TV personality and real estate something or other Donald Trump, the buzziest of GOP presidential candidates, is already in one New Hampshire Suffolk University poll in second place with 11 percent, behind Jeb Bush at 14.
As I was reminded by my colleague Stephanie Slade this morning, fresh-to-the-field candidates tend to poll unnaturally well and it usually doesn't end up meaning anything. So don't be too alarmed.
I'll confess I've been taking the idea of his candidacy as merely an amusing bagatelle, best symbolized by the news that he'd paid (very poorly) people to attend his announcement and cheer. His opening speech as a candidate seemed more a collection of pet peeves and freewheeling vaunting (of self and nation) than something exhibiting coherent political intelligence.
That said, though, nearly a handful of reasonably savvy political types I've heard from this week seem to believe he'll really be a player. I'm anticipating more of a Herman Cain; brash and folksy in his way and of genuine appeal to vaguely dissatisfied cranky folk who want "something different" but who crashes and burns very early when votes are cast. But I may well have no idea what I'm talking about, naturally.
In other Trump news and commentary:
• As I argued in my Trump campaign announcement, no one should make much ideological or political about the fact that a wealthy businessman feels it necessary to give to lots of politicians of both parties, as Trump told conservative radio host Howie Carr.
• Carl Cannon at Real Clear Politics, in a piece not entirely dismissive, pins Trump's style as "if you were watching a little boy in a man's body just blurt out any random thought that came into his head."
• Kevin Williamson at National Review with the scabrous serious conservative movement take on Trump's candidacy:
Whatever Trump's appeal is to the Right's populist elements, it isn't policy. He is a tax-happy crony capitalist who is hostile to free trade but very enthusiastic about using state violence to homejack private citizens — he backed the Kelo decision "100 percent" and has tried to use eminent domain in the service of his own empire of vulgarity — and generally has about as much command of the issues as the average sophomore at a not especially good college, which is what he was (sorry, Fordham) until his family connections got him into Penn. The value of speaking one's mind depends heavily on the mind in question, and Trump's is second-rate.
If it's not the issues, it's certainly not the record of the man himself. Never mind that he's a crony capitalist, he's not even an especially good crony capitalist: The casino racket is protected from competition by a strict cartel-oriented licensing regime, but Trump, being the type of businessman who could bankrupt a mint, managed to be the biggest loser in Atlantic City, which is no small feat…
"But he speaks his mind!" shout the Trumpkins. Indeed, he does, in a practically stream-of-consciousness fashion: His announcement speech was like Finnegans Wake as reimagined by an unlettered person with a short attention span. The value of speaking one's mind depends heavily on the mind in question, and Trump's is second-rate. "He's the candidate who will take the fight to Hillary!" protest the Trumpkins. Maybe, maybe not: He is on record as a supporter of Herself, and he's not on record as a presidential candidate, having not bothered to file the FEC paperwork making his candidacy official. "He'll build a wall on the border and make the Mexicans pay for it!" Unlikely, but even if he did, half of illegal immigrants arrive not on the banks of the Rio Grande but in the airports. Trumpkins: "He'll show the political elites who's boss!" They already know, because they already own him: You don't get into Trump's game without being a creature of the ruling class. Neither casino licenses nor Manhattan building permits find their way into the hands of the unconnected, in this case the heir to — not the creator of — a New York City real-estate empire.