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Tilting at Windmills

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April 12, 2011

A PUBLICITY STUNT GONE HORRIBLY AWRY, CONT'D.... I'd be far more inclined to ignore Donald Trump's existence, were it not for the fact that Republican voters actually seem impressed with the ridiculous television personality. Take this new CNN poll, for example.

Donald Trump is now tied with Mike Huckabee for first place when Republicans are asked who they support for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012, according to a new national poll. [...]

Nineteen percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents questioned in the poll say that as of now, they'd be most likely to support Trump for next year's GOP presidential nomination. Trump says he'll decide by June whether he runs for the White House. An equal amount say they'd back Huckabee. The former Arkansas governor and 2008 Republican presidential candidate says he'll decide by later this year if he'll make another bid for the White House.

After Trump and Huckabee, Palin is third in the poll with 12%, followed by Romney and Gingrich at 11% each.

Trump's support has nearly doubled over the last month.

The CNN poll comes a week after an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll running a close second nationally among self-identified Republicans. Among those who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters, Trump was first.

At this stage in the process, high name recognition is obviously going to play a significant role, and Trump has been a well known national figure for many years. But that alone doesn't explain results like these. Indeed, they can't -- Trump was just as well known last month, and his support wasn't nearly this strong.

The difference is, 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 as the lunacy gets more intense, polls suddenly show more Republican voters gravitating to the guy.

To reiterate a point from last week, 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.

I still think Trump's sudden interest in electoral politics 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 make him an attractive presidential candidate.

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

Steve Benen 12:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (38)

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Comments

I'm waiting for Trump to demand proof that the scar on Obama's head wasn't caused by brain surgery where Kenyan doctors implanted Elvis's alien love child.

Posted by: Eeyore on April 12, 2011 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Trump is the choice of everyone who identifies themselves to the pollster as 'Republican', but never actually votes (because they hate all the actual candidates). I think Perot got a plurality in one very early '92 poll, but even a perfectly-run independent campaign is going to run into an electoral college brick wall.

It's true that this 'Trump the birther' persona would help the President around the margins if he put some real money into a campaign. But Trump doesn't spend Trump money on longshots.

Posted by: JS on April 12, 2011 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

No, I think Trump is a serious candidate, and he will be the nominee, if he chooses to run. Here's
why:

1. Weakness of the current GOP field.
2. The birther nonsense was to get media attention and gain credibility with the GOP base.
3. He will pivot to the CEO candidate theme later on.

We underestimate him at our own peril.

Posted by: mikeel on April 12, 2011 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Trump is, and always has been, an unscrupulous asshole.

But, I have this dream that sometime soon, after he spins this stupidity long enough, he'll look out at his supporters and go, "You know, you fools, you're all SUCKERS! You can't tell a scam from the real thing. YOU'RE ALL FIRED!!!"

Yeah, I know. I still have an atom of optimism.

Oh, and BTW - he added a new layer the other day:
That the real reason that Obama's grandparents faked his birth certificate, was so that THEY COULD COLLECT WELFARE!!!
BOOOGA-BOOOGA!
WELFARE!!!
BWA-HA-HAAAA!

I hope there's no picture of young Barry with his grandparents eating a t-bone at a picnic, or driving a Caddy to one.
Otherwise, get ready for President Trump!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on April 12, 2011 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

even the right-wing fringe will balk when they learn...

Can we not tell them until after the primaries are over?

Posted by: Lucia on April 12, 2011 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

Now I'm starting to wonder - is this whole thing about Trump punking the Republican Party? Still can't call this one.

Posted by: June on April 12, 2011 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

So what? The guy is never going to get elected. Nor s Huck or Palin. Like I said, so what?

Posted by: Richard on April 12, 2011 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

This far off from any actual voting, I think the simplest explanation is that Trump represents the None of the Above du jour because he is not a serious candidate.

Posted by: CA Pol Junkie on April 12, 2011 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

... the GOP base includes a big chunk of very strange people ...

Very nicely put. I would say "stupid" rather than "strange," but I am less politic than you.

To be exact, I guess I mean "behaving stupidly," because with the gene pool being as mixed as it is, Americans are no more natively stupid than any other nationality. But so many of them are so poorly educated, so ignorant (sometimes deliberately so), and so unaccustomed to critical thinking (or even attempting it) that they behave really really stupidly.

And the soulless vultures of the Republican Party know easy marks when they see them.

Posted by: bleh on April 12, 2011 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

Our beloved nation has about a 20% swath of citizens who sincerely believe human beings from the continent of Africa are inferior peoples! I don't agree with them as empirical evidence usually doesn't support such bigotry, of any type.

Anyway, those 20%ers are hiding out in the Republican tent, and will vote in closed primaries where their bigotry can really shine! And those same voters are scared of Barack Obama, scared I tell you, and their irrational fear is driving this issue - all along being aided and abetted by a media that is in a he said/she said death cycle! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on April 12, 2011 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

3. He will pivot to the CEO candidate theme later on.

...because nothing speaks to a Republican's business genius like a series of bankruptcies.

Posted by: Danp on April 12, 2011 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Trump's support will fade; he's just not built for a sustained political campaign. The question is: why are Republicans gravitating to him. I believe that the GOP base is looking for someone who is pugnacious and willing to challenge the political establishment. His supporters will gravitate to another fringe character that the political establishment eschews.

Long story short, watch his supporters gravitate to Michele Bachmann over the next few months.

Posted by: danimal on April 12, 2011 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Well, they wanted Snooki to run, but there's that pesky constitutional age requirement.


Is it too much to ask to elect people who are serious about governing? Or is this a crazy strategy to keep moving the goalpost toward insane clowns, to make Boehner et. al. look like statesmen in comparison?

Posted by: short fuse on April 12, 2011 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Sure, Trump is a sideshow, but he's a useful idiot. His surge in popularity will force other candidates to take a stand on the birther issue - and my guess is none will say the issue is immaterial. This will expose the GOP field as charlatans.

I'm not entirely unconvinced that Trump is working for dems.

Posted by: Stetson Kennedy on April 12, 2011 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen writes, "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.

I'm with mikeel (above) on this. Three reasons: (1) Never, ever underestimate the "ignorance and erosion of historical memory" of the American public (to quote Susan Jacoby). Trump's past positions on anything except TV will be forgotten and ignored.

(2) With this new Republican crowd past sins -- political and otherwise -- are trumped by white skin, the caché of money, and all that face time on TV. Television is a medium fully capable of ruining all that is good about life in America -- as it has demonstrated time and again, from sports (think "designated hitter rule" or "TV timeouts") to honest-to-gosh news reporting (think Fox), to family life (TV dinners). Think it won't undermine democracy itself? Think again.

(3) We laughed when an aging, ignorant, B-movie actor who was a divorceé announced he was going to run for governor of California -- remember?

Posted by: John B. on April 12, 2011 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

I think the simplest explanation is that Trump represents the None of the Above du jour because he is not a serious candidate.

No, the problem we're having is that there are just too darn many good candidates to pick from.

Posted by: TeaBaggerSmith on April 12, 2011 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Trump is the natural candidate for the current republican party!

His obvious qualifications are that:
- his ability to bring the amerikan sheeple together in social harmony is easily demonstrated by his willingness to advance birtherism to further his own ambitions
- his fiscal leadership is easily proven by his multiple bankruptcies

What a great country!!!

Where else can you get a delusional birther with multiple bankruptcies to lead us out of the darkness of social disruption and the brink of economic collapse?

Trump is the obvious candidate for the republican party.

Posted by: SadOldVet on April 12, 2011 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Most definitely Trump's strong showing is less a matter of real enthusiasm for the candidate than a reflection of an incredibly weak field of potential nominees.

And with his decision to pander to the birther-tinfoil hat wing of the party, he's severely damaging whatever brand value the Trump name still carries. I sure as hell would never patronize one of his hotels or casinos after this, and many others in the sane majority will likely choose to spend their dollars elsewhere as well.

Posted by: Rasputin22 on April 12, 2011 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Everyday. Everyfucking day I read something that just makes me smack myself on the forehead. I'm getting a permanent hand imprint there. Are people in this country that afraid of negros that they'll believe any old bullshit that some white guy spreads in front of them? The answer apparently and sadly is yes.

Posted by: Gandalf on April 12, 2011 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

It's an elaborate joke meant to bump up ratings for Celebrity Apprentice...which it has done.

Trump would never want to be buried in the responsibility and work that comes with being President, and he wouldn't want the loss of income, either. But I think he's been taken a little by surprise at his "success" so far. I can see him flogging this beast just as long as he can, and you better believe he'll get even more outrageous.

The Republicans have to be worried. Their "base" who seem to be infatuated with Trump will be the last to figure out he's a joke, and until then, Trump will just drag the other GOP candidates down to his silly level.

Posted by: SaintZak on April 12, 2011 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

My guess is, when all of this shakes out we will discover that Trump's campaign for president was the result of a one dollar bet with Randolph and Mortimer Duke.

Where is Eddie Murphy when we need him?

Posted by: Perspecticus on April 12, 2011 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Last week it was Michele Bachmann, this week Donald Trump, next week who? Elisabeth Hasselbeck? Orly Taitz? Louie Gohmert? Yesterday's crazy is morphing into today's normal so quickly that I can't keep up.

Posted by: davidp on April 12, 2011 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

I've tried for some time to understand why any of the current crop of mental midgets representing the Republican Party thinks that they have any chance against Obama in 2012. The only thing I can come up with is that they think that the bar has been set much lower because a "black" man was actually elected President. So now even the crazies think that they are qualified to be POTUS.

No serious Republican has declared for the Presidency. The problem is that there isn't a Republican yet who actually has a chance in 2012, and they know it. No one wants to get tagged with "loser" when the real election will be in 2016.

Posted by: rwgate on April 12, 2011 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

I'm surprised the GOP just doesn't drop the whole pretense and start selecting candidates via reality television, anyway.

Posted by: doubtful on April 12, 2011 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Good thing that Democrats are running on popular policies, such as ... Hmmm. What ARE Democrats running on in 2012? Whatever it is, it's certainly not jobs.

Posted by: Tom Allen on April 12, 2011 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

Remember in 2008 when repubs starting yelling/emailing "trumped!" to their liberal friends after Palin was put on the ticket to supposedly attract the jilted Hillary supporters away from the Democrats? Apparently they want to have that experience again, but this time it's "Trump(ed)!" - these people really are simple-minded.

Posted by: MuddyLee on April 12, 2011 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

Following on from kevo: most polls show that at least 25% of Americans polled:

- THink Obama was not born in the US
- Absolutely do not believe evolution is a viable scientific theory
- will incorrectly identify key geographical aspects of the world, and do not know who we are at war with, or why
- Believe shit they hear on Glenn Beck
- fully believe that the endtimes are coming
- That dinosaurs and humans co-existed
- that the US is not running out of its own oil - that enviro-demo-commie forces are keeping us from just finding gobs more by drilling
- think that the economic catastrophe of 2008, which started before Obama became president, was caused by President Obama

etc

So; Trump polls at 25% ish. This surprises you why?

Posted by: bigtuna on April 12, 2011 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK
I still think Trump's sudden interest in electoral politics is just an elaborate publicity stunt, closer to a practical joke than an actual campaign.

Its not a sudden interest. Trump has talked about running several times in the past, and also tried to sell himself as a deal broker on national and international political issues several times in the past; his interest in politics has been clear for quite some time.

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.

You keep saying that. But you fail to support this assertion with any evidence that the people Trump's campaign is targetting have a tendency in the past to reject candidates on this kind of basis.

Trump's a sideshow.

Huh. When Romney was a hair ahead of Trump and Huckabee in the polls, Romney was the "apparent frontrunner".

When Trump and Huckabee are tied for first place, suddenly you decide the polling doesn't say anything meaningful about the candidates in the lead, only something about the party.

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

If Republican voters are as deep in "madness" as you suggest, why wouldn't this mean that Trump could be a serious candidate for the Republican nomination?

Posted by: cmdicely on April 12, 2011 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

This time last month Trump had just as much name recognition as he does now. What is different?

The difference is that he announced that he is running for President. This gets him recognized by the political "reporters" in the media and it gets him placed on the polls with the question of whether GOP voters would vote for him. Together those two factors give him the appearance of running, and since the GOP field is so weak it makes news.

Does he have a chance of getting the nomination? Well, the wealthy oligarchy who are trying to ride Citizens United into control of the Presidency may consider him one of their own. If he can sell himself to them as one of them, then the GOP propaganda machine will move into high gear and the Swift Boaters will go after Pawlenty and Romney with a vengeance. But it'll depend on Trump's ability to sell himself to the Koch brothers, the Prince family and that bunch.

I doubt that the money-bags people will buy Trump as one of them. With Trumps' money- and celebrity-fueled over-sized ego I have no doubt that he thinks he can sell them. Trump's big problem will be that he has enough money of his own to be independent of the wealthy oligarchy, while Pawlenty and Romney will both be begging from them. Koch et al want control of America and they can't get it through Trump.

That's a long shot for Trump anyway. His fallback position is to gain ratings for this TV show. Both possibilities flow from his current antics.

That's my current bet, anyway.

Posted by: Rick B on April 12, 2011 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

Trump's a sideshow.

The rest was padding.

Posted by: Squeaky McCrinkle on April 12, 2011 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

As the American electorate has been so drastically dumbed down it should be no particular surprise to find the likes of Palin, Bachmann and Trump competing (maybe) in a three-ring circus that used to be a serious political party. Image is everything these days, and if it's on TV it must be serious, and if it isn't on TV it doesn't matter. These three clowns together don't have the intellect of a slow chimp, and couldn't answer a serious question on foreign policy, or economics if their lives depended on it.

The extreme low brow voter can only deal in superficialities, and Trump is really good at that. Palin can wrinkle her rose with perfection, and give a certain element in the male population a perpetual erection. Just who Bachmann appeals to is a mystery, and for my part, I'm not interested in its solution.

Posted by: rrk1 on April 12, 2011 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Trump is mostly pitiful. I will never forgive him for firing Cyndi Lauper from "Celebrity Apprentice" last year.
(... to show he isn't worth taking seriously ...)

Posted by: neil b on April 12, 2011 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, I noticed a typo. I think, near the end of this piece, you meant to write "ANOTHER reality-show personality has been whining incessantly about the president's birth certificate..."

Posted by: slappy magoo on April 12, 2011 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

June wrote:
Now I'm starting to wonder - is this whole thing about Trump punking the Republican Party? Still can't call this one.

That's what I'm wondering. Has Ashton Kutcher been seen following Trump around? At some point, he will probably spring forth, shouting "You've been punked, Tea Party!"

rrk1 wrote:
Palin can wrinkle her rose with perfection, and give a certain element in the male population a perpetual erection.

Uh, what's her rose and how does she wrinkle it?

Posted by: josef on April 12, 2011 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Uh, what's her rose and how does she wrinkle it?

Maybe he was alluding to Citizen Kane?


Posted by: Squeaky McCrinkle on April 12, 2011 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

And let's not forget a key point. Trump's idiotic blatherings would have remained just that: the nonsensical ramblings of a typically vulgar and wealthy self-absorbed clown were it not for the endless amount of free airtime our irresponsible media is giving him. America's right wing is filled, as Steve said, with delusional and deeply strange people, so it's not surprising they'd gravitate towards such a fool, but they'd be less likely to do so were he not getting hours of free airtime and publicity none of the "normal" (and I use that word loosely) GOP candidates could hope to get.

Posted by: John on April 12, 2011 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

Following Donald Trump's announcement that he'll run as an independent if he doesn't win the nomination, I am honestly starting to believe that Trump actually intends to run a show election and take the crazy vote from the poor SOB chosen to lose for the Republicans. Given many positive things Trump has said about Obama and the sheer ridiculousness of most of his talk show appearances, leaves me thinking that he's actually there purely to split the conservative bloc and guarantee another Obama term.
Just watch...

Posted by: Sage on April 12, 2011 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

Some pollster should salt in a few items from a good test of mental competency -- and then we could see what these people are REALLY like.

Posted by: PEA on April 12, 2011 at 10:58 PM | PERMALINK
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