As I write this, there are many more post-mortems being written about Donald Trump’s loss in Iowa, and predictably the vast majority of them are predicting the beginning of the end for his unconventional (an understatement I concede) 2016 presidential campaign. And they may in fact be right, but they don’t have to be, if—and it’s a big if—the Donald learns from his Iowa defeat and does a few things differently.
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At least that’s the inside word among GOP establishment operatives, who generally loathe Trump, but concede his innate political skills, and the opening he created among GOP base voters on issues like immigration and political correctness, continue to make him a formidable candidate. They tell me Trump can still win (even if they do so while experiencing extreme nausea) by making the following changes:
Start spending some money: Trump likes to brag about how rich he is (his estimate: “$10 BILLION DOLLARS”) but he has run the most penurious, serious presidential campaign in recent history. To date he has spent only $12 million—money that records indicate he had “loaned” to his campaign. I know a lot of wealthy, cheap guys who do great watching the pennies in the businesses they run. But campaigns are different. Scrimp on staff and organization and guess what? People who might show up to vote for you stay home.
I’m not saying Trump’s penny-pinching on organization is the entire reason he lost in Iowa. I’m just saying it’s a big reason. Cruz it should be pointed has spent more than $28 million so far, and yes he had the organizational wherewithal to get people to vote for him. So the advice of the GOP wise men: Donald if you want to be president, sell a skyscraper and start spending some money.
Start assembling a kitchen cabinet: Voters general like a little humility and by conceding he doesn’t know everything, and will rely on the advice of some smart guys and gals, Trump gains respect and soothes the fears of those who like his moxie but wonder whether someone of reality show fame should have his finger on the button that could destroy the world.
Trump has done that to some extent by touting his relationship with prominent Wall Street financier Carl Icahn as a possible Treasury Secretary, but that does little to address the main concern with the Trump presidency: Namely he’s too erratic to be trusted with everything diplomacy to nuclear arms. The advice of the wise men: Try to bring a John Bolton-type into to the Trump orbit on foreign affairs; reach out to a General Petraeus-type for advice on national security.
And as much as I love Carl Icahn, we don’t need a guy who made his billions as corporate raider running Treasury. Try finding a youthful entrepreneur who knows how to create jobs, not just loads of cash for himself.
Remember what got you here, but tone it down: What made Trump appealing to so many people: His willingness to throw out the PC-talk of the typical politician, and explain the problems faced by this country in plain English. But there’s a difference to being opposed to immigration because the country can’t afford to assimilate millions of poor people who flood into the country year after year, and Trump’s various denigrations of them. There is also difference in labeling opponents like Jeb Bush “low energy” (which he undoubtedly is) and others like Ted Cruz an “anchor baby” who is ineligible to be president because he isn’t a “natural born citizen.”
Iowans—among most conservative GOP voters--had no problem voting for a guy who was born in Canada because they know it really doesn’t matter. Ask any legal expert outside of partisan Democrats and they’ll say Trump’s attacks against Cruz are of the strawman variety; he’s completely eligible to be president despite being born in Canada because his parents were American (his dad emigrated from Cuba and married his mother in the U.S.).
Meanwhile, ask many voters and they’ll tell you these anchor baby musings come across cheap.
So The Donald will need to focus, not on Cruz’s place of birth, but on his orthodoxy to GOP base voter issues, like trade and immigration, which he apparently flip-flopped on by supporting and then rejecting a reform that many conservatives believed was tantamount to amnesty.
Bottom line, say the wise men, Trump can still win if he wants to spend money, takes some advice from some smart people and stays away from the cheap shots. Then again, he might not really be worth all those billions so he has no money to spend, and his vainglory may be so that he would never listen to a dissenting voice or he just can’t help himself in the cheap-shot department.
In that case he will lose, and it would in a word be “Yuge.”