Post-debate, my radical prediction about Donald Trump

debate composite finalLike many of you, I’ve been trying to answer the question “What in hell is Donald Trump actually doing?” I know now. I can also make a prediction about how he will change the 2016 election, and it’s not just “hand it to Hillary.”

As he has all along, Donald Trump said things last night that no politician would say. Three minutes into the debate, he refused to pledge to back the eventual Republican nominee. He said “most of the people on this stage I’ve given to, just so you understand, a lot of money.” He admitted that giving money to politicians, including Democrats like Hillary Clinton, gets them to listen to him and help him; in other words, he said that government is corrupt and he uses that corruption to his advantage. He repeated his proposal to build a wall on the Mexican border. He admitted to using the nation’s bankruptcy laws to his advantage.

While you can object to the things he says or to their veracity, the fact is, he has changed the dialogue. John Kasich put it very well last night:

. . . we need to take lessons from Donald Trump if we’re really going to learn it. Here is the thing about Donald Trump. Donald Trump is hitting a nerve in this country. He is. He’s hitting a nerve. People are frustrated. They’re fed up. They don’t think the government is working for them. And for people who want to just tune him out, they’re making a mistake.

If you analyze Trump like any other politician, you are making a grave error. He’s playing a different game.

It’s as if all the other politicians are playing chess, and Donald Trump is playing basketball.

He’s not going to win the chess game called politics, because he’s not playing that game. Here is what Donald Trump wants:

  • He wants to shift the debate.
  • He wants his issues front and center.
  • He wants to change the way politicians talk.
  • He wants to change how the government does business.
  • He wants us all to remember him and understand who he is.

Notice what is not in this list. Unlike all the other politicians, Donald Trump doesn’t care about his future in the Republican party. And Donald Trump does not want to be president. He knows it’s impossible.

Read Nate Silver on The nominating process has six huge hurdles for any candidate, and the party controls them. Like Steve Forbes, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum in past elections, he can win or make a strong showing in Iowa or New Hampshire. But none of those people became the nominee. Trump will not sweep, and the superdelegates will not allow him to take the nomination.

So here is the prediction on what will happen in the next 15 months.

  1. Donald Trump will continue to dominate the debate until Iowa and New Hampshire. The Trump phenomenon could abate before then, but I don’t think it will.
  2. Trump will rank among the top three candidates in both Iowa and New Hampshire, and could win either or both. He needs a stronger local organization in New Hampshire, which he will buy, rather than build. (Think employees, not volunteers.)
  3. As the primaries continue, many of the other candidates will drop out. Their supporters will coalesce around a Trump opponent. Unlike Trump, they do not have unlimited funds. The surviving candidate will most likely be Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, or John Kasich.
  4. One of those four candidates will lock up the Republican nomination.
  5. Donald Trump will run as an independent. (Remember, his goal is not to win the presidency but to change the debate. He has no loyalty to the Republican party, as he showed last night. He will keep this going as long as the microphones and cameras are around.)
  6. Because the Republican leadership will allow Trump to speak at the convention only if he supports the nominee, he will have no speaking slot. Trump will stage some sort of alternate media event to get his coverage around the time of the conventions.
  7. As a result of Trump’s presence in the primaries and the election, candidates will speak more frankly and directly. Trump’s issues, including immigration, America’s competitiveness around the world, and the inefficiency of government, will be central to the debate. The other two candidates will position themselves as the candidates for grownups, but that will drive many voters seeking change (“an outsider”) into the Trump camp. Hey, it happened in Minnesota.
  8. In the general election, there are two possible outcomes. The conventional wisdom is that Trump will siphon votes from the Republican nominee and hand states to Hillary Clinton or whoever is the Democratic nominee. The Democrat will win. That’s possible.
  9. There is a high likelihood that Trump will win a few states, like George Wallace did in the 1968 election. If this happens, no candidate will win a majority of the electoral votes and the election will go to the U.S. House of Representatives. Since the House is and will remain Republican in 2016, this would hand the election to the Republican nominee.
  10. Trump will not win the election, but he will survive as a public figure. Trump’s issues will be front and center in the national debate. And Trump’s way of communicating will change American political discourse forever.

Photo composite by Josh Bernoff. Image sources: Andrew Harnik, AP and Leonardo da Vinci from Wikimedia Commons

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  1. Donald Trump’s rise in the polls is proof positive that the Republican party still doesn’t get it. As long as the primaries and early stages are dominated by uber conservatives, the Republican party will stay focused on losing issues – and the Democrats will keep them on the defensive. And win the election.

    It’ a very different world today than when Carl Rove worked to get George W in the White House. The Republican candidate who smiles sweetly and says “While I am sure some might find my personal views on abortion and gay marriage interesting, I’d like to re-direct your attention to challenges such as the national debt, education, immigration, and health care that are far more pertinent to the discussion tonight.

    It really is that simple.

    1. Whatever you want to call him that’s fine… nice to know same people who call him these names will back hillary even after proving she can’t be trusted handling government classified information,destroyng evidence and caught lying on many occasions. You can bet once she gets in u.s and russia will go to war and we will become a thirld world country.

  2. The Art of Trump’s deal might be that he throws his followers behind the candidate that picks up his issues and delivers the most gifts to The Donald’s coffers; rather than run as an independent and ruin the race for another conservative.

    However, I don’t see The Donald as Secretary of State.

  3. I agree with the fact he will change the rhetoric of the debate. However, you are giving Donald Trump way too much credit. He doesn’t have any of the altruistic notions you ascribe to him. He is too egotistical and self-absorbed to have given thought to those ideas. He wants to be the center of attention. He is totally disingenuous. The republican stage is the one where he can beat his chest in all his stupidity and get attention. I think it is sad that this kind of behavior and absolutely inappropriate comments are hitting a nerve. He is as inauthentic as the rest of the candidates. Is there a smidgen of truth in some of what he says? Yes. Do the republicans need to learn something from him? Yes. But it is that inauthentic behavior isn’t going to cut it in the end. They all need to learn to speak the truth and address real issues. But it doesn’t have to be done in a bullying rude way. This man is a joke. Even his “business” smarts are not genuine – he has had to declare bankruptcy 4 times(?), he placed secret cameras in his hotels to video his guests, etc etc etc. What we need to learn from Donald Trump? That we as individuals and a nation need to evaluate our own ideals – what we profess we believe and what we support. We swear we don’t want our children bullied but then we allow center stage to a huge rude bully. Would he be tolerated for a minute if he weren’t rich?

    1. You’re absolutely on the mark, I couldn’t agree more. But I’d like to add that Trump is a biggot, a racist , a sexist, misogynist, hate monger, and worst of all a bully and a liar! I cannot understand how anyone with even a modicum of critical thinking skills can fall for his ridiculous rhetoric. It’s almost comical to see how he dodges questions about how he intends to implement his ridiculous ideas; watch him the next time he is asked a really hard hitting question. He either immediately changes the subject or he dances around the question, making some vague statement like “we’re going to do great things”. His responses wouldn’t pass muster for a third grader let alone someone who’s running for the office of the President of the United States. I only hope that the American public will come to its senses and end this ridiculous and shameful chapter in presidential politics.

  4. I think that your central premise that Donald Trump does not want to be president is possibly spot on the mark. If that premise is correct, then your predictions make a lot of sense.
    I will watch with great interest.

  5. Altruistic, disingenuous, or whatever, Trump is changing the landscape of political rhetoric. While I would not want him as president, I think he is feeding his ego (his motive) but giving voice to what many have waited for. He is cutting through the politically correct agendas and getting to the heart of what many think (albeit, with wildly swinging pendulum). In that sense, he is good for this stage of the campaigns.

    Interesting read. Thanks! I like your style.

  6. What did you have for lunch today? What was that? Oh yes, YOUR WORDS. (I’m Not a Trump fan, just sayin’…)