The other day I posited the possibility that Donald Trump is in for a fall once the voting starts, if some other candidate meets with some success and thus begins to swing media attention and momentum away from The Donald.
But the potential problems facing Trump go way beyond the reality of people actually starting to vote. They involve Trump trumping Trump. In saying that, I don’t mean he’ll outdo himself. Rather, he might undo himself.
In other words, the biggest obstacle to Trump getting the Republican nomination could be Trump himself.
Let’s start with the elephant (so to speak) in the room: Does anyone think that, after decades of doing whatever he wanted, there aren’t huge personal or financial scandals in Donald Trump’s closet?
I offer this notion of a scandal-in-waiting with some slight hesitation, since it would have made sense for Jeb! or any other competing campaigns to uncover and leak nasty stuff to journalists by now. But maybe they’re biding their time. Or maybe they’re holding back out of fear that such leaks could drive Trump to strike back or go the third party route; better, then, to hope his campaign first falls apart on its own.
Nevertheless, we’re already seeing the first inklings of scandal-mongering, in the form of one Republican senator’s tweets about Trump’s affairs. And there’s far more fodder out there, as evinced by this 2012 article alleging why Trump didn’t run for President back then. If and when the media catches its breath in covering Trump, it could well do his opponents’ jobs for them in discrediting him.
Another challenge for Trump is the very factors that have fueled his success to date. He’s so far been his candidacy’s greatest (only?) asset. But he’s a bully. Bullies are fundamentally cowards. Furthermore, he’s spoiled – the Trump brand prides itself on his living in an uber-privileged bubble. This is not the stuff of which perseverance is made.
I’m not suggesting that we’ll see Trump dissolve in a puddle of tears if he has some setbacks in the next few months. But he may well prove too inexperienced or hubristic to adjust to the shifting demands of a campaign that is about to get a lot tougher and to spread out all over the map.
This is not the very disciplined candidacy of George W. Bush, controlled by the masterful (in terms of running presidential campaigns) Karl Rove. This is a loose cannon who keeps his own counsel. There may be strategic and resource allocation decisions he’ll blow, for instance. And yes, even though he thus far has seemed immune from damage due to his outrageous statements, he may yet overreach.
Even if Trump doesn’t directly overdo it, his representatives may. Remember, this is a fellow who prides himself on getting “the very best people” to work for him. That claim could be undermined by his choices to date, starting with his chief spokesperson.
Or, Trump the supposed master negotiator may have way too much confidence in his capacity to cut political deals with some very tough, seasoned politicians. He may not fully realize whom he’s dealing with. Those who recall the big-mouthed character Ellis from the first Die Hard film, whose bluster ultimately got him killed, might notice a similar overconfidence.
There also is the question of how badly Trump really wants to be President. This guy defines the term “vanity candidate.” The World’s No. 1 Ego wants his sense of self confirmed by an egomaniac’s No. 1 Prize. No doubt he’s driven to win. But to actually do the job? The question becomes all the more salient because there’s a sense in which Trump has already won, by vastly building the power of his brand. Again, in terms of pursuing the presidency wholeheartedly through the inevitable minefields ahead, Trump is not tougher than the rest.
Finally, there’s the authenticity issue. As much as Trump draws popular support from his financial success and even elitism, he also comes across as a regular guy – a highly prized candidate quality. But that means he’s walking a thin line here. A few false steps and he starts being seen as a phony.
To illustrate my point, here’s a classic Jon Stewart rant from a few years ago, on Trump’s pizza choices:
I’m certainly not saying that something like that Daily Show bit will undo The Donald. Rather, his phoniness or insecurity or inexperience or (most of all) hubris could cause him to undo himself.