Virtually no pundit believes Donald Trump will win the GOP nomination, let alone the presidency. Half think he’ll fall short because he doesn’t get it, and the others think he can’t sell it.
They’re both wrong.
Trump absolutely gets it, and, more than any other candidate on either side, he could sell it.
The reason he won’t win is far simpler: He doesn’t want it.
Trump’s ideas are resonating, and not just with Republicans. From common-sense border security to exiting the Middle East to taking on political correctness, his bold vision is exactly the kind of leadership people have been seeking. So with a roadmap for success, why would someone deliberately deviate from a winning course, jettisoning any chance to occupy the White House?
Trump wants the best of both worlds, coming oh-so-close, but just short enough that he doesn’t inherit the awesome responsibilities and frustrations that come with the Oval Office.
Trump’s outrageous statements show him to be serious, but as a world-class headline grabber and conversation piece, not a bona fide presidential candidate.
Let’s analyze The Donald and his candidacy:
1) For starters, running for office while not really wanting it is nothing new. Mitt Romney’s son Tagg told the Boston Globe, "(Mitt) wanted to be president less than anyone I’ve met in my life … if he could have found someone else to take his place, he would have been ecstatic to step aside."
And it showed. Romney never caught fire because people sensed that his heart wasn’t in it. Similarly, George H.W. Bush lost re-election because he demonstrated utter disinterest. Trump supporters are starting to see him in the same light, since people will not give blood, sweat, tears (and money) to a candidate who doesn’t appear to fully believe in what he’s doing.
Voters don’t want someone to do them "a favor" by running; they desire a leader with the passion and energy to see it through to the end — all effort, no excuses. Trump’s not doing that.
2) The "How" of the Trump Explosion: Say what you will about Trump: Arrogant, egomaniacal, even nasty. Maybe. But one thing is unquestionable: he’s an extremely smart man. Trump speaks intelligently without talking points because he has core beliefs, and, while not knowing the minutiae of every issue (and no president does), he is able to articulate his positions with clarity and charisma.
More important, he eschews the boring and often politically correct approach of his colleagues. Rather than tiptoeing, he tackles tough issues head-on, taking the bull by the horns and calling out those too afraid to speak their minds. That refreshing approach has bolstered Trump’s support, even among those who don’t agree with many of his positions but respect his candor.
All of which makes his crazy statements seem all the more calculated. Granted, anytime one has the guts to speak off the cuff, there will inevitably some hyperbole and misstatements. But that’s why God invented whiteout — so we can rectify our mistakes, clarify our points and move on. But Trump has never done that.
Instead, he constantly doubles down on his controversial positions, making even faithful followers question him. Banning Muslims; calling Mexican immigrants rapists; insulting debate moderators; engaging in feuds with TV networks; and stating John McCain wasn’t a war hero — these are just a few examples of Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric. But it’s his refusal to admit he misspoke, let alone was wrong, which makes it almost impossible to believe that such as savvy as he could be so inadvertently bumbling.
Bottom line: Donald Trump knows exactly what’s he doing, and he’s in control, all the time.
3) The "Why." The presidency isn’t for anyone. An effective president must exhibit immense patience and restraint, have the ability to work with adversaries and allies, employ grace under pressure, and hone the skills of diplomacy and tact. That doesn’t mean the Commander-in-Chief can’t be tough as nails, as both Roosevelts and Ronald Reagan proved. But they had qualities that made them suitable for the office — attributes that Trump probably has, but doesn’t want to display.
The Donald, in his businesses, reality TV career, and campaign, has a simple rule: His word is first, last, and immutable. Fine. As boss, that prerogative is eminently his. But that would not be the case at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Obviously, as head of the executive branch, the president wields enormous power, and many serve at his pleasure. But Congress and the government bureaucracy is a whole different animal. A strong leader can help influence Congress, but push too hard, embarrass them too much, and they’ll make you pay — even those from within his own party. And that’s particularly true for someone viewed as a "Washington outsider," as Trump would be.
It’s one thing to insult rivals, excoriate the media and blast foreign heads of state on the campaign trail. But try that as president, and your demise will be clocked with an egg timer.
For someone used to sycophants jumping whenever he enters the room, Trump would be in for a rude awakening. Presidents come and go, but the Washington culture is slow to change. Trump is smart enough to realize that, and knows his frustration level would quickly go through the roof, begging the question if gaining the presidency is worth what he would have to give up — namely, being himself.
Donald Trump, who was world-renowned before his candidacy, has seen his profile skyrocket. Unquestionably, he is enjoying every minute as flamboyant flamethrower, a role he will continue to embrace as the primaries approach.
It’s not inconceivable that his plan is to fall short, blame the media and political establishment for their institutional corruption, threaten to run as an independent, and, being the master performer that he is, storm out, leaving the world in suspense as to how he will top his campaign exploits. And make no mistake: Trump will surely not disappoint.
Donald Trump relishes one thing above all else: The swagger that comes with being one of the most successful and brash leaders in the world. About the only thing that could knock him off that pedestal is a stint in the Oval Office.
So with all the benefits — and no responsibilities — of being "almost" the victor, it seems clear that Donald being Donald trumps being Donald being President.
And you don’t need a casino to make that bet.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist and commentator. He can be reached at [email protected].