Following Donald Trump’s release of his immigration plan last week, Mary Cannon suggested that we should look at Trump’s presidential run not as a typical political campaign but, rather, as a kind of negotiation “with his fellow candidates, with the Republican Party, with the American people.” Trump, she argued, is attempting to close a deal to “make America great again.”
This struck me as a rather ingenious insight into a phenomenon that has, thus far, resisted all attempts at explanation by the nearly infinite number of pundits who have weighed in. Trump has been encouraging others to read “The Art of the Deal,” including, most recently, President Obama and John Kerry. Perhaps, to understand what is driving the Donald, the rest of us should as well?
In Chapter 2 of “The Art of the Deal,” Trump sets down the elements which he sees as necessary for any successful deal. Let’s take a look at how well he’s following his own advice:
To me it’s very simple: if you’re going to be thinking anyway, you might as well think big. (pg. 46)
Well, this one is pretty simple. You can’t think much bigger than becoming President of the United States. One has to believe, were Trump to win the election, it would undoubtedly represent the biggest deal he has ever made.
Protect the Downside and the Upside Will Take Care of Itself
I happen to be very conservative in business. I always go into the deal anticipating the worst. (pg. 48)
Although Trump’s 2016 run would appear to be a fairly aggressive move, he has, in fact, been preparing for it for quite some time. He briefly campaigned for the presidency back in 2000 as the nominee for the Reform Party and famously flirted with a run for the Republican nomination in 2012. By this point, it’s likely Trump is fully prepared for what the long, grueling presidential campaign will bring, and while he has seen business ties with groups such as NBC and Macy’s go south due to his immigration comments, one wonders whether his brand has actually been strengthened by the whole snafu.
When it comes down to it, Trump has remarkably little to lose and much to gain by running.
Maximize Your Options
I also protect myself by being flexible. I never get too attached to one deal or one approach. (pg. 50)
As we’ve documented, Donald Trump has been the master of flexibility when it comes to his political positions. Trump has been on both sides of a whole host of issues: abortion and immigration being just two of many. This is a serious reason for conservatives to be wary. After all, how likely is the “flexible” Trump to stick to his positions if he is elected president?
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Know Your Market
[Sylvester Stallone] knows what the public wants and he delivers it. I like to think I have that instinct. (pg. 51)
If Trump has a market in 2016, it would appear to be conservative-leaning voters fed up with the status quo in Washington. And he is certainly playing straight to them. All of Trump’s statements and actions since announcing have been carefully targeted at firing up voters who are looking for an outsider who shares their concerns and wants to shake up the system. Judging from poll numbers, his instinct certainly seems correct so far.
Use Your Leverage
The best thing you can do is deal from strength, and leverage is the biggest strength you can have. (pg. 53)
During the first debate, Trump was the only candidate who would not pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee. Why? One word: leverage. As long as it is possible Trump could run as an independent (and take a significant chunk of the conservative voting bloc with him), the Republican Party has to take him seriously. He has certainly put himself in a position of strength.
Enhance Your Location
You can take a mediocre location and turn it into something considerably better just by attracting the right people. (pg. 55)
This aphorism isn’t only applicable to real estate. Prior to his announcement, few if any political commentators would have considered Trump even remotely electable. Many would have likely advised him that his time and money were better spent supporting a candidate than becoming one himself. And yet, in the span of a few months, Trump has not only built himself into a formidable candidate but has turned himself into the undeniable front runner in a very crowded GOP field. Talk about enhancing your location…
Get the Word Out
You can have the most wonderful product in the world, but if people don’t know about it, it’s not going to be worth much. (pg. 56)
When it comes to promotion, there are few better than the Donald. Since announcing, Trump has dominated the media coverage of the presidential race, forcing the rest of the candidates to respond to him and thereby controlling the narrative. At this point, it’s pretty safe to say most, if not all, voters know his name.
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[W]hen people treat me badly or unfairly or try to take advantage of me, my general attitude, all my life, has been to fight back very hard. (pg. 59)
Can anyone doubt this after seeing Trump on the campaign trail? Woe to Megyn Kelly and others who have dared to call out Trump. He has not been afraid to go after those he feels are disrespecting him, and he has been unapologetic about it. For voters tired of political correctness, it’s difficult not to cheer him on.
Deliver the Goods
You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole. But if you don’t deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on. (pg. 60)
Thus far, Trump has promised a great deal and not backed down. But will he be able to deliver? That remains to be seen.
Contain the Costs
I believe in spending what you have to. But I also believe in not spending more than you should. (pg. 61)
Although Trump has said publicly he’s willing to spend up to $1 billion on his presidential run, early indications suggest his campaign has been relatively frugal. Advertising Age recently reported that the Trump campaign spent only $1.4 million from April to June, the time during which he built the foundation for his eventual leap to front runner status. Compare that to Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton, whose campaign spent $18 million during that span.
Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score. The real excitement is playing the game. (pg. 63)
I’ll let a friend of Trump speak for him on this one:
“He’s going to be a very big factor, and he loves it,” [former CNBC host Donny] Deutsch said, adding, “I know Donald well enough to know he’s just having fun.”
Paul Dupont is a legislative assistant for American Principles in Action.