The ‘Trump Train’ is a train wreck

The conservative media entertainment complex exists primarily as a moneymaking venture to separate conservative rubes from their money. The conservative movement is still an elaborate moneymaking venture:

Trump-BarnumAs Rick Perlstein explained in the Baffler, some of the largest conservative media organs are essentially massive email lists of suckers rented to snake oil salesmen. The con isn’t limited to a couple of newsletters and websites: The most prominent conservative organizations in the nation are primarily dedicated to separating conservatives from their money.

Donald Trump is the P.T. Barnum of our era, the consummate con man and grifter. He saw the conservative media entertainment complex grifting operation as ripe for the taking, and he set about to pull the biggest con in American history.

Trump emerged from the primordial ooze of conservative conspiracy theory “news” sites like the Drudge Report, World Net Daily, Breitbart, The Daily Caller, Info Wars, etc. as the poster boy of the Obama “Birther” conspiracy movement. From there he built his “cred” among conservatives who listen to conservative hate talk radio and the fact free world of FAUX News, a business model built upon perpetuating ignorance, fear and hatred of “others.” Trump’s demagoguery merely echoes and reinforces what has been preached by dozens of others in the right-wing echo chamber for years.

Trump was aided and abetted in his con by a complicit “lamestream” media. (CBS executive chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves actually said  “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” “I’ve never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going,” said Moonves.) How The Media Helped Donald Trump Boost His Candidacy:

Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy released a detailed report on the media’s coverage of the presidential race in 2015, the year leading up to the first primaries. The study found that “Trump is arguably the first bona fide media-created presidential nominee. Although he subsequently tapped a political nerve, journalists fueled his launch.”

* * *

Equating the Trump coverage to advertising dollars, Patterson’s report found that Trump received about $55 million worth of positive and neutral coverage in the eight outlets studied, well ahead of the second place candidate, Jeb Bush, at $36 million.

* * *

The study found that all eight of the news outlets studied gave Trump predominantly positive or neutral coverage, from The New York Times, where 63% of stories about Trump were positive or neutral, to USA Today, which led the way with 74%.

The short-fingered vulgarian Donald Trump succeeded in the GOP primaries by echoing the hate-filled invectives and conspiracy theories of right-wing media to easily secure the status of presumptive nominee of the Republican Party. This led to the meme “get aboard the Trump Train.”

trainwreckNow that the general election is getting under way, it is evident that the “Trump Train” is in reality a train wreck.

On Monday, Trump fired his campaign manager because he cannot fire himself from his floundering campaign. Trump fires top aide in an urgent move to reboot his floundering campaign. This was quickly followed by campaign adviser Michael Caputo resigning yesterday after a taunt (“ding, dong the witch is dead”) about former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

To top it off, there was this disastrous campaign finance report. Trump entered June with just $1.3 million, while Clinton sat on $42 million war chest.

So what has Trump been doing with all that money he has been grifting from conservative rubes? Trump spent more than $1 million in May reimbursing his companies and family:

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, raised just $5.4 million in May, including $2.2 million that he loaned his campaign. Almost as startling was how little Trump had in the bank when June began: less than $1.3 million.

Where did it go? The real estate mogul does not have much of a ground operation yet or a significant paid media effort. But he managed to shell out $6.7 million last month, including more than $1 million in payments to Trump companies or to reimburse his family for travel expenses.

Trump blames his paltry $1.3 million cash on hand to lingering reluctance among Republicans to jump aboard the “Trump Train,” but in the same breath he says he doesn’t need them and will go it alone. Donald Trump on Fund-Raising: ‘I’d Like Support,’ but Can Go It Alone.

Paul Waldman of the Washington Post breaks down Trump’s train wreck further. The Trump campaign is becoming an outright catastrophe:

Donald Trump [is] falling in the polls after a series of controversial statements (and frankly, “A Series of Controversial Statements” could be his campaign motto). Ed O’Keefe reports that panicked Republicans are waging a last-ditch effort to convince convention delegates to switch from Trump to someone or other, and they claim “that they now count several hundred delegates and alternates as part of their campaign.” The effort will almost certainly fail, but the fact that it consists of more than a few desperate people is an indication of how bad things are for Trump.

[See Michael Gerson, A delegate revolt has become Republicans’ only option, Jennifer Rubin, A Republican delegate revolt becomes more likely and Martin Longman,Would Trump Drop Out for a Price?]

* * *

While he could manage a stunning turnaround, at the moment Trump seems to have put together one of the worst presidential campaigns in history. Let’s take a look at all the major disadvantages Trump faces as we head toward the conventions:

A skeletal campaign staff. Trump succeeded in the primaries with a small staff whose job was to do little more than stage rallies. But running a national campaign is hugely more complex than barnstorming from one state to the next during primaries. While the Clinton campaign has built an infrastructure of hundreds of operatives performing the variety of tasks a modern presidential campaign requires, the Trump campaign “estimates it currently has about 30 paid staff on the ground across the country,” a comically small number.

Not enough money, and little inclination to raise it. Trump hasn’t raised much money yet, and he doesn’t seem inclined to do so; according to one report, after telling Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus that he’d call 20 large donors to make a pitch, he gave up after three. Fundraising is the least pleasant part of running for office, but unlike most candidates who suck it up and do what they have to, Trump may not be willing to spend the time dialing for dollars. Instead, he’s convinced that he can duplicate what he did in the primaries and run a low-budget campaign based on having rallies and doing TV interviews. As he told NBC’s Hallie Jackson, “I don’t think I need that money, frankly. I mean, look what we’re doing right now. This is like a commercial, right, except it’s tougher than a normal commercial.” It’s not like a commercial, because in interviews Trump gets challenged, and usually says something that makes him look foolish or dangerous. But he seems convinced that his ability to get limitless media coverage, no matter how critical that coverage is, will translate to an increase in support.

Outgunned on the airwaves. As a result, Democrats are pouring money into television ads attacking Trump and promoting Clinton with no answer from the other side. As Mark Murray reported yesterday, “So far in June, Clinton and the outside groups backing her have spent a total of $23.3 million on ads in the battleground states of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.” And how much have Trump and his allies spent on ads in those states? Zero. Nothing. Nada.

Not enough backup from his allies. There may never have been a presidential nominee with so little support from the people who are supposed to be out there persuading people to vote for him. Every day sees new stories about Trump being criticized by Republican leaders or about Republicans distancing themselves from him. And that includes the people who have endorsed him. Last week the chair of Trump’s leadership committee in the House begged reporters to stop making him defend Trump.

That lack of unity can have a large impact on how Republicans view their vote. While the rote arguments between Democrats and Republicans may seem too predictable to change many minds, when intra-partisan unanimity breaks down, it sends a signal to people that it’s okay to disagree with your party’s nominee — and even to reject him altogether.

A popular president opposing him. Every political science election model says that the view of the current president matters a great deal in determining whether voters decide to change which party controls the White House. Right now President Obama’s approval rating is over 50 percent for the first time in a long while, and he’ll be campaigning vigorously against Trump.

A demographic disadvantage. Trump is running on what is essentially an ethno-nationalist appeal to white voters, at a time when the country grows less white every year. He would have to do significantly better than recent Republican nominees among large minority groups in order to win, yet rather than court them, he has done just the opposite. In the latest Post-ABC News poll, 89 percent of Hispanics said they had an unfavorable view of Trump, an absolutely stunning figure. That’s not to mention the enormous gender gap he’s opening: 77 percent of women also viewed him unfavorably in that poll.

An electoral college disadvantage. Any Republican candidate faces a challenge in the electoral college, where Democrats start with a built-in advantage. In all of the past four elections, Democrats have won 17 states (plus D.C.) that give them 242 of the 270 electoral votes they need to win. That means that for Trump to win, he has to sweep almost every swing state. But instead of trying to do that, Trump is worried about holding on to red states such as Utah and Arizona.

A candidate with a lethal combination of dreadful strategic instincts and absolute certainty of his own brilliance. Trump’s inexperience in politics has shown itself in many ways, such as his utter ignorance about policy and how the U.S. government works. It also means that when confronted with new situations, he often does something politically foolish, as when he responded to the Orlando shooting by congratulating himself for predicting that there would one day be another terrorist attack. And while for a time we kept hearing that he was going to “pivot” to the general election, instead he seems to be running as though he’s still trying to persuade his own supporters to stay with him. Those supporters comprise a plurality of a minority of the whole electorate.

Perhaps even more importantly, unlike some neophyte candidates, Trump not only doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, but also insists that he doesn’t need to know it. Whatever deep insecurities drive his constant preening bluster, he isn’t going to let anyone tell him that he’s anything less than a genius and things aren’t going great. Which means that as the campaign goes on and his situation gets worse, he’ll be exceedingly unlikely to make the kind of changes he needs to reverse his fortunes.

Trump is no stranger to failure, but in his life as a businessman he could segregate those failures from the rest of his enterprises, at least enough to keep moving forward and find other ways to make money. He could fail at the casino business, or the steak business, or the vodka business, or the magazine business, or the airline business, or the football business, or the real estate seminar business, or the vitamin pyramid scheme business, and maintain the viability of his overall brand. But he has never been on a stage like this one before. He didn’t have hundreds of reporters on the steak beat scrutinizing every twist and turn in the decline of Trump Steaks and putting the results of their reporting on every front page in America.

But now he does, and he can’t just drop one scheme and move on to the next one.

Trump violated one of the cardinal rules of grifters; never play the con too long. Now he has been exposed as a grifter.

UPDATE: On Twitter in late May, Trump wrote, “Good news is that my campaign has perhaps more cash than any campaign in the history of politics- b/c I stand 100% behind everything we do.” A shameless liar.

Comments are closed.