The bright lights of the Las Vegas strip was an apt place for the Donald Trump carnival roadshow to end up last week. Amid the garish neon of the gigantic Treasure Island Casino, the business mogul-turned-reality TV star-turned-potential Republican presidential candidate made his latest stop.
Speaking at an event called “The Reagan Revolution: From Ronald to Donald,” Trump made his pitch to an audience of Nevada Republican bigwigs and curious onlookers in one of the key early-voting states in the nomination process.
In the casino’s ballroom, Trump gave a virtuoso performance that was full of braggadocio and littered with expletives.
“Our leaders are stupid, they are stupid people,” he said, before referring to the Chinese government as “motherf*****s” against whom he’d raise trade tariffs.
Despite such a performance — and perhaps because of it — there is no doubt that Trump has injected a shot of adrenalin into the stilted Republican search for a nominee willing to take on US President Barack Obama next year. One perhaps should have expected no less from the flamboyant figure who is a household name in the US, not for his politics, but his TV show The Apprentice and his catchphrase: “You’re fired!”
However, as Trump’s “will he, won’t he” campaign rolls on, the Republican party may be waking up to the fact that they have bitten off more than they can chew.
Trump’s decision to make “birtherism” his first big issue and fan the conspiracy theories about Obama’s citizenship last week led to one of the more spectacular political bunfights of recent memories.
Trump’s claims to have sent investigators to Hawaii who had uncovered evidence to support him were dismissed in stunning fashion by the Oval Office.
As Trump touched down on Wednesday in New Hampshire — another key early-voting state — the White House revealed the president’s long-form birth certificate, which birthers had said did not exist. Trump became a national media joke.
Obama referred to him as a “carnival barker.” A New York Times editorial called the Trump-inspired situation “a profoundly low and debasing moment.”
CBS news anchor Bob Schieffer reacted to his questioning Obama’s college credentials, saying: “That’s just code for saying he got into law school because he’s black. This is an ugly strain of racism.”
Such a media kicking would have sent any other potential candidate running for the hills, but not The Donald. He seemed overjoyed at the slew of headlines.
“Today, I am very proud of myself,” he told the press in New Hampshire, before hinting that he would continue to explore the idea of a run.
His poll numbers among Republicans certainly put him among the leaders, with a Rasmussen survey showing him on top with 19 percent.
“Trump obviously has a slice of the vote. The question is: How big a slice is it?” said Steve Mitchell, chairman of political consulting firm Mitchell Research.
That prospect has most Democrats sharing Trump’s delight at all the attention. Many had assumed he was in it just for the fame or to boost his TV show, but, increasingly, it seems he is serious.
Conversely, senior Republicans are nervous. Asked last week on CNN about his plans, Trump said he would make an announcement before June.
“I think a lot of people will be happy,” he said.
Many suspect those happy people would be his Democratic opponents, not supporters of the party he hopes to lead.