Can Donald Trump Actually Win In 2012?

A new Public Policy Polling survey, released late last week, shows a new frontrunner in the race to become the 2012 Republican nominee for president: Donald Trump.

Mr. Trump has thrust himself to the front of the field by becoming the most prominent “birther” in the field. By questioning President Obama’s citizenship and demanding the President release his long-form birth certificate (despite the fact that Hawaii state law makes that near-impossible), Trump has become the preferred candidate of birthers.

Photo: Michele Sandberg, Wikimedia Commons

Since the beginning of the 24/7 media age in 1980, every presidential winner has been the more gifted media spokesperson (see full analysis). In all eight of those elections, the winner was the more optimistic candidate whose message was best aligned with the public’s concerns.

Mr. Trump is arguably aligning himself well with constituent concerns by blasting foreign nations who benefit more from trade agreements with the United States than we benefit from them.

But he’s far from sunny or optimistic, stating numerous times that America is becoming a “laughing stock” of the world. Americans are willing to hear tough truths – but they have to be wrapped in a sunny package. There’s a reason that Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter and that Bill Clinton defeated Bob Dole.

And then there’s his propensity to say everything that pops into his head. One recent cringe-worthy comment (made last week to an Albany radio station) demonstrated his almost complete lack of media discipline:

“I have a great relationship with the blacks. I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks.”

Mr. Trump’s first-place showing at this point means little. Just ask President Howard Dean. Or President Ross Perot. Or President Pat Buchanan. All three men looked like frontrunners for a short period of time before voters soundly rejected them for more traditional candidates.

Back in December, I gave Donald Trump’s chances of winning the presidency a “D+”. His temporary first place showing notwithstanding, his odds are as low now as they were then.