Donald Trump’s campaign sometimes seems more like a derailed train car than a highly organized and orchestrated political campaign, but an article in Politico paints a very different picture. They show us that not only is Trump’s campaign intentional, Trump actually predicted it more than two years ago.
It is true that Trump is unscripted, which is what makes him look disorganized. His comments are off-the-cuff, but they are also not completely unplanned. Trump knew toward the end of 2013, that if he was bombastic enough, he wouldn’t need to spend money and he would “suck all the oxygen out of the room.”
In typical Trump braggart style, Trump told a meeting of GOP county chairs and assemblymen:
“He said, ‘I’m going to walk away with it and win it outright,’” a long-time New York political consultant recalled. “Trump told us, ‘I’m going to get in and all the polls are going to go crazy. I’m going to suck all the oxygen out of the room. I know how to work the media in a way that they will never take the lights off of me.’”
That was more than 25 months ago, and it perfectly described the fact that Trump does know how to suck the oxygen out of a room. Like any good carnival barker, Trump has always relied on bombasity over substance. He knows that a certain segment of voters don’t care about the fact that Trump has no actual plans. Empty promises are all they need. Trump has a university that offers nothing but empty promises, and despite claims of fraud, it’s still going.
As a businessman, Trump has been less than a success, but as long as he’s wealthy and as long as he tells people how wildly successful he is, the fact that he has lost billions over his career is irrelevant.
We could go back even further to see how Trump telegraphed his campaign style. In his much-touted book, The Art of the Deal, he didn’t talk directly about running for office, but he did say this about bad press:
He’s known for a long time that generating controversy isn’t always a bad thing. In 1980 he got a lot of bad press (including a negative editorial in this newspaper) for destroying friezes and iron grillwork on the old Bonwit Teller department store building, because preserving them would have delayed demolition that was necessary to make way for Trump Tower. But the criticism had an upside.
The stories that appeared about it invariably started with sentences like “In order to make way for one of the world’s most luxurious buildings…” Even though the publicity was almost entirely negative, there was a great deal of it, and that drew a tremendous amount of attention to Trump Tower…
I learned a lot from that experience: good publicity is preferable to bad, but from a bottom-line perspective, bad publicity is sometimes better than no publicity at all. Controversy, in short, sells.
Source: New York Times
He also noted how substance-free can be a good thing:
He’s also long known that a spectacle can impress people even if there is no substance behind it. In 1982, he wanted Holiday Inn to buy a stake in his casino project in Atlantic City, and he was concerned it would decline because construction wasn’t far enough along. So he told his construction manager to hire a ton of bulldozers and dump trucks to move dirt around the site, so it would look extremely busy when Holiday Inn executives made a site visit. The instructions were simple:
What the bulldozers and dump trucks did wasn’t important, I said, so long as they did a lot of it.
According to Trump, it worked.
Now, there’s little to no chance that Trump’s empty campaign will take him all the way to the White House. Sure, he can make the case that the media is out to get him, so he’ll avoid debating either Bernie or Hillary. Sure, he can expand his populist rhetoric, in the hopes of winning over some Bernie followers, if Bernie doesn’t get the nomination, but ultimately, without the votes of Latinos and African-Americans, he’s not going to win, and he’s not going to get their votes.