Donald Trump: Is he really serious about running?

A new poll shows Trump leading the field of GOP candidates for the 2012 nomination.

“If this is all a big joke,” said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post, “I’m having trouble laughing.” Until this week, it was widely assumed that Donald Trump’s public flirtation with running for president was just the latest “over-the-top publicity stunt” from a man who has made an art of grabbing headlines over four decades in the public eye. But “the waxen-haired real-estate tycoon” continues to insist that he’s serious, and now a stunning new poll shows Trump actually leading the field of GOP candidates for the 2012 nomination. Behind the scenes, some Republican insiders are genuinely starting to “embrace Trump’s presidential bid,” said Charles Babington in the Associated Press. Some of his positions may be controversial, from his championing of the “birther” theory that President Obama was born overseas to his declaration this week that we should invade Middle Eastern countries and, as Trump says, “take the oil.” But with the GOP hungry for a “forceful, colorful figure” to take on Obama in the general election, a Trump candidacy is looking more viable every day.

Dream on, said Richard Cohen in The Washington Post. “Such a man cannot become president.” For Trump to win even the GOP nomination would require conservative voters to overlook his three marriages, his dubious claims to religious faith and pro-life credentials, and his previous enthusiasm for both Barack Obama and universal health care. The Republican establishment will never let it get that far, said Steve Kornacki in Party leaders know “the GOP would have a real crisis on its hands” if Trump actually won the nomination. His antics would stain the GOP’s reputation indelibly, and he’d doom the party to near-certain defeat—even if he were to run as a third-party candidate. In other words, the more serious and viable Trump’s candidacy starts to look, the more viciously GOP leaders and the conservative media will work to destroy it.

Trump “is no joke,” said David Brooks in The New York Times. I’m not saying that he could be president or even that he could “get close.” His declaration last week that he has “always had a great relationship with the blacks,” for instance, probably indicates a fatal case of political tone-deafness. But those who dismiss Trump as a clown are missing something profound about the American psyche. Trump is one of those “few rare souls who rise above subservience, insecurity, and concern.” His belief in himself and his own rightness is absolute and unlimited, and as much as we love to roll our eyes at his vulgarity, his hair, and his relentless self-promotion, we cannot help but also see Trump as “the living, walking personification of the Gospel of Success.” In bleak, uncertain times like these, such a figure can hold considerable appeal.

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Trump is not the American dream, said Caille Millner in the San Francisco Chronicle. If anything, he is “a nightmarish parody of self-actualization,” who will say and do whatever it takes to advance his own interests. The good news, I suspect, is that “the man has no intention of ever standing before the voters,” exposing his private life and his finances to the withering scrutiny of political opponents. The bad news is that we have allowed our political system to be overrun by these “colorful,” larger-than-life personalities who sow division and make outrageous claims just to further their own careers. It may be entertaining to watch sometimes, but “this is not a reality show. This is our country.”

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