How did Donald Trump celebrate his 67th birthday on June 14, 2013?
Where was Donald Trump on August 10, 2013?
What was Trump doing in Novi, Mich., on May 21, 2013?
Why am I asking these absurd questions?
Because the answers will help millions of Americans who, when watching the first GOP primary debate, are likely the ask the question, “How did Donald Trump become the Republicans 2016 presidential front runner?”
Anticipating that question, the most accurate answer I can offer is, “He earned it.”
Now, let’s go back to those “absurd” opening questions for some concrete evidence — starting with how Donald Trump celebrated his birthday on June 14, 2013.
Instead of acting like a billionaire and jetting off to an exotic destination, you might be surprised to learn that Trump was the keynote dinner speaker at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s, “Road to Majority” conference in Washington D.C. that year.
Organized by Christian activist Ralph Reed, the weekend attracted only 400 evangelical conservatives, but all the GOP hopefuls were there jockeying for an early position in the 2016 horse race. Trump’s attendance at this very non-Trump-like event piqued my interest and prompted me to write this piece on June 18, 2013 with the headline, “Why It Looks Like Donald Trump is Really Running For President in 2016.” Within the piece I raised some questions:
Why then would a busy man like Trump waste his time with this relatively small, but very influential slice of the primary voting GOP base if he were not actively auditioning for the 2016 nomination? Was he out there testing his campaign message on Christian conservatives?
Now for the second question, “Where was Donald Trump on August 10, 2013?”
The answer can be found in my second Trump piece posted September 3, 2013, headlined: “Five Reasons Why a Trump 2016 Run Could Be Good News for the GOP.” It read in part:
His second appearance was on August 10th at the evangelical Christian Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa.
There is only one possible explanation for Trump to be in Ames, Iowa in August, 2013 – that’s right, he loves fresh corn on the cob! But also he was invited to make his first-ever political visit to the first caucus state where, again, he was the keynote speaker taking the podium after rising GOP star, Sen. Ted Cruz and former Sen. Rick Santorum — the 2012 GOP Iowa caucus winner.
So why does ANY of this matter?
First, Trump’s appearance at both these events (referring to the June 14 conference) was meant to curry favor with a sliver of the most conservative/activist primary voting block within the Republican Party 29 months before the 2016 presidential primaries.
Therefore, other than Trump officially declaring his candidacy, could there be any better proof that Trump was seriously courting the GOP primary base in hopes of running for and winning the Republican presidential nomination?
Second, at these pre-2016 political “beauty pageants” (pun definitely intended because Trump owns the Miss Universe and Miss USA beauty pageants) Donald Trump was “the man to watch.” But the major reason both event organizers asked Trump to be the keynote speaker was that they knew colorful sound-bites from Trump’s speeches would echo around cable news channels for at least one 24-hour news cycle, thus lifting these normally ignored gatherings into the national limelight.
From now on, I will refer to “The Donald’s” ability to attract political media attention as the “Trump Effect” bringing us to the first of five reasons why a Donald Trump candidacy could actually be a positive development for the Republican Party in 2016.”
(Please forgive me for writing the phrase “positive development” back in September of 2013. I question that phrase now.)
Here were the five reasons from 2013 but refer to the original piece for a full explanation.
- Trump brings celebrity pop culture to the GOP.
- Trump is not afraid to call it like he sees it.
- Trump’s “kick ass” and “can do” winning attitude is appealing to the Republican base.
- Trump would not have to waste all his time fundraising.
- Trump describes what it will take to run against Hillary Clinton.
The answer to the third question at the top of this piece about what Trump was doing in Novi, Mich., on May 21, 2013 was addressed in the same September 3, 2013 piece quoted above. This excerpt raises issues that are haunting the GOP leadership at this moment.
At the May Lincoln Day Dinner attended by a record breaking 2,300 faithful in Novi, Michigan, Trump predicted that Hillary Clinton would be the Democrat nominee and warned that if Republicans “don’t pick the right person, it will be a landslide.
It sure sounds as if Trump is describing himself as the one who is capable of defeating Hillary, but still it is unrealistic to believe that a traditional Republican Party would nominate someone as unpredictable as Donald Trump to be its standard bearer in 2016.
However, after his early courting of the conservative base, it looks as if Donald Trump is laying the groundwork for a serious run. His ability to attract crowds of activist primary voters feeds his political ego, keeps him on the GOP speaking circuit and most important, in the national media spotlight with a political message.”
So now you know “earning it” also means “showing up,” which Trump has done faithfully starting in 2013. Then there is the matter of the message and Trump’s 2013 message sounded exactly like it does today.
For example, I mention in my “Five Reasons” piece that in March of 2013 at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Trump said, “We’re run by either very foolish or very stupid people. What is going on in this country is unbelievable. Our country is a total mess, a total and complete mess and what we need is leadership.”
Trump, speaking about China on Fox News in August of 2013 said, “I made fantastic deals with people from China. They cannot believe how stupid our leadership is.”
Whatever your opinion of Trump’s candidacy, at least give him credit for having a consistent message on issues that seem to resonate with GOP base.
Moving to the important matter of credibility, in the “Why It Looks Like Donald Trump is Really Running for President in 2016” piece from June, 2013, I posed and explored a question that is now being asked more frequently by Republican voters:
Does Donald Trump have any chance of winning the 2016 GOP presidential nomination?
There is no doubt that he is very wealthy, has near 95% name recognition, and is both a cultural rock star and an American icon known around the world. But can he parlay those advantages into winning primaries against presumed opponents like Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Rand Paul, and Gov. Chris Christie?
Curious, I posed this question to Mark McKinnon, the chief media strategist from the last winning Republican presidential campaign in 2004.
Here was his reply: “Trump is not credible, is not compelling, is not gifted and has no experience. He has nothing except money and a big mouth.”
My response back to McKinnon was, “These days you never know how far money and a big mouth can take you.”
Obviously, since 2013, Trump’s money and big mouth have taken him very far — now at number one in the primary polls and occupying the center seat at Thursday night’s debate stage.
Reading my 2013 Trump pieces through the lens of today, it is no surprise that roots of support from the Republican base are now reflected in his poll numbers. Since 2013, the anger level in these base voters has grown exponentially and can no longer be contained. Many see their once great nation slipping away and are turning to Trump for hope. Trump mirrors their anger and offers leadership that he says only a mega-successful business CEO can provide. Then, his mantra of “make America great again” supplies the hope.
Hope? That was so 2008. I did not buy it then and I’m not buying it now, even though Trump is one of the world’s greatest salesmen.
Finally, while watching the debate on Thursday night and someone asks the question, “How did Donald Trump become the Republicans 2016 presidential front runner?” tell them he really did “earn it.” However, now he has to earn my vote (and perhaps yours too) with more specific policy plans other than “Washington, you’re fired.”
Cross-posted at RedState