He may be the most attacked candidate in the race from either party, but there’s no denying that Donald Trump has been enjoying some benefits as well. His position as the undisputed GOP frontrunner combined with his penchant for saying things which drive everyone absolutely nuts has ensured that the mogul has cable news and network cameras following him everywhere he goes. This means that you generally see Donald Trump on the small screen nearly all the time if you’re tuned in to the news, but there’s one place you don’t see him: in any Donald Trump for President commercials.
That’s drawn the attention of some liberal critics who seem to be a bit put off that Donald constantly brags about having the money to fund his own campaign, but he doesn’t seem to be spending it. (Ed Kilgore at the Washington Monthly)
It’s certainly well established that heavy media coverage has played a big role in the shocking success of Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy so far; Nate Silver’s characterization of The Donald as “The World’s Greatest Troll,” irresistibly luring those who hate covering him to cover him, still makes sense.
But a little-discussed side benefit of this phenomenon is that Trump—who has made his independence from special-interest donors a big part of his Ecce Homo message—is not having to spend a great deal of his own money just yet.
On the one hand I would quibble with that conclusion if only a little bit. Trump may have (and make) a lot of money, but he also spends a lot whether he’s running for President or not. Now that he’s in the race he has a host of new appointments to keep and he’s on the road a lot more than his usual business meeting and golf outing regimen would dictate. And how does Trump get around? He has a fleet of Trump jets and Trump helicopters and Trump limousines. For all I know there’s a gold plated, silk lined Trump sedan chair carried on the shoulders of four burly men in case he has to traverse any rocky hiking trails on the way to a speech in the mountains. And there are other expenses, such as all the hats and posters and free copies of his book to give out to adoring fans. All of that costs money, and lots of it. So it’s not exactly true to say that Trump isn’t spending any money on the campaign yet. (Though I somehow doubt it’s much above his normal operating budget.)
But Kilgore does have a point in noting that Trump isn’t dumping millions into reserving advertising time yet. That can get expensive very quickly and some of the other candidates with more limited budgets (and their associated Super PACs) are already flushing their cash into the air war in an effort to bring The Donald down or at least try to keep up with him. Not Trump. But the obvious question on this score is… why would he? Sure, he could spend a million dollars in a large market for a one minute ad that runs a few times over the course of the evening. But he can just do what he did in Alabama over the summer instead. He just shows up at a huge stadium packed full of fans and begins insulting all of the cable news networks from the podium. What do they do in response? They stay on him and cover every word he utters from beginning to end… and they foot the bill for it. It’s almost like they’re Mexico and he’s telling them to follow him around and build a wall.
Will Trump ever have to begin spending money? Assuming he maintains his lead and makes it into the early primary states he’ll almost have to. Some messages need to be tailored and you can’t be everywhere at once. But if the votes are being cast and Trump is racking up the delegates to the point where it looks like he’ll actually win this thing, I have a hunch that he’ll break out the checkbook. He’s never been shy about spending money when he sees a likelihood of a return on investment.
And then what happens if he’s right and he wins? Well, for one thing, Barry Diller told Bloomberg Politics that if Trump were to be elected, “I’ll either move out of the country or join the resistance.”
Maybe The Donald is worth a second look after all.