The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Donald Trump might be serious about running for president. He’s still irrelevant.

CHARLESTON, SC - FEBRUARY 22: Reality TV host and New York real estate mogul Donald Trump holds up a replica flintlock rifle awarded him by cadets during the Republican Society Patriot Dinner at the Citadel Military College on February 22, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images)

Donald Trump wants everyone to know that he is serious about running for president in 2016. Unlike other times in the past when he was also "serious" about running, Trump has hired operatives in key states like Iowa and New Hampshire and is saying things like  "I’m not doing this for enjoyment. I’m doing this because the country is in serious trouble.”

So, let's assume -- gulp -- that Trump is serious this time around. Heck, while we're at it, let's assume he actually runs.


I can't emphasize that strongly enough. A decade ago, Trump might have cut an interesting figure, politically speaking. He was rich, well known and perceived as a no-nonsense businessman.  That's not a bad profile for a third party presidential bid, which Trump flirted with in the 2000 race.

But that's not the profile Trump has today. He is still rich (I think) and very well known. But, that's where the similarities end.  Trump is now notorious rather than famous. He's seen as a professional provocateur rather than a serious businessperson. He has staked out positions -- questioning President Obama's birth certificate, for one -- that have badly marginalized him in the political sphere.

Don't believe me? Watch comedian Seth Myers absolutely destroy the idea of Trump as a serious candidate at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner.

But, wait, you say. Who cares what Seth Myers and a bunch of Washington-based political reporters think?  Donald Trump certainly doesn't!  He only cares about what potential Republican voters think of him!

And, he is out of luck there too.  Take a recent WMUR/University of New Hampshire poll.  Nineteen percent of New Hampshire Republican voters had a favorable impression of Trump (Sidebar: Who are these people?) while 69 percent had an unfavorable view of him.  For you non-math majors, that's a 50 point difference between the people who like The Donald and those that don't. Or a Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll of Iowans conducted late last month.  Twenty six percent of Iowa Republicans had a favorable view of Trump while 68 percent had an unfavorable one. He took one percent of the vote in the ballot test in that same poll.

There's plenty more polls just like those two but you get the idea.  While I tend to believe Trump is in the midst of (yet another) publicity stunt and won't ultimately run for anything, even if he does there's absolutely no evidence that there's a constituency out there waiting for him.

Yes, a Trump candidacy would get lots of attention -- from the media (sad face) and voters. But, fascination with a political train wreck isn't the same thing as serious interest in a candidate. The real question is not whether Trump will run or not. The real question is why any of us even care.