About two months ago I wrote a post regarding the GOP contenders for the 2012 field. Looking over the landscape, I couldn't find a single Republican who really scared me. Each was either boring, stupid, or too moderate for the GOP base. In that post, I included Donald Trump, and concluded that the Donald always says he's going to run for President, but never does. Well, look who's up on all the potential contenders. I'll take a moment for everyone to throw up. . .done
Now normally, I'd say that Trump is WAY too liberal for the GOP primary voters. Okay, maybe not that liberal, but WAY, WAY too sleazy for the Heartland. He has been divorced three times, has unusual hair, been in and out of bankruptcy court, and can't figure out how to make money in the gambling industry. Seriously. Oh, and he's gone full birther (but its okay because he's always had good relations with "the blacks").
So normally, I'd think this guy was toast. But. . .let's face it, the rest of the field is very weak. Granted, every Presidential field looks weak, and then someone rises to the top. The only exception is 2008, when everyone thought Hillary was going to take it. Still, even compared to other years, this is a weak group. Pathetic, even. Trump has the money and the bluster to blow past a lot of the other contenders. And whether its his policies, his race, his alleged religion, the GOP hate Obama. They hate him as much as Democrats hate Bush (though I do think Bush earned his hatred).
In that environment, the base will go with whomever they think is a winner. 2004 is a good comparison year - that year the Democrats had a choice between Kerry, Edwards and Howard Dean. While Dean was a firebrand, and potentially a stronger match-up against Bush, the Democrats went with John Kerry because he looked like a safe choice. We need to win this one - that was the word passed around. In 2008, GOP voters went with McCain because he was the safe choice against Hillary Clinton. In retrospect, both choices were not good.
So, the question that hangs up there is does the GOP go safe, or does it go for the ideal matchup. Given what happened the last time, I don't see the GOP going safe. Similar to the Democrats in 2008, the GOP base remembers how it went safe and lost - they're going longshot. Donald Trump would fit the bill - he's from the libertarian/Wall Street branch of the GOP, he "creates" jobs (helpful in a downturn) and he's not boring on television. There's also a chance he's not totally crazy - which makes him a stronger candidate than Bachmann.
At the same time, Trump never struck me as brilliant. In a fight, he's going to plunge headlong into the fray, and use his bluster to pummel opponents into submission. Now, normally smarts isn't a huge issue because most not-smart politicians know they're not smart and hire smart people (i.e. Karl Rove). I don't see Trump allowing someone else run the show. If that's the case, then the Obama of 2008, who deftly took every caucus while Clinton killed herself in the primaries, would slaughter Trump. Romney is smart enough to butcher Trump as well. I can imagine the same is true for a fair number of the other candidates.
All in all, Trump may be a player on the national stage, he might win a couple of primaries, but at the end of the day, he won't win the nomination. Rather, he's going to flame out, a la Dean.