So, 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.”
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.
“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.