Pay attention to Donald Trump, or don’t

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Donald Trump formally announcing his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination during an event at Trump Tower on Tuesday.

A lot of smart pundits have pronounced the contest for the Republican presidential nomination to be wide open, up for grabs and impossible to predict. There are several obvious reasons for that (and, I might snottily add, predicting the outcome of races is a highly overrated activity anyway).

But Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post is willing to make one big pronouncement. Donald Trump, who announced his candidacy Tuesday, has no chance of becoming the Republican nominee. He backs this up with one statistic (really just a poll result). In a May Washington Post/ABC poll, Trump scores a net approval rating of negative 42 percent. And that’s among Republicans, the group that collectively will decide who will occupy the ballot position of  Republican nominee. “Net” means that 65 percent of Republicans polled said they had an overall negative view of Trump and 23 said positive. That’s a net of negative 42 percent. Seven other Republican candidates whose names were included in the poll have net positive ratings. (Marco Rubio and Mike Huckabee had the highest net positives.) The only net negative, other than Trump, was Chris Christie, but even that one was within a rounding error of zero.

Cillizza’s pronouncement on Trump’s situation (and on what happens when Trump’s lips move) go like this:

You cannot and do not win anything when your numbers look like Trump’s. I can’t say it any more clearly than that. There’s nothing you can say or do — not that Trump would ever even consider going on an image rehabilitation tour — to change how people feel about you. Republicans know Trump. And they really, really don’t like him.

Trump, of course, knows this. His goal is attention, not winning. And in truth, even that would be fine if Trump had an issue (or issues) that he cared about and wanted to draw attention to via his presidential bid. He doesn’t. He just says stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. And it’s not clear that he’s spent more than the five seconds before he speaks thinking about what he’s going to say.

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Comments (20)

  1. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/17/2015 - 04:50 pm.

    He views himself as a brand that needs to keep in the public eye and will do or say what it takes to stay there.

  2. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 06/17/2015 - 05:06 pm.


    He’s the perfect addition to the GOP lineup. I can’t wait for the GOP debates.

  3. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/17/2015 - 07:09 pm.

    The problem is

    that he makes all of the real Republican candidates sound reasonable by comparison.

  4. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/18/2015 - 06:14 am.


    Not for me to take the side of Donald Trump, certainly, but how many elections have the pollsters gotten wrong lately? Any of them want to explain what happened in Britain?

    Polls are so often presented to us as objective reality and objective truth. The fact is, they are often wrong, and often misinterpreted when they are right. For myself, it seems pretty clear to me that the reason Donald Trump isn’t going to get elected isn’t because he has lousy poll numbers which is sort of like blaming hot weather on thermometers, it’s because he is a doofus. But for some reason, that’s something serious national reporters find it difficult to say.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/18/2015 - 08:52 am.

      Polls are used to influence

      the sheeple who would rather vote for the winner than for the best candidate.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/18/2015 - 09:08 am.

        A reminder

        President Dewey–
        We don’t know who the winner is until the people have voted.
        Do you possibly mean ‘vote for the favorite’?
        It’s not the same thing.
        Ultimately, you’re giving the standard right wing excuse for losing elections; blame the voters, not your platform.

        • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/18/2015 - 11:26 am.

          I meant to say

          They’d rather say they voted for the winner and align themselves with the majority than to take the time to develop a philosophy of life and governance that they are willing to defend. That’s too hard. Just vote for the candidate ahead in the polls because it doesn’t require any thinking and chances are your friends will agree with you. That’s why they’re called sheeple.

    • Submitted by Doug Gray on 06/18/2015 - 10:50 am.

      anarchy in the UK? ach, nae

      What happened in the UK is pretty clear, the Scottish National Party got a big boost from finishing so well in the separation referendum and went on to nearly sweep the board in Scotland, ousting mostly Labor PMs. Most polls showed a close race between the Tories and Laborites right up to election day, and if you add the Labor and SNP totals you come close to the predicted result.

      As for Trump, the only people who are listening to him are comedians and comedy fans, so he’s eminently fulfilling his function in society — as a clown.

      • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/18/2015 - 12:14 pm.

        The Brits

        The separation referendum was a while back, and polls had ample time to react to them. And they still got the election wrong. British elections present challenging problems to pollsters but that really can’t be an excuse. If polls are only accurate when the results are simple and obvious, of what value are they?

        Trump, because of his personality and other issues, has serious liabilities as a candidate. But if he were somehow able to tame his assorted demons, he could quickly move up substantially in the polls. Cilizza is simply wrong in claiming that Trump’s high negatives in the polls present some sort of insuperable barrier to an effective candidacy. In this, he is exhibiting a painful example of DC insiderness in his implicit belief that polls drive events, when in this case you have a candidate who doesn’t need polls to generate cash, events can quite easily drive polls.

  5. Submitted by Jim Halonen on 06/18/2015 - 07:54 am.

    Glad Trump is in

    A big benefit to having Trump in is, he will help steer the narrative within all the GOP candidates to his views. He attracts a lot of attention and that will nudge otherwise reluctant candidates to embrace his views on global warming, fence building and world trade.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/18/2015 - 09:22 am.


      I have to wonder. He’s pretty much dismissed by virtually all of America. The attention he attracts is largely negative (how many other candidates have to pay actors $50 to come to their kick-off speech and feign enthusiasm).

      I think the predominant thinking among GOP candidates is a wish that he would just shut up and go away. This view also represents the consensus of American opinion.

      • Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 06/22/2015 - 04:46 pm.

        Paying actors to attend

        Not paid actors, but when Cruz announced his candidacy at Liberty University, student were subject to 4 reprimands and a $10 fine if they did not attend. Democracy in action.

  6. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/18/2015 - 09:58 am.

    The big question is…

    Does he really have 4 – 8 billion dollars and how much of that is he willing to spend to promote himself. Look at how Sheldon Adelson’s 20 million dollars propped up and dragged forward an almost as odious candidate in Newt Gingrich in 2012. Multiply that by 100 if Trump is willing to spend 1/4 of his claimed fortune on his presidential legacy. Brace yourself for all Donald all the time. My bet is that he is too poor and too cheap to do it: he’ll take all the free media he can get and then offer an outrageous reason why he is ending his candidacy. And it won’t include an endorsement of anyone…

  7. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/18/2015 - 12:15 pm.

    Bush v. Trump

    Look at it this way. Both Bush and Trump are real estate guys. As it happens, Trump is a vastly more successful real estate guy than Bush. Why then, do we take Bush seriously and not Trump?

  8. Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 06/18/2015 - 07:28 pm.

    Taking the time to develop a philosophy of life and governance

    It’s pretty amazing when this supposedly arduous, principled process ends up with the exact same result as preset ideologies. It’s almost like no time or thought were involved and simply is about joining a team.

    You know, like a sheeple.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/19/2015 - 05:03 pm.

      In a sense you’re right

      People tend to vote for parties, not for individuals (our British legacy).
      They choose a party that supports their political and social preferences, and tend to stay with that party.
      Since most national elections are decided by a few percentage points, all you have to do to win is to swing a few marginal voters. Getting out your ‘own’ vote has become more important than converting members of the opposition, and increasingly that’s what CU money is being spent on.
      As the parties have moved towards the ends of the political spectrum, this dynamic has become even stronger.

  9. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/21/2015 - 09:49 am.


    There was an article in today, Sunday’s New York Times talking about how election polling is in crisis. This has been apparent to a lot of us for a while now. Yet no one in the press seems to have noticed. Polls are paid for by news operation which itself risks a conflict of interest, and published as if they represented some sort of objective fact, with no discussion or even awareness that results within the polling profession itself are viewed as increasingly problematic and unreliable. It’s as if American journalism has made some sort of collective decision to turn away from this growing problem, one that seems to be without a solution.

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