Donald Trump

Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Few were surprised, and many were relieved, at Donald Trump’s announcement on Monday that he was ending his campaign for the Presidency:

After considerable deliberation and reflection, I have decided not to pursue the office of the Presidency. This decision does not come easily or without regret; especially when my potential candidacy continues to be validated by ranking at the top of the Republican contenders in polls across the country. I maintain the strong conviction that if I were to run, I would be able to win the primary and ultimately, the general election. … Ultimately, however, business is my greatest passion and I am not ready to leave the sector.

Michelle Malkin was positively ecstatic: “Donald Trump squandered untold political oxygen exploiting the Tea Party while backing government bailouts, Obamacare, the porkulus, and wealth/property distribution…Good riddance!” Wes Messamore called Trump’s assertion that he would win the primary and general elections “laughable…the man has no electability whatsoever.”

Most recent polls agree with Messamore. Public Policy Polling President Dean Debnam said:

As the Trump boomlet comes to an end there’s probably no better way to show how much his image crashed with the American public over the last month than the that he would lose a head to head with Dennis Kucinich. His poll numbers with the general electorate started out poor and moved from there to humiliating.

Rasmussen Reports’ poll taken a week before Trump’s announcement indicated that just 15 percent of likely U.S. voters think that Trump was serious about his intention to run for President, and that 61 percent thought he was just seeking publicity. His drop was precipitous, with 66 percent viewing Trump unfavorably compared to 53 percent a month ago.

This was confirmed by a CNN poll showing in a head-to-head contest of all GOP candidates with President Obama, Trump would come in dead last.

Trump’s ultimate problem was overexposure. As more and more attention was paid to his background in and his boastful claims of extraordinary success, more and more unfavorable and some downright damning evidence came to light. For instance, Trump personally has been a party to more than 100 lawsuits, either as a plaintiff or a defendant, while his companies have been involved in more than 200. Walter Olson of the Cato Institute noted that “If [Trump] is taken seriously as a candidate it’s going to be appropriate to look at his record of litigation.” The big question is “how consistent is [his] record with the Republican idea that litigation should be a last resort and not a weapon for tactical advantage.” For instance, Trump filed a lawsuit against Palm Beach County, Florida, where he lives, seeking to block the extension of a runway at a local airport because it might increase noise levels at his home. He sued a New York journalist for $5 million because he depicted Trump as having a net worth much less than Trump claimed. And he also filed a lawsuit against his own law firm after they cited him as an “ex-client” on their website. As Columbia University law professor John Coffee noted: suing your own law firm is a “sign of something very dysfunctional.”

Trump’s history of using bankruptcy law to escape the consequences of either bad decisions or deteriorating market conditions is also renowned, having used law to pull his fat out of the fire four times (so far) in his career.

He also has a history of manipulating government to his own advantage. For instance, when tax receipts from Trump’s Grand Hyatt hotel fell from $3.7 million to just $667,000 in one year, the New York City budget director asked Karen Burnstein, auditor general for the city, to investigate. What she found was that through “aberrant” accounting practices, Trump had understated the hotel’s profits by $5 million and as a result had underpaid the city by nearly $3 million. Burstein later recalled being appalled at how Trump operated: “It’s extraordinary to me that we elevated someone to this position of public importance who has openly admitted that he has used government’s incompetence as a wedge to increase his fortune.”

Trump’s claims that his net worth is $7 billion have been seriously questioned, with independent estimates putting the real figure “an order of magnitude” lower than that.

He also claimed that he was “a really good student at the best school in the country,” and that he graduated first in his college class. In fact, he got into the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania only through a family connection, and graduated without honors of any kind.

And many remember Trump’s claim that he had “his people” investigating Obama’s birth records in Hawaii and suggested that they had found revealing evidence to support Trump’s birther claims, and yet never offered any explanation of what evidence was ever found to support his claims.

As he saw his chances fading, Trump no doubt took stock of the challenges facing him if he persisted in his drive to the Presidency: full disclosure of his holdings, continued scrutiny of his past (both professional and personal), and giving up hosting the highly-rated TV show The Apprentice on NBC. In fact, it is very likely that pressure from NBC to stay on as host (NBC has three years of sponsors for the show lined up, conditional upon Trump staying on as host) was persuasive, especially when they offered Trump $60 million to renew his contract.

Ever the pragmatist, Trump accepted the offer.

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