JONATHAN CHAIT APRIL 28, 2011
I've been highly skeptical of the idea that Donald Trump is really planning to run for president, or that he would stand any chance at all of winning if he does. But I'm starting to treat the possibility just a bit more seriously now. One reason I've discounted his chances is that Republicans elites have shunned his candidacy. It's significant that Ralph Reed is boosting him, per today's Washington Post:
Several Republicans said Trump has plenty of credibility to talk about the economic issues at the forefront of most voters’ minds.
“Donald Trump is not going to need any tutelage from advisers on the economy,” said Ralph Reed, a conservative strategist and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. “Trump, and in a different way [Indiana Gov.] Mitch Daniels with his business background and Mitt Romney as a former private equity guy, will all be able to turn to Barack Obama and ask, ‘When, in your entire lifetime, in either the private sector or in your political career, have you ever created a job?’ That’s not a bad contrast.”
Reed is the ultimate Republican insider, with a foot in both the party's social conservative wing and its money wing. He is also the ultimate unprincipled operator. If he is siding with Trump, he is calculating that Trump will gain a foothold of support within the party establishment. Or else he's on Trump's payroll without disclosing that to the Post, a possibility we can't discount, either. But Reed working for Trump would be an even stronger signal of Trump's ability to make peace with the party elite.
Second, Trump is already segueing to insinuating that Obama is an affirmative action case, a not especially smart or talented man who benefited from his race at every stage of his life. From the pure standpoint of appealing to the party base, and ignoring the merits of this, that is gold. I think Trump is giving voice to a view that most Republicans have of Obama but don't feel comfortable saying. It's vastly more powerful than the birth certificate issue. And the fact that Trump is seizing on it suggests he possess better political instincts than I had assumed. One of the biggest impediments to non-pols winning presidential primaries is that they haven't honed their skills and don't play the game very well. Trump may be a natural.
I don't mean to overstate things here. Trump faces massive barriers. With his long history of liberal position stances and donations to the Democratic Party, he's a ridiculously easy oppo research hit. And he may well be putting us all on anyway. But the right combination of circumstances could let Trump build momentum and steal the nomination from a divided field. It's a longshot, but I wouldn't say anymore it couldn't happen.