Donald Trump is set to have a very good night. Coming into Super Tuesday, he leads in eight of the 11 states that have been polled recently. Unless the polls are off – which is a possibility – Trump will have a significant lead in the delegate count after today, and unless the field narrows to a two-person race before March 15, when the GOP primaries become winner-take-all contests, he’ll likely be unstoppable.
This is a good time for Donald Trump. And he should enjoy it, because if wins the nomination, he has no idea what he’s in for.
Until last Thursday’s GOP debate, his hapless opponents have been content to trade pot-shots with Trump over his ideological apostasies – he used to be pro-choice and once called for single-payer health care. Sure, Trump’s budget-busting tax cuts, belligerent foreign policy rhetoric and hostility towards immigrants and Muslims are GOP mainstays, but he’s opposed to trade deals, doesn’t want to cut Social Security and argues that George W. Bush was president on 9/11/01, so he’s a heretic.
But they only just began to go after the central rationale of his candidacy. The Donald has no coherent policies to offer, and no relevant experience to highlight. His pitch to the electorate is based entirely on his image as a successful businessman who makes great deals, knows how to manage people and gets things done. And that singular strength is going to become a massive weakness in the blinding glare of a presidential campaign.
Last week, Sam Stein reported for the Huffington Post that none of his GOP rivals had even “completed a major anti-Trump opposition research effort.” When Trump gets to the general election, that’s going to change. Voters are going to hear plenty about not only his many bankruptcies, but also his fraudulent scams, mob ties, shady licensing deals, tax avoidance schemes and hypocritical embrace of immigrant workers for their cheap labor. Journalist Wayne Barrett has reported that some of his past associates – “I’ll hire the best people, they’ll give me the best advice” — have been caught up in drug smuggling, trafficking underage girls and various stock market swindles. We’ll hear all about the Japanese gambler who stiffed him for $4 million – “they’re stealing our money!’ – and the Mexican sweatshop workers who make his ‘Make America Great’ hats. So far, he’s gotten a pass on his supposed business acumen, but in a general election we’ll hear all about how he’d be richer today if he’d just invested his money in the stock market and spent the past 30 years lounging on a beach somewhere.
Since he arrived on New York’s social scene in the 1970s, Trump’s immense self-promotion skills haven’t been enough to overcome his reputation as a crass, utterly classless buffoon. We’ll be hearing plenty of clips from his two-dozen appearances on the Howard Stern show, where, according to Buzzfeed, he “frequently discussed women he had sex with, wanted to have sex with, or wouldn’t have sex with if given the opportunity.”
In a general election, Trump will be exposed for the slick con artist he’s always been. When the Democrats’ opposition researchers get through with The Donald, he’s going to make Mitt Romney look like George Bailey.
And Trump isn’t going to take it well. Right now, he’s the picture of a happy narcissist. According to the Mayo Clinic, “If you have narcissistic personality disorder, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious. You may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior…. You may insist on having ‘the best’ of everything — for instance, the best car, athletic club or medical care.” That’s Trump in a nutshell.
But the Mayo Clinic adds: “when you don’t receive special treatment, you may become impatient or angry.”
At the same time, you have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. You may have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation. To feel better, you may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make yourself appear superior. Or you may feel depressed and moody because you fall short of perfection.
Trump’s angry-guy persona is playing well in the Republican primary contest, but when he comes under serious attacks for the first time – attacks that call into question his competence and business success — he’s likely to lash out like… like a narcissist whose endless boasts are suddenly being challenged for the first time. It’s not going to be pretty, and in the end a lot of voters are going to be terrified at the prospect of having someone like Trump anywhere near the nuclear launch codes.
Unless the polls are very wrong, Trump will have a very good Super Tuesday. He’ll give a victory speech, and go to bed with his beleaguered trophy wife holding a commanding delegate lead. But there’s a freight train hurtling down the tracks towards Trump if he becomes the GOP’s nominee, and he can’t even see it coming.