Donald Trump’s dream of the White House is built on the belief that America will turn to a can-do outsider, particularly a successful business tycoon, to fix the mess that is Washington.
It’s likely just a dream.
Voters enjoy candidates full of outrage and without ties to the byzantine, polarized, money-saturated ways of the nation’s capital. Audiences flock to hear and cheer them in New Hampshire, Iowa and elsewhere. And then they usually vote for a more statesmanlike, experienced choice.
Trump, 69, the brash New York City-based billionaire businessman and television show host, plans a “major announcement” Tuesday on his presidential intentions. He’s flirted with running before, but this time he appears to be taking the steps needed to formally enter the Republican race.
He’d start as a clear underdog and wouldn’t even be the favorite among outsider candidates. Former neurosurgeon Ben Carson’s supporters have spent the last year raising money and building an organization, and former business executive Carly Fiorina has drawn friendly audiences in key primary and caucus states.
Trump, like Carson and Fiorina, faces another challenge: No political experience.
The last president who had never run for public office was Dwight Eisenhower. While never before elected , he WAS supreme commander of the Allied forces in Europe during World War II.
“The presidency is a special office, and everybody knows the president has his finger on the nuclear button. You don’t take a chance with that,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
Business executive Ross Perot came closest among outsiders in the last century.
Running as an independent, he won 19 percent of the general election popular vote in 1992. Running as the candidate of the Reform Party, he won 8.4 percent four years later.
Running for a major party nomination is even tougher. Such candidates often become media stars and occasionally win a primary or caucus. But they never have enough support to go all the way.
Former Ambassador Alan Keyes drew a passionate Republican Christian right following in 2000 and 2008 but didn’t get close to winning the nomination. Retired Gen. Wesley Clark stirred early interest among Democrats vying for the 2004 nomination but got nowhere.
In 2011, pizza magnate Herman Cain briefly rose into the top tier of Republican candidates. Then came a debate where he had a difficult time answering a foreign policy question, and allegations about marital infidelity and sexual harassment. Weeks after surging to the top of the Republican pack, Cain suspended his campaign.
Trump will face intense scrutiny, though his personal and professional life have long been media fodder.
The Trump brand is considered highly successful. He’s filed for corporate bankruptcy in the past, though analysts have said he personally should probably not be held accountable.
He’s also prone to controversial, incendiary comments.
He’s long questioned whether President Barack Obama was born in the United States.
“I’m the most successful person ever to run for the presidency, by far,” placing himself ahead of the likes of George Washington and Eisenhower in comments this month to the Des Moines Register.
“I have a Gucci store that’s worth more than Romney,” he added, a reference to wealthy 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Trump’s ego-driven image has cost him. He’s the least likable of all the current and potential prominent presidential candidates this year. His net favorability, or those who see him favorably minus those who view him unfavorably, was minus 55 in last month’s Washington Post/ABC poll. No one else came close. Even among Republicans he scored a minus 42.
Trump faces another hurdle: What often fells outsiders is a lack of political savvy. Trump, in an interview with McClatchy earlier this year, insisted that would not be a problem.
“I’ve been dealing with governments all my life. That’s what I do. I build,” he said.
But dealing with regulators and business people could be very different than dealing with stubborn Republicans and Democrats, or foreign leaders. No problem, said Trump. “It’s always confrontation. You have to work something out. It’s always worked that way,” he said.
Trump was less specific about foreign policy. He would attack the Islamic State with overwhelming force, he said. “I would hit them so hard and so fast,” he said. “They would say ‘What happened?’ They would not be doing what they’re doing right now, believe me.”
Voters may cheer such lines, but they also want more nuance. “You’ve got to be able to talk about stuff that really matters,” said Katon Dawson, a former South Carolina Republican chairman.
That’s why Trump, like other outsiders, will find the campaign trail full of unexpected pitfalls, and, said Dawson, “They often can’t take the heat.”