What if Donald Trump doesn't want to win the presidency? What if this whole thing is not a fake vanity campaign to feed his ego and #grow his #brand? What if — and bear with me here — his goal instead is to help elect his old friend Hillary Clinton by presenting a well-calculated portrait of utter buffoonery.
If so, Monday's announcement from NBC Universal that it was firing him/making him redundant/laying him off fits neatly into the plan.
Within the first three minutes of the speech that kicked off his candidacy as a Republican candidate for president, Trump offended an entire country.
"When Mexico sends its people" over the border, he said, "they're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists."
He then offered a tepid qualifier: "And some, I assume, are good people." But it was too late. In particularly dumb fashion, Donald Trump irritated an entire nation — and with it, a critical 2016 voting constituency.
An artist in Mexico responded by creating a Donald Trump piñata. Spanish-language Univision backed out of airing Trump's Miss USA pageant. And Trump's longtime business partner NBC has now responded by ending its business relationship with him. After all, Hispanic Americans are an important constituency for television networks — not just politicians.
What's perhaps oddest about NBC's decision is that it came so late. NBC was beaten to the punch by Univision, but Trump's distinctly un-presidential tiff with that network was buried in the massive amount of news last week. (In a similarly un-presidential move, the president of Univision compared Trump to Charleston shooter Dylann Roof. But I digress.)
After Univision dropped the pageant, Trump replied by barring its staff from a golf course he owns adjacent to its Miami bureau.
One leverages what one can, I suppose. But if that note leaves you with the impression that this a serious, deliberate person, you'll probably find Amy Schumer a bit too dry for your taste.
When he announced his presidential bid, Trump released a document detailing his net worth. More than one-third of it — $3.32 billion — was identified as being linked to the value of his brand and licensing fees, which at the time prompted some raised eyebrows. This was a key selling point: He didn't need to raise a ton of money because he could pay for his own campaign. (Assuming TV stations will let him pay for spots with brand value.) The decision by NBC to end its relationship with Trump suggests, though, that perhaps that particular line item is due for some devaluation. Trump's efforts might be costing him some of his hard-earned brand-credit Monopoly money — along with his finger-jabbing show, "The Apprentice."
Anyway. We're here to talk about politics, not the nebulous smoke-monster that is Trump's stated economic value.
A poll last week showed Trump in second place in New Hampshire, leaving state Republicans largely unfazed. "If they listed David Ortiz as a choice, a percentage would say they would vote for him too," one former state GOP chairman told The Hill.
It's certainly the case that Trump's position in the polls benefits from the wide field of candidates. When he briefly led the Republican race in early 2011, he garnered 26 percent support. In a recent Fox News poll, he hit a recent high: 11 percent — or less than half of what he enjoyed four years ago. At the same time, Trump's favorability among Republicans is terrible, suggesting that he's not likely to make up any ground. Worrying about Trump actually winning isn't worth the effort — and for Republicans, it means treating him like a real candidate, which does them little good. If he's a real candidate, his dopey screw-ups are their problem, too.
Which brings us back to motivation. For months, people have wondered why Trump might run, assuming with complete validity that it was due to ego. But perhaps it's smarter than that. Trump's campaign contributions have long been aimed at electing Democrats. Maybe Trump's 2016 Republican bid is a brilliant, devious Trojan horse to bolster the odds of the party he has long backed. NBC's belated announcement — whether it knows it or not — serves only to aid in Trump's effort to make himself and the party he claims to want to represent look foolish.
And if that's the case, it would make for some great TV.