Simon Williamson

Coming Up Trump

2015-07-24 08:56

Simon Williamson

Donald Trump is a very flawed presidential candidate, whose grandiose perception of himself is reinforced by, well, everything he says about himself, with regularity. Repeated ad nauseum in the media. The strength he maintains therein is this: he is pretty awesome at seeking attention, and the press of this great nation responds every single time.

Data journalist Nate Silver has referred to Trump as the world’s greatest troll, “[operating] on the principle that negative attention is better than none. In fact, the troll may feed off the negative attention, claiming it makes him a victim and proves that everyone is out to get him.”

Trump’s grotesque comments about Mexicans - a favourite hobby horse of the racist vote - along with spearing the military service record (Senator John McCain was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for nearly six years) of one of least popular Senators in the country are two great examples of how he manages to ride the wave of being a huge prick, and combined with his name-recognition amongst the general public, surf into a small lead in the polls for the Republican presidential contest.

What he is doing, though, is not the worst idea, if his ultimate goal is to win a few states, and ruffle some feathers (really, no one believes he is going to win). There are set to be around 19 Republican contenders for the 2016 presidential contest, and as more enter, the barrier to winning becomes smaller and smaller. With three candidates in the race, one needs to win over a third of the votes to win. As things stand in actuality with the plethora of Republicans going for it, one could win one of the early primary states with less than 20% of the vote, which makes the race an absolute lottery.

For the GOP in 2016, a massive number of candidates is going to be a problem, largely due to a Supreme Court ruling in 2010 (referred to as CItizens United) which means one large donor can keep any candidate in the race. Running for office in the US it outrageously expensive, in spite of limits on what candidates can accept from donors. However, the ruling allowed anyone to give any amount anonymously to organisations that support a certain candidate, which means that if I support Rick Santorum, although I can only give x-amount to his campaign, I can contribute willy-nilly to an organisation that supports him. We saw flashes of this in 2012, when former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich stayed in the race far longer than he was welcome.

So this plethora of GOP candidates, each of whom only needs one billionaire to stay in the race for a long time (something not unachievable!), means that if Trump can continue to laser in on his 15%-20% of the vote that appreciate his awful, disgusting, hateful comments, he could absolutely pick up delegates (the way you win an American presidential nomination contest) to a decent degree. And after March 15, when most candidates are traditionally whinnied out, the rest of the primary states operate under winner-takes-all rules. Which means, assuming a significant number of candidates find themselves a billionaire (Trump is his own), a very small portion of the vote can throw many the delegates in your column.

In the days pre-dating the Citizens United ruling, lack of funds would force candidates out. But in the current day, with the right financial backing, candidates can remain in well-past their sell-by date. And that suits Trump, who will likely self-fund perfectly. Gone are the days when such a ridiculous candidate stood no chance.

- Simon Williamson is a writer living in Atlanta, Georgia. He previously worked on the campaign of Michelle Nunn, a Democratic candidate for Georgia’s US Senate seat in 2014. Follow @simonwillo on Twitter.

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Read more on:    donald trump  |  us  |  us elections 2016
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