Monday, March 14, 2016

Let them eat steak

You realize that this campaign has never been anything other than a promotional tour for Donald J. Trump when he pulls out all his products at a campaign stop in Jupiter, Florida.  Among the many items the television huckster had on display were Trump Steaks, one of his many failed ventures.  He also tried to start a mortgage company the same year in the midst of a housing collapse, a pretty good indication that his business acumen is greatly overblown.  He did benefit from the crisis, however, by buying up Patricia Kluge's Virginia winery at a fraction of the cost and labeling it his own.  He sacked Kluge and put his son, Eric, in charge.  As for his bottled water and other items on display that day, they can only be found at his hotels and resorts.

The steaks really stand out, as they were unpackaged and probably came fresh from the kitchen of his Palm Beach home -- Mar-a-Lago -- a hop, skip and a jump from Jupiter.  I suppose in that sense they were his own steaks, which he was willing to sell for $50 a cut, a bargain given the price of fine steaks these days.  But, his little venture with The Sharper Image went belly up as quickly as it started.  Not surprising, since reviews were rotten.  Jerry Levin, of The Sharper Image, estimated that at best they sold $50,000 worth of steaks.

Mind you, that all may change now that Trump has re-introduced all his failed ventures.  There are plenty of hungry voters out there who want a taste of Trump's fortune and what better way to relaunch these items than to make them available on the campaign trail.  Who knows, he may even introduce his board game from 1989.  I kid you not.

Trump is all about branding.  He likes to fly around in what looks like a facsimile of one of his old Trump planes.  He claims his ever-so-brief airline was no failure given how much he got for it, but here again he lied as he defaulted on his loans and the airline was turned over to creditors.

It sounds like he grew bored with The Apprentice and his Miss USA and Universe competitions and wants to launch a whole new line of products aimed at rural America.  The logical place to go would be Trump Truck Stops as he loves to wear his red trucker's cap everywhere he goes.  He can sell his items at the check-out counter or provide them on-line through QVC or maybe his own shopping network.

However, what started out as a joke has now come to obsess the Donald, and he isn't going to go down without the most bitter, vicious fight in Presidential election history.  Already, we have seen his campaign rallies descend into bar room fights, and now he is blaming Bernie for sending in ringers to further stir hostilities.

The Donald seems to work with the adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity.  He has shown himself to be remarkably adept at turning any publicity into positive gains.  What would have wrecked any other presidential candidate seems to bounce off him and hit someone else in the face.  Look at poor Marco, who is trailing badly in Florida polls.  Marco is not even winning the meager GOP Hispanic vote in Florida.

Kasich learned early that the best way to deal with Trump is to ignore him, which he has assiduously chosen to do.  As a result, he has a pretty good chance of winning Ohio tomorrow and even putting in a strong showing in Illinois, adding considerably to his delegate count.  Most likely Marco will be forced to quit his campaign, making this a three-way race from here on out between Trump, Cruz and Kasich.

This means that the GOP convention will in all likelihood be brokered, resulting in a nasty set of convention floor ballots, which may see Trump lose his place on the Republican ticket.  You can bet the Donald will not take this lying down.  He will make a big stink, may even threaten to run a third-party campaign -- The Trump Party -- evoking the old Bull Moose Teddy Roosevelt, who similarly split the Republican Party back in 1912.  Consider the branding opportunities here.

The problem with all this is that Trump has dragged the 2016 Campaign Trail down to his level.  He even managed to dominate the most recent Democratic Town Hall in Ohio, as questions were posed to Hillary and Bernie as to what they thought about Trump.  There simply is no way to shake this guy.  It is like stepping in a pile of shit and trying to clean it off afterward.  Try as you might, it still clings to the treads of your shoes.

As a result, it has left a pretty foul smell not just for Americans but foreigners too.  Both the former and current Mexican president have lambasted Trump's wall in the crudest terms.  There was a debate in the UK parliament as to whether to ban Trump from ever entering the country again, largely over his insulting comments made toward Muslims, but also the controversy surrounding his notorious golf course in Scotland.  He's not even popular in Israel, where Haaretz categorically stated he would be a disaster for US Jews, Israel and the Middle East.  Probably the only country where he is seen in a favorable light is Russia, largely because Vladimir Putin seems to like him, although the Russian president stopped short of giving his endorsement, saying that was up to the American people.

What Trump is good at is providing red meat and making the whole world talk about him, not just the American media, which has been singularly obsessed with his candidacy to the point other candidates struggle for the remaining airtime.

He has thrived in the multi-candidate Republican primaries because one-third of the votes is enough to put him over the top in the delegate count.  But, if we look at the broader picture here he is garnering less than ten percent of the electorate, as the GOP only amounts to 26 percent of the total electorate.  Trump's 35 percent average polling rate results in roughly 9 percent of the total American electorate.  That is not enough to win a head-to-head election in the Fall, especially given all the bridges he has burned in the primary season.  His only hope, assuming he wins the GOP nomination, is that Bloomberg decides to run as a third party candidate, but the media mogul and former NY mayor has wisely chosen to sit this election out.

So where will this leave Trump?  It's anyone's guess.  He says he is a guy who knows when to cut his losses and move on.  Maybe this is the time to do so while he is still on top.  He can always come up with a lame excuse like Ross Perot did in 1992, claiming GOP dirty tricks forced him to drop out to save his family name.  Of course, Trump runs the risk of being labeled a quitter but that would be preferable to a humiliating loss in the Fall.

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