WASHINGTON, Aug. 31, 2015 – Even before a single vote has been tallied in Dixville Notch, N.H., one thing is certain: Donald Trump can’t lose.
The Donald has a knack for claiming and blaming — claiming success in the face of failure and blaming others for mistakes that could rightfully be attributed to himself. So naturally, if he loses his bid for the Republican presidential nomination and the general election, he will find a way to claim victory and blame “those morons.”
But he actually does possess strong arguments for declaring victory regardless of the outcome of the primaries and the election.
Consider these “losing” scenarios:
- He quits running. If Trump were to quit this instant, he would still win by having exposed and exploited the seething discontent Republican voters feel for their leadership, and, more important, by having set the GOP’s agenda on immigration. Maintaining his outsider credibility, he then could snipe at the other contenders from the sidelines and act as a kingmaker when he endorses a candidate to his legion of supporters.
- He starts a third-party candidacy. Trump wins because he has riled the GOP against its leadership. Recent polls show that nearly half of Republican voters prefer candidates who have no electoral experience — Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina. And their favorite experienced pol? Ted Cruz, who has been a thorn in the side of Republican leaders since he entered the Senate. (Cruz recently called the Senate majority leader a liar, remember?) In a third-party run, Trump siphons votes from the Republican Party and doubles down on his criticism of the political establishment. Since no third-party candidate has ever won the presidency, losing the general election could hardly register as a failure — especially for The Donald.
- His poll numbers fall. Right now, Trump doesn’t have a pollster, but if his numbers were to take a tumble, he’d snap one up pronto. And that pollster will say that Trump’s numbers are unchanged or, more likely, are increasing.Trump wins by claiming manipulation by the Republican establishment and blaming bias by the media. (Yes, he’s talking about you, Megyn Kelly.) He also could insinuate sabotage by political operatives working for scared politicians. He then could continue his run for the GOP nomination, start a third party or quit.
- He is trounced in the primaries. Only if he finishes dead last in the primaries and caucuses does Trump deploy the manipulation-bias-sabotage response, because every primary vote he wins validates his position on the issues and his candidacy, further disrupts the GOP machine and more firmly entrenches him in the contest. And if he wins just a single primary, well, he wins by winning.
- He is not the leading candidate going into the GOP nominating convention.The Donald could pull out all the stops in this scenario — citing his own polling numbers and throngs of followers, accusing everyone else of fraud and collusion, calling for investigations and electoral reform. Still, the Republican Party would be forced to negotiate with Trump, who loves the art of the deal.
- He loses the GOP nomination. Of course, The Donald would say, only through subterfuge by a fearful and feckless political establishment could he lose the nomination — especially in a brokered convention. And the previously delineated responses remain at his command.
The Donald has the money, the ego and — apparently — the popularity to continue his presidential bid for as long as he wants. And the longer he attracts massive amounts of attention in the race, the more the other candidates will be forced to either out-Trump him or spend valuable resources to counter him at every turn.
The Republican Party has its work cut out for itself.