Thus far, the most interesting participant in an otherwise uninteresting Republican presidential primary field has been the only other man in the New York City metro area who enjoys confrontation as much as Governor Christie: Donald Trump.
“The Donald” has emerged as a somewhat-unlikely but surprisingly effective critic of the Obama Administration. It’s impossible to know whether he is truly serious about the presidency, Save Jerseyans. This isn’t the first time Trump flirted with a national run. What’s clear is that he very much wants us to take him seriously for 2012. He’s made the talk show rounds and scheduled a June speech in America’s second earliest primary battleground, Iowa. Trump even appeared on yesterday’s edition of The View and told Whoopi Goldberg that he wants to see President Obama’s birth certificate. Whoopi wasn’t pleased.
Ironically, the socially-conservative GOP primary electorate may share Whoopi’s lack of enthusiasm for a Donald Trump candidacy. The New York real estate baron is a brash guy with plenty of personal skeletons in his closet and just as many appearances in bankruptcy court. Moreover, Trump has developed an unsavory reputation as a capitalist cutthroat willing to cheat the small business vendors of his AC casinos. Yes, he’d be an easy mark for liberal demagogues and opposition researchers. However, this blogger’s immediate concern with a hypothetical Trump candidacy arises from his close relationship with one of the most infamous characters in New Jersey politics: South Jersey Democrat Superboss George E. Norcross, III.
New York Magazine ran an eyebrow-raising story on their relationship back in March 2006:
Donald Trump’s $5 billion libel lawsuit against TrumpNation author Timothy O’Brien and his publisher, Warner Books, might appear to be as ridiculous as the Donald’s do, but Warner Books is taking it seriously enough to hire Mary Jo White, former U.S. attorney for the Southern District. Her hiring also helps explain why Trump filed in Camden County, New Jersey, where his golf buddy, George Norcross III, the state’s behind-the-scenes political kingmaker, holds court. In 2001, Norcross, an exec at Commerce Bank, was caught on tape boasting of having engineered a judgeship for a political foe “just to get rid of him.”
Norcross’s claim to control the New Jersey courts was only bluster, his longtime lawyer, William Tambussi, said at the time. Tambussi has also been retained by Trump in his suit. (Norcross and Tambussi did not return calls.) Trump says even mentioning Norcross’s political connections in relation to his libel suit is misleading and unfair. He promises that a “numbers to numbers” accounting of his books will “totally win my case.”
Norcross also attended Trump’s third wedding and, way back in 2003, lobbied behind the scenes for a new “casino tax” that was allegedly designed to disproportionately burden Trump’s more profitable Atlantic City competitors. They even went house shopping together in Florida! More recently, Norcross and other state Dem bosses seriously considered Randal Pinkett, a former contestant on Trump’s “The Apprentice” reality show, to run for lieutenant governor in 2009 with then-Governor Jon Corzine. Nevermind that Pinkett had zero political or governing experience. Trump was willing to vouch for him and his buddy Norcross’s word goes a long way in New Jersey’s halls of power.
The bottom line? Donald Trump may not even run for president, but he could win if this isn’t a marketing gimmick; after all, who would’ve thought that a community organizing one-term senator from Chicago could get himself into the White House? The American electorate remains volatile, and the GOP field is still extremely weak. The Donald is shrewd and he undoubtedly recognizes a historic opening here… or at least an excellent opportunity to push his brand. It also think it goes without saying that he would be a better leader than his prospective opponent. I think most vertebrates fit into that category!
But before he can seriously compete for this New Jersey voter’s support, he would have to convincingly explain the nature of his intimate affiliation with New Jersey’s most ethically-challenged party boss. I would suggest that all of our readers adopt the same skeptical approach!