Month: January 2016

What Trump Might Say If He Loses Iowa

GTY_donald_trump_iowa_fair_2_jt_150815_16x9_992So, maybe the most intriguing thing isn’t whether Donald Trump will lose in Iowa.  To me, it’s what he might say to explain away a caucus loss.

He is, after all, the man who once told The Wall Street Journal that defeat is not an experience he has ever had.

“I’ve never lost in my life.”

That assertion, of course, is debatable (oops!), depending on how one views bankruptcies, failed football teams, defunct airlines, marriages and any number of other endeavors. However, if Iowa (or some other early decision state, for that matter) delivers a loss … well, it’s a safe bet we would hear a lot about “morons,” “losers” and “overrated” competitors, commentators, writers, systems – and who knows what else.

“Third-rate” might also find its way into his comments, given what he had to say about Megyn Kelly on Tuesday while first telling us that he wasn’t going to participate in Fox’s Thursday night GOP debate.

“I’m not a fan of Megyn Kelly.  I think she’s a third-rate reporter.”

Setting aside Trump’s view of Megyn Kelly, this whole Fox thing is interesting from another standpoint. Well, from a purely hypothetical standpoint, that is.  One could posit that, in boycotting the debate, Trump actually is cleverly hedging his bets on Iowa and setting up Fox and Roger Ailes as potential objects of blame if he comes up short in Iowa.

At midweek, Trump was saying the organization caused him to bail on the debate, not Kelly herself.

“It was the childishly written & taunting PR statement by Fox that made me not do the debate, more so than lightweight reporter,”

So, in the event of an Iowa loss, here’s how it might sound: “Fox, Ailes and this third-rate bimbo Kelly have been trying for months to stop me.  And, incidently, this has been very clear to me and people all over the country who back me.  What they did with that stupid debate cost me here tonight in Iowa.  These morons are losers – and, I can assure you, they are vindictive.”

Sound feasible?

Apart from the outright insults, however, there are hints in Trump’s history that may portend other messages he could convey on Monday night if the caucus-goers don’t line up in his favor. Surprisingly, he actually has been quite reflective from time to time in the past when discussing the concept of failure.

“What separates the winners from the losers is how a person reacts to each new twist of fate.”

“Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.”

So, if he chooses to go in that direction, those quotes suggest that he might emphasize his record as a winner and inform all of us that he not only is going to re-double his efforts, but that he’s also going to employ super-tactics that only he has available to him.

It’s also highly likely he will try to claim victory through some re-imagined look at the numbers, or simply spin defeat into victory by characterizing his performance as a win “when you factor in A, B, C and D.”

Let’s step back to 2004, when Trump faced his third corporate bankruptcy. His Trump Hotels and Casinos Resorts was in trouble – and this was big.  The company controlled the Trump Taj Mahal, Trump Plaza and Trump Marina (formerly Trump’s Castle) casinos in Atlantic City, as well as a riverboat casino in Indiana.

To Trump, the bankruptcy was “really just a technical thing” that affected only a minimal fraction of his net worth. As he told the Associated Press:

“I don’t think it’s a failure, it’s a success.”

Footnote — Trump needed to inject $72 million of his own money to help keep this successful restructuring intact.

And then there was Trump Mortgage, which very few of us remember. When it hit the skids, Trump noted that he didn’t have an ownership stake in what amounted to a mere licensing deal.

“The mortgage business is not a business I particularly liked or wanted to be part of in a very big way.”

Let’s get ready for the political version of this statement – “I never really thought I would get this far. I entered the campaign to make some important points, not to be elected president. I’m too busy making billions of dollars. Let these losers waste their time on this.”

Two other possibilities also loom large.

The first is that Trump will simply flip out, a scenario laid out recently by FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten.

“The question is whether a campaign all about ‘winning’ can take losing. Trump hasn’t lost yet, and the few times he’s gone down in the polls, he’s gone bonkers.”

The second scenario, from the The New Yorker, is that he might just get to the point where he is bored with the process and the people he’s hanging with.

“In the first debate, Trump’s presence on the stage with ‘real’ politicians elevated him, but at this point the setting would diminish anyone. The debates are no longer what Trump might call a classy venue.  Fox’s announcement of the lineup, shortly before Trump stormed off, likely didn’t help. Rand Paul, who had been excluded last time because of low poll numbers, made it back onto the main stage, for a total of eight participants. In a well-run reality show, the field is quickly winnowed down. This one is getting bigger. And so Trump went off to look for a more exclusive club, at his own rallies in Iowa and, soon, everywhere.”

We can only hope.


Our 2016 Candidates: Is This The Best We Can Do as a Country?

democrat-donkey-republican-elephantFor a moment, let’s step back from Hillary vs. Bernie, and Trump vs. … well, Trump, and address what might be the more important question – at least as it pertains to all of the rest of us.

Are the 20 candidates who started this presidential-election process the absolute best we can come up with? Or, as one friend recently said to me: “We’ve having a presidential election and the roster of candidates is worse than the Lakers’ roster.”

There are quick, talking-point answers to that question, of course: For the Democrats, the prospect of the Clinton coronation was proffered as a foregone conclusion and likely tamped down expectations. Understood, in theory. Maybe not so much in reality.

And, cutting across both parties, there’s this other interesting phenomenon – namely, that the candidates generating the most excitement and attention as well as significant support – Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz – can easily be seen as “primary candidates” only. You know, intriguing “diversions” who could never get elected in a national election.

A momentary aside: Despite the fact that many commentators link these three to voters’ “never-before-seen” disdain and disgust with the status quo, the respective manias we’re experiencing with each aren’t necessarily new. Think Gene McCarthy …

From the Los Angeles Times:

Sanders’ ideas have stirred the ideological fervor of old progressives and young millennials, just as Eugene McCarthy once did when those old progressives were young students protesting a war.

… or George McGovern, Ronald Reagan (the first time around) or Howard Dean and others.

From USA Today:

Dean himself has jumped into the comparison game.

“There’s certainly an insurgency,” Dean said of Sanders in a recent Washington Post article. “An attractive candidate is basically calling out the Democrats, much the way I did in 2004.”

But, stepping back, one (at least this one) still can’t get away from the fact that the weakness of the overall field is startling in a country of 320 million-plus people. (Look, Canada, with its population of less than 40 million, now has Justin Trudeau and … uh, never mind.)

Moving back to the U.S. …

On the Democratic side, we’ve addressed the Bernie phenomenon above. As for Hillary, short and sweet might be best – damaged; defensive; feeling of entitlement; doesn’t connect with a large proportion of people … including those who probably will end up voting for her.

From The Hill:

“Her challenge remains the same as it always has been — show voters who she is and reveal the person beneath the candidate,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public policy at Princeton University. “To win people’s trust and to generate enthusiasm, she has to let some of her character come out.”

“She has so many qualifications: experience, knowledge, partisan skill,” Zelizer said, adding that the likability factor “is what she needs to work on.”

And then there’s Martin O’Malley. Could O’Malley have been a more-compelling figure, given that he’s been angling for this opportunity for eight years? Or is Martin O’Malley, unfortunately, simply who we always thought he was – and nothing more?

Are Gavin Newsom, Deval Patrick and Andrew Cuomo simply too damaged?

Is Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, the self-described “recovering geologist now on loan to public service,” unfortunately John Hickenlooper, the self-described “recovering geologist now on loan to public service.”

Is it too soon for Corey Booker and either of the Castro twins from Texas?

Did Jerry Brown shed his Gov. Moonbean  too late in life?

From the Los Angeles Times:

To watch Jerry Brown is to marvel at just how many political lives he can squeeze into his years on stage.

This Brown, who Thursday put on a conservative suit and tie to read his speech, was inconceivable in 1992 when he was storming the country in a black turtleneck — his ranting and ultimately unsuccessful presidential campaign spurred by anger and little else.

On the GOP side, the dearth of candidates was not a problem. But, similar to the Democrats’ issue, the Bush coronation that many expected got derailed because the candidate has warts – or simply was doing something he really didn’t want to do.

Quickly, working through most of the group: Ben Carson leveraged his 2013 National Prayer Breakfast evisceration of President Obama into a presidential run that mystifies many; Marco Rubio is doing well at times but still seems as if he’s on the stage four years too soon; Cruz is busy being Cruz, and arrogantly believing his shtick will translate into a national campaign; Bush is flummoxed; Carly Fiorina quickly rose to prominence and then quickly disappeared; Chris Christie and John Kasich, representing the GOP’s grown-up lane, are at the respective edges of the stage screaming and trying to get attention; Rand Paul is not understanding that his attention-getting antics on the Senate floor were years ago and he isn’t being noticed. (I’ll leave out those who sat at the kiddie table at the debates. Nothing new to say about that other than George … George Pataki?)

So a vacuum was created and Trump was more than happy to jump into it, full throated and with a clever strategy in his pocket. The strategy: play to people’s emotions with bumper-sticker proclamations, jingoistic talking points worthy of the old No-Nothing Party.

From The New Yorker:

He is the latest representative of an anti-immigrant, nativist American tradition that dates back at least to the Know-Nothings of the eighteen-forties and eighteen-fifties. On the other hand, Trump is a twenty-first-century celebrity politician who ruthlessly exploits his fame and his insider knowledge of how the media works to maximum effect.

He also possesses a dedicated avoidance of real issues. All of this buttressed by a vapor-like debate strategy that emphasized the message that he is positioned at the center of the stage because his poll numbers are the best.

(Another aside: One can’t help but wonder when poll numbers became a credible substitute for credentials, as in, “Of course, I’m qualified, my poll numbers are higher than anyone else on the stage.”)

And, so, we move forward with the expectation that Iowa and New Hampshire will start to bring us clarity. Unfortunately, as things become clearer, all we will find out is that the final two unfortunately came from the original list of 20. And, unlike the Lakers, we won’t even get a draft choice or be able to sign a free agent.