Michael Avenatti: Yes, I will run against Trump

I’m resigned to this happening just because we live in a sitcom now and whoever’s writing it obviously has something bigger planned for the “Michael Avenatti” character. He gets too much screentime to be just some lawyer representing a porn star who’s suing Trump to end a hush-money agreement. That’s how he’s been introduced to the audience but clearly we’re supposed to Pay Attention to him, which means he’s destined to take on a larger role next season.

Basically he’s Chekhov’s gun, just louder and with more financial problems.

It’s been clear for weeks that he’s interested in at least making people *think* that he’s running but yesterday he confirmed it. It started innocuously enough, with him virtual-high-fiving the New York Daily News for depicting Trump as a clown and babbling about America needing a “street fighter,” which has been his wink-wink to Twitter followers lately that he might be the man for the job:

When a follower asked if he meant what everyone thought he meant, Avenatti said yes — if:

That seems to have been the unofficial launch to his campaign because he’s spent the last 24 hours stumping:

I don’t know what he means by the first tweet. Trump beat traditional politicians in the primary, yeah, but probably wouldn’t have if there had been fewer of them. He benefited tremendously from the splintering of the base in the early primaries. (Not coincidentally, Avenatti will be hoping to replicate that dynamic if he joins the Democratic primary.) And he trailed even a bad candidate like Hillary Clinton in the general up until the final 10 days, and might well have lost to her too if not for Comey’s letter. You could turn Avenatti’s argument back on him: If Democrats want to convince swing voters in 2020 that Trump’s unfit for office, nominating a traditional politician who’ll “restore norms” is exactly what they’d want. You don’t make the case against celebrity stunt candidacies by nominating celebrity stunt candidates, with the possible exception of the mega-famous like Oprah.

My guess about Avenatti’s intentions is that he’s five percent serious about running and 95 percent “can’t hurt making people think I might.” Before 2016 Americans would have laughed at the idea and ignored him. After 2016 no one’s laughing. Anyone with a knack for media and a cultural following of whatever variety must be taken seriously. That’s the new rule of politics, but it dovetails with an old rule: There’s no downside to making Americans think you might run for president. At a minimum it’ll keep him in front of television cameras, his natural habitat, which is destined to lead to more clients and maybe his own show eventually. And if he gets any sort of interest as a candidate from the public it’ll force Democratic players to cultivate his friendship and seek his endorsement. If he lands a few appearances with the eventual nominee out of it, that’s potentially the start of a more realistic statewide political career. What does he have to lose by floating the possibility?

Here he is yesterday playing candidate on CNN. Go figure that he’d announce his intention about running on July 4, traditionally a slow news day when even the tiniest news-fart is apt to get outsized coverage on TV.