I've listened over the past few weeks as the mainstream GOP establishment and pundits have tried to demean the possibility of a presidential candidacy by Donald Trump.
Mr. Trump, take it from me, someone who has run for and held elective office, and has been involved in more campaigns, from presidential on down, than I care to count: They are scared of you.
Let's look at some of the criticisms of a Trump candidacy that have been leveled. It's commonly said that he's too much into promoting himself and his products. Gee, seems as a kid, I recall a guy named Ronald Reagan riding on a horse and promoting some sort of soap product.
Even before he launched his 1980 presidential campaign, Reagan starred in a miniature radio version of Trump's current TV show, in which Reagan essentially delivered a Paul Harvey-like message on stations across the nation.
At the time, Reagan's show brought on the same condescension from the GOP establishment that all of Trump's projects and media exposures do now. So let's take that silly argument and throw it in the trash.
What's essential is that Trump has huge name identification, and that's worth gold (another commodity that I presume that Trump owns).
Next is the experience factor. Does anybody recall that our current president had precious little political experience when he was elected? It consisted of a few years in a state legislature and three years in the U.S. Senate, two of which were consumed either by laying the groundwork for a presidential run or actually running. The experience President Obama lacks is real-world experience in business. He's never run as much as a Popsicle stand.
Now, don't say I am trying to compare my small world to "The Donald's." But in my last years of service in my state legislature, I was also CEO of one of the nation's largest printers of corporate annual reports. I was simultaneously dealing with hundreds of employees and also continuing as then-Speaker Newt Gingrich's campaign chair, plus serving in the Georgia House of Representatives.
To their credit, most of the legislators I served with had businesses or notable professional careers. But there were some who had no apparent job other than to be a lawmaker. With some exceptions, these were the least capable of my colleagues.
I believe Trump's business experience might be just what the GOP — and maybe the nation, too — wants to see in a president.
The next argument against Trump is that he is politically naive. This is partially true. But I can remember serving as chief strategist for a multi-millionaire who was running for governor of Georgia. On the other side from our team was a strategist named James Carville (whom I like immensely).
"My" candidate in that race had nowhere near the experience with the media that Trump has. And yet, to this day, I believe the man I worked for became one of the best candidates with whom I ever worked. He listened to the pros, didn't take offense at criticism and grew as a candidate.
In my opinion, if he runs, Trump will do the same. I'm not saying Trump will be the next nominee of the GOP or that he could necessarily defeat Obama. I still believe that if Gingrich stops talking about every subject under the sun and instead starts reminding the public of what he accomplished as speaker, he could rocket to the top. He needs only to stop replying to the "baggage issue" and stick to his message.
Then there is Mitt Romney, who has enjoyed both business and political success. He remains, in my mind, the best-organized candidate in the early going. But as someone who knows the GOP from more than 30 of experience with it, I have to say to Donald Trump: Those in the Republican establishment are playing you down because they are afraid of your potential to catch on fire and become someone they cannot control or use for their own benefit down the road.
Here's the bad piece of news, Mr. Trump: People often tell me I look like you. If that's the case, you have my sympathies!
Matt Towery is author of the new book, "Paranoid Nation: The Real Story of the 2008 Fight for the Presidency." He heads the polling and political information firm InsiderAdvantage.
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