puppet masters of the GOTP. They can and do control Bachmann/Santorum/Pence/Gingrich and the rest of them. They don't control Trump, in fact, his fortune makes him their equal, so he has no reason to bow to them, on the contrary. The longer this Trump thing goes on, the more nervous the Koch's and their ilk are going to get. At point X, they'll pull the plug on him - they'll have to to keep control of the Conservative Republican vote. As we've said, this GOTP primary will be a laugh-riot.

Posted by: T2 on April 7, 2011 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

It is ironic to find Pawlenty suffering as did Mondale in 1984 and Romney as Dukakis in 1988: trying to run a TV media campaign against a genuine TV star. In the 80s, it was the aura of Ronald Reagan, in the 10s, the aura of Donald Trump.

As several others have noted, the fact that Trump is not a really good businessman is "trumped" by his being a TV personality. The boob tube is the god shared by the overwhelming majority of Americans. If you appear on TV, you're a winner, no matter how big a fool you are.

Posted by: Midland on April 7, 2011 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

The way to get ahead in America today, as Charlie Sheen has shown us, is to be so obnoxious that sooner or later everybody else gives in to you. Donald Trump fits right into this style. But I expect the GOP to use the Charlie Sheen strategy in 2012 regardless of who they nominate.

Posted by: dr sardonicus on April 7, 2011 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

When a clownish television personality plays to their worst instincts, these folks are inclined to like what they see.

That's all they got on their side. Newt, Huckabee, Palin, Trump - you've described them all.

Doesn't mean the rubes aren't stupid enough to vote for them, though.

Posted by: g on April 7, 2011 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

And it's hilarious that, in contrast to this, you actually say with a straight face "credible GOP presidential hopefuls like Tim Pawlenty and Haley Barbour...."

Posted by: g on April 7, 2011 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Would somebody PLEASE snap to the fact that Trump's prime birtherism is being run out of 'exclusives' from NewsMax, whose chief, Chris Ruddy worked for Joe Farah on the endless Scaife-funded "Vince Foster" konspiracy theories in the 90s? Farah spun out of the Western Journalism Center (only employee: Ruddy) to found World Nut Daily, and BOTH are making money and publicity off of the "birther" konspiracy theories.

Trump scratches their back, they make money, he gets what an attention whore craves, of which nobody can trump Trump.

It ain't so complicated as media would have us believe.

Posted by: Hart Williams on April 7, 2011 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Postscript: Just got a popup ad as I finished the above comment(from this site?) with "PRESIDENT TRUMP?" and der donald il duce'ing against a white void (his base).

brought to you by ... NewsMax.

I rest my case.

Posted by: Hart Williams on April 7, 2011 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

marty wrote:
One guy says to the other "What do you think of Trump? The other guy says firmly- "I'd vote for him! We gotta get a business man in there!"

But we just had the first executive President in GW Bush, and look at how well that turned out! Seriously, those people you overheard are idiots.

Donald Trump = Ross Perot, version 2012

Posted by: josef on April 7, 2011 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Trump is king if his little empire and when you are king you can do what you like, and he does. But does anyone seriously want him as President ordering every citizen of this country what to do, what not to do and when etc. Talk about taking away your liberty. It's all about what's in it for Donald.

I saw him on the Today Show this morning and he just came across as arrogant and bombastic, so he passed the first test to be Republican presidential candidate.

Posted by: Just Guessing on April 7, 2011 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK
Credible GOP presidential hopefuls like Tim Pawlenty and Haley Barbour

HA HA HA HA
HA HA HA HA
HA HA HA HA
Haley Barbour, HA HA HA HA
Credible,,,
HA HA HA HA

Posted by: cwolf on April 7, 2011 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

Trump was on the 'Today' show this morning ticking through all the usual Birther talking points: Grandma in Kenya saw the birth, Obama spent $2 million defending lawsuits, no signature, etc. And Meredith just sort of stared at him the whole time. What the f**k happened to journalism?

Posted by: Mowgli on April 7, 2011 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

The boob tube is the god shared by the overwhelming majority of Americans. If you appear on TV, you're a winner, no matter how big a fool you are.

Posted by: Midland

didn't help the aspirations of jerry springer, who actually held office before he became a tv clown.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on April 7, 2011 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

"Credible" GOP candidates deserve everything they get. They are either part of the fringe or have encouraged the fringe to go off the cliff.

Posted by: CDW on April 7, 2011 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, WTF happened to journalism.

Saw the Today show with Trump this morning. It's sad how the pretty faces let these guys/gals say anything and not challenge them with facts or even obvious questions.
On the birther thing. Trump says to Meredith, "You wouldn't believe what my guys are digging up (on the birth in Hawai)." Meredith does not even ask what he's found. Geez.

Then Trump bitches about the money we spend building schools and roads in Afghanistan. He says, if president, he would "build build build" in the US. Since when do republicans want to build infrastructure?

Trump is scaring the backroom plutocrats. But not to worry. He's a business man. He has a price.

Posted by: foghorn on April 7, 2011 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK
Cillizza ran through some plausible explanations, including Trump's high name recognition and a perception that he's been successful in business (despite multiple bankruptcy filings).

Trump's bankruptcies seem to have been successfully managed so that they improved the conditions of both his personal finances and the those of the businesses involved, so I wouldn't say they are counterevidence to his business success so much as a component of it.

But it's hard to ignore the fact that Trump has been running around to every media outlet he can find, spewing conspiracy theories and bizarre ideas that resonate with easily-fooled extremists. And wouldn't you know it, polls suddenly show Republican voters gravitating to the guy.

Uh, yeah, he's doing a successful marketing job.

But that's exactly what a political campaign is.

This isn't complicated -- the GOP base includes a big chunk of very strange people. When a clownish television personality plays to their worst instincts, these folks are inclined to like what they see.

With this in mind, there's no point in taking Trump's "candidacy" seriously.

Wait a second, you just said that Trump has done a very good—if easily explained—job of determining and implementing exactly what is necessary to effectively secure the support of the people that determine the outcome of the GOP presidential nomination; a better job than the people he is competing with that are professional politicians. Then you say that that is a basis for not taking his campaign seriously?

The only thing I can't take seriously is your analysis.

What you cite is exactly the reason why Trump's campaign has to be taken seriously.

I still think this is just an elaborate publicity stunt, closer to a practical joke than an actual campaign. Indeed, even the right-wing fringe will balk when they learn Trump was a pro-choice advocate of universal health care, a donor to Democratic candidates, and a supporter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Yeah, just like they reject all the current Republicans that claim opposition to PPACA even after having embraced (or even had as a signature accomplishments, as in Romney's case) similar plans before they were signature proposals of a Democratic President. For most of that fringe, once they've identified a candidate as part of the tribe, it is very easy for them to dismiss information that would conflict with that idea (whether its about the past, or even present information.)

Credible GOP presidential hopefuls like Tim Pawlenty and Haley Barbour have to be especially annoyed with developments like these.

In what sense are Pawlenty and Barbour more "credible" than Trump? They might be more conventional candidates, but that's not the same thing.

Posted by: cmdicely on April 7, 2011 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Trump is strong evidence that God has contempt for money and that we know this by who it is bestowed upon.

Posted by: AK Liberal on April 7, 2011 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

The interesting question is "What is the purpose behind his recent bashing of Obama over citizenship?"

He must be doing it for some reason. I agree that he's not a serious candidate. But he doesn't have to bash Obama over birtherism to have the mainstream media act as if he's a serious candidate. So, why is Trump making believe he's a candidate for president in order to have his birtherist Obama bashing splashed all over the news? How does he benefit from it?

Posted by: a59540jnxjncom on April 7, 2011 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK
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