On the TV “reality” show “The Apprentice,” competition is pretty brutal. You have a team of job-seekers jumping through hoops and clapping their seal-hands together to win an employment contract with one of real estate developer Donald Trump’s companies. The individuals are painfully and gradually eliminated, with Trump uttering the words “you’re fired” to narrow the field.
Political campaigns are often a version of this theme, though the words “you’re fired” are generally replaced by the candidate himself or herself affecting some gracious departure when it’s clear he or she has already been rejected by the voters. Trump himself went through this is 2012, when his campaign sales pitch – “I’m rich and I feed absurd conspiracy theories that President Obama was not born in America” – failed to gain traction.
Now, Trump is trying to avoid the very competition he seems to think he’s entitled to impose on others. The failed presidential candidate has been talking about running for governor of New York as a Republican – a daunting challenge in the heavily Democratic state. But unlike the competitors Trump tests on his own show, the hyper-confident Trump doesn’t think he should have to prove himself against other GOP contenders. He told the Daily News:
You can’t have primaries. You can’t have all the wasted time and effort in doing that. You have to pick somebody and go to win. If that couldn’t happen, I wouldn’t do it.
Is that a promise?
No one particularly likes having to fight through a primary. As Mitt Romney’s candidacy showed, such contests can force candidates into spending money and taking positions that could weaken them in a general election. But primaries aren’t there to serve the candidates; they’re there to serve the voting public, which wants to pick the best and most winning contender to face the opposing party nominee. Trump seems so assured he is that right person that he doesn’t want to give voters that courtesy. With that attitude, how would Trump deal with the state legislature and public employee unions?
Trump also is dangling his wallet in front of GOP state party officials, saying he could spend $200 million of his own money on a campaign. That sounds tempting to an outnumbered party, but it’s not a winning strategy. True, money is needed to run and win campaigns, but rarely are self-financed candidates successful in making it into office (and when they have won, as former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg did, it’s because they had another appeal). Look at Linda McMahon in Connecticut (who lost two senatorial races, despite spending tens of millions of her own dollars) as well as Carla Fiorina (California senate), Meg Whitman (California governor) and John Raese (West Virginia senate). All lost not only pots of their own money, but their political races.
Trump sees opportunities, however, telling the Buffalo News:
If I ran, it’s a race that absolutely could be won. When I started ‘The Apprentice’ – 10 years ago now – everybody said no. It became the No. 1 show on television.
The TV show, at least, forces contenders to compete.