Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Art of the Misdirection

When I was much younger, I had some eclectic tastes and interests. One thing that interested me was the rise of Donald Trump. I read Trump: The Art of the Deal with a lot of interest. I own a first edition of Trump: The Game(*)

(*) That reminds me that I should play this again sometime.

This is a roundabout way to say that I'm not surprised by what he's been doing by flirting with running to be president of the United States. And nor will I be surprised when he doesn't formally declare as a candidate.

The biggest thing to realize about Donald Trump is that the biggest reason he has been so successful in business is his name. Trump has built the Trump name up to be one of the biggest hotel brands in the world. And his method of building up that Trump name is to get personally involved in many other projects, whether that be the USFL or Trump Ice, his brand of bottled water.

Once he gets involved in these projects, one of three things occur - either the project is a success and he's able to claim some credit for the success, the project is slightly successful and Trump takes credit for this part of the success, or it fails and Trump avoids being the scapegoat by placing the blame elsewhere.

So let's look at his recent musings about running for President.

The first key to his musing is that Trump recognizes that there is no shining star in the Republican ranks to take a run at President Obama in 2012. The early returns on the presidential candidates is that there are no good candidates there; the best option is Milt Romney and he does not appeal to the Tea Party part of the Republican caucas.

Trump saw this and took advantage. He knew by flirting with running, the public would know his name and this would allow him to do well in polls. In turn, this would give him some credibility with the journalists who would otherwise dismiss his flirtation as a publicity stunt. (This isn't to say that it still isn't being dismissed by some as a publicity stunt; instead any "publicity stunt" argument comes with a caveat that Trump is polling well and might be resonating with the public.)

Next, Trump starts making stump speeches in locations. These speeches contain a lot of "no nonsense" talk about the economy and what needs to be done to fix it. It appeals to the Tea Party side of the crowd which again helps him with polling, along with getting the positive attention of other Tea Party representatives. These representatives defend him on panels, and further the mystique of a Trump presidential run.

And then there was the birther nonsense. Trump knew that it was a no lose issue for him to tackle. The group that he was trying to get the support of was already of the opinion that President Obmaa was hiding not being born in the US. Trump also knew that he didn't need to have the support of the more mainstream Republicans, as he wasn't planning on running for president. This meant he wouldn't have to worry about the long term ramifications of this line of attack.

The end result if Obama did not release his birth certificate is that Trump could rage on about how untrustworthy Obama was, and that he was hiding something. Trump would essentially be in the same position he was before persuing the Birther argument. Fans/supporters who disagreed with Trump would be likely to dismiss it as another exampleof Trump's blowhard antics, which makes him appealing to watch. The fans/supporters would stay.

Now, when Obama did release his birth certificate, Trump was very quick to take credit for the release. This ended up helping him in two main ways. First, he was able to solidify his position amongst the outsiders of the Republican party. He gained more influence with them, and thus gained more influence in the Republican party. he will now be somebody who the eventual Republican Presidential candidate will have to court.

Second, this gave Trump his exit strategy. He can now say that he has accomplished something in his teasing of running for president, so he can declare it a victory and an accomplishment which nobody else can. He can be gracious in leaving by just saying that he is confident that the Republican candidate is now better equipped to lead the party against Obama (or something). That was the end game for Trump - find a way to say you accmomplished something, while not actually putting yourself out for scrutiny.

(Why has Trump continued on with his attacks by saying that the certificate could have been forged? Because until he announces he is not running for president, Trump needs to keep his base comfortable and activated.)

What's the next step for Trump? Continue on, then on the Celebrity Apprentice finale, announce you will not be running. Then promote your latest venture, while still using your position to keep your values in the forefront.

Trump's motives are prety clear most of the time. You just have to know where to look.

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