By Matt Rooney | The Save Jersey Blog
I am NOT, repeat not, endorsing Donald Trump in this post, Save Jerseyans. This is 2015; it’s okay to date someone without having any serious interest in marrying them.
This post focuses on a process angle with substantive implications. Specifically, the fact that the Donald ripped Chris Christie‘s 2016 campaign playbook right out of his hands, not unlike a bully in a school yard who decided he likes YOUR football better than his own.
You know the backstory. Battered and beaten down by a trifecta of domestic strife, the Obama “hug” narrative and Bridgegate, the increasingly unpopular New Jersey governor’s strategists settled on the remaining albeit not impossible tagline for a long-shot primary campaign: “
Said another way, “You may not like me very much, but hell, I’ll talk in plain language about stuff like entitlement reform which the more heavily scripted candidates won’t touch.”
Not a terrible plan. It could work in a perfect world and still might for all we know (he pulled it off once, back when he ate NJEA flunkies and liberal legislators for lunch). This cycle’s 20+ candidate royal rumble is as unpredictable as it is overwhelming.
Of course our world isn’t perfect. It was never going to be enough on its own. And back to the reason for this post, what I don’t think anyone really counted on was a louder, richer, just as well known version of Chris Christie hopping into the race and striking the field like a bolt of thunder. That’s Donald Trump’s candidacy in a nutshell.
Let’s summarize the state of the race to highlight my point:
Chris Christie: “I tell it like it is.”
Jeb Bush: “I am what is. Look at this pile of money.”
Donald Trump: “Don’t like it? F$&% you!”
Everyone else: “Can the media please attack ME so I have some oxygen to breathe? Please…?” (gasping and wheezing noises)
Watch Trump’s Arizona speech on YouTube if you need more. To quote Larry David, “not too shabby.” Few forget but may nevertheless underestimate the extent to which he’s a master marketer who knows his audience: disaffected GOP’ers who are sick of losing presidential elections (e.g. Republicans have only won the popular vote once since 1988 – a period of 27 years!).
Trump provides a different, direct, refreshingly combative change of tactics if nothing else. Case in point, he’s the first national GOP candidate I can remember to bring a victim of a crime committed by an illegal immigrant with him onto the stage. How is that possible???
He also speaks in plain language while mercilessly hammering the usual base villains (ranging from Obama to McCain) but no one is ever going to accuse the self-made billionaire Trump of being a total intellectual lightweight in the same way that Republicans from Gerald Ford to Sarah Palin have fell victim to the Left’s malicious “stupid” tag.
In other words, he’s out-Christie-ing Chris Christie. Voters naturally gravitate to the stronger contrast and Trump, at this moment in time, is providing it.
Our Save Jersey Managing Editor Brian McGovern foresaw the possibility of this happening allllllll the way back in… 2011:
Donald Trump burst on to the scene much in the way that he usually does. As a joke. The guy’s popularity and newest reserves of fortune comes from nothing more than headline grabbing (kind of similar to someone else in the GOP field). However, Trump has one thing that the “movement conservatives” do not. He speaks his mind, and it resonates with people. When you hear Trump in an interview, you can tell he is not scripted and certainly not coached. He says exactly what he thinks, when he thinks it. …”
So where can a guy like Christie find a winning contrast against a multi-billion dollar version of himself on steroids to monopolize the talk circuit?
It’s unclear whether the GOP base voters responsive to a “telling it like it is” message, targeted by the New Jersey’s campaign in New Hampshire, would necessarily value a Christie “electability” argument or public sector executive experience over Trump’s unique business/entertainment curriculum vitae.
We can venture an educated guess…
That’s the “process.”
Here’s the substance: Is the rest of the GOP field going to learn from Trump’s playbook, leveraging what he’s done right into a net positive for the party? Or are they going to continue to run scared from the big issues and let Trump continue making’em look like pansies, a state of affairs, by the way, that helps no one (assuming one member of this crop is our future nominee)?
Again, I’m not going to insult your intelligence by making you guess.