Yes, Donald Trump can win, but here’s what it will take

August 17, 2015
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets attendees at the Iowa State Fair during a campaign stop in Des Moines

Donald Trump greets people at the Iowa State Fair during a campaign stop in Des Moines, Iowa, August 15, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young

Since Donald Trump’s June 16 announcement that he is running for president, the billionaire developer has dominated the national media and the political conversation on a daily basis. Against one of the strongest Republican fields since 1980, Trump leads virtually all state and national polls — and seems oblivious to accepted rules of presidential politics.

What happens now?

No modern campaign has started as quickly or with as much drama as Trump’s. With 15 months to go before the 2016 vote, no one can tell you what’s going to happen. But with the largest audience in U.S. primary history watching the first Republican presidential debate, there is obviously interest in this election. And one thing is for sure: Trump is not going away, and millions of his supporters may stay with him to the bitter end. Many believe this is not a protest campaign but a winning campaign — and they like their man!

Businessman and Republican candidate for president Trump greets supporters after speaking at a campaign event in Laconia

Donald Trump greets supporters after speaking at a campaign event in Laconia, New Hampshire, July 16, 2015. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter

I am a veteran of five decades of U.S. politics, and I feel something different going into this election cycle. Polls show deep unhappiness with our elected officials, whether Democrat or Republican.

I ran President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 re-election campaign and served as his White House political director. I also managed the first phase of the Ross Perot campaign in 1992. Perot, like Trump, jumped in front of a political movement when voters — like today — were unhappy with the status quo and wanted change.

Perot ran as an independent, and in June 1992 was leading both President George H.W. Bush and Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, with 39 percent of all voters. After that poll, Perot was treated by the media as a serious candidate and scrutinized like any other serious candidate running for president. Perot didn’t like the criticism, his poll numbers dropped dramatically and he quit the race in mid-July.

The day before he quit, he fired all the professionals in the campaign, including me.

Presidential candidate Ross Perot gestures during the Presidential debate October 19th at Michigan S..

Independent candidate Ross Perot during the presidential debate at Michigan State University, October 19, 1992. REUTERS/Archive

We had been trying to make him run a professional campaign — he was taking on not only an incumbent president but also both political parties. A daunting task. But I had recruited a team of top-notch Democrat and Republican talent, who all wanted to participate in a change election. We had laid out a campaign strategy that would have made Perot a contender. Every day I gave him a decision package of things he needed to decide and do. He just couldn’t do it!

The day he fired us, Perot announced that he wanted to make it an all-volunteer campaign again. He was ridiculed from one end of the country to the other. Those most unhappy about the firings were actually the volunteers, who wanted to run a winning campaign. There was dissent in the ranks and no one in charge. Perot decided to end the campaign the next day. He quit!

He returned several months later. But he was never a viable candidate again.

The difference between Perot and Trump is that the Texas billionaire couldn’t deal with bad press or the continuing rough and tumble of presidential politics. When it got tough — Perot quit. Trump, however, thrives on it! And quitter has never been a term  associated with Donald Trump.

Part of his advantage is that voters are fed up with the status quo. Many think the other candidates, mostly former or current elected officials, are part of the problem. Just more of the same.

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attends the Family Leadership Summit in Ames

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, July 18, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young

The presidential race for the Republican nomination is not about polls or a national race. It is a state-by-state contest for 2,470 delegates. To be the party nominee, a candidate must have 50 percent plus 1 of the delegates — 1,236 delegates — to win.

Every one of these delegates is hard-won, and each state’s rules are a little different. This race is wide open. With the addition of super PACs — where candidates can receive unlimited monies — it could drag on until June. The party might even go into the Republican National Convention with a still undecided contest.

Trump has to build a state-of-the-art campaign if he wants to continue to do well and have the possibility of winning the nomination. This not a reality show. It is a modern, multimillion-dollar campaign with social media, sophisticated, up-to-the-minute positive and negative television spots, policy-development research, opposition research, grass-roots organization, full-scale legal consultation, coalition building and a structured campaign in most of the 50 states.

Trump has said that he will spend a billion dollars to win. That sum will guarantee no one will out-spend him. But he needs to build a grass-roots campaign with volunteers. You never have enough volunteers in places like Iowa and New Hampshire. The Iowa caucus is a giant organizational effort in which the winner may need as much the free help as he can get to win. And then the follow-up to win the 99 county conventions — and eventually the state convention held many months latter.

Businessman and Republican candidate for president Trump speaks to supporters at a campaign event in Laconia

Donald Trump speaks to supporters at a campaign event in Laconia, New Hampshire, July 16, 2015. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter

The contests in each state are conducted under that state party’s rules. There is also continual oversight from the Republican National Party’s committee rules.

Just to show you the complexity here. There are, for example, 11 states with a winner-take-all provision. Whoever gets the most votes gets all the delegates. A little more than 25 percent of all delegates (668) are decided this way. Take Florida. You get the most votes in Florida, you get all its 99 delegates. The battle should be fierce between the state’s current senator, Marco Rubio, its former governor, Jeb Bush, and maybe Trump.

Ten states assign their delegates proportionally. Meaning a candidate gets a proportion of the delegates depending on how well he or she does. A total of 447 delegates are chosen this way.

Meanwhile, there are 17 states that use a caucus and convention to choose delegates. Iowa is such a state. Even though it’s the first caucus, the convention is held months later — and no one selected in the caucus is bound to his or her candidate. Four years ago, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum won the Iowa caucus. He got no delegates. Instead, former Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas) won the convention and most of the delegates.

The other states have combinations or other methods entirely. The bottom line is, you better know all the rules and have state and local talent available to help you through the process.

The oldest rule in politics is: When your momentum catches up with your lack of organization, you’re doomed to failure.

Right now, Trump has the momentum. But will he build the organization to have staying power?

37 comments

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Donald Trump is the smart businessman and strong leader that our country needs. He is his own man and not owned by special interests, big business, the banksters, or Wall Street. We are fed up with the bought and paid for politicians and our corrupt Congress. Trump for President 2016… he will make America great again!

Posted by HappyHuntress | Report as abusive

If you want to get the job, you should send your resume to Mr Trump.

Posted by MrPelao | Report as abusive

His message has already gone to all Via TV and Social media.Current voters are confident.
Only Q.will he be able to beat Clinton?

Posted by gentalman | Report as abusive

It simply doesn’t seem possible. How did the old Donald Trump suddenly become so wise and presidential? Just a few years ago he was claiming proof Obama was born in Kenya. No one ever took him seriously and he’s always been considered a tacky rich guy with a big mouth. Trump has always been a joke.

Posted by dianep62 | Report as abusive

Michael Cohl was in the middle of telling a story about The Rolling Stones’ Steel Wheels tour when he paused. “By the way, do you want to hear about the night I fired Donald Trump?” It was Cohl’s keynote address at Pollstar Live! this past February.

http://www.pollstar.com/news_article.asp x?ID=819781

Posted by stevenick | Report as abusive

The United Coalition’s 15 Candidates for President of the United States (POTUS)
http://usparliament.org/pdc.php
Updated on 7/5/2015

James Ogle [Republican] for President

Scot Olewine [Republican- Green Energy] for President

Keenan Dunham [Libertarian] for President

Miss Joy Waymire [Decline to State] for President

Andy Caffrey [Democratic] for President

Roger Nichols [Unity] for President

Rhett Smith [Libertarian] for President

Ralph Beach [Independent] for President

James Le Sage [Humanitarian] for President

Ernest Wells [Communist] for President

Jonah Bolt [One] for President

Vanessa Davis [Defender of the Republic] for President

Tony Jones [Republican] for President

Tina Cook [Independent] for President

Verone Auzenne Thomas [Whig] for President
* * *

Posted by JamesOgle | Report as abusive

Mr. Trump’s direct and no-nonsense approach to traditionally dead-locked issues will attract votes from good part of democratic voter-block as well, for the first time. His uncompromising savvy-ness in execution, will set him apart from the rest of candidates from both sides.

Posted by Mottjr | Report as abusive

Reuters has no agenda at all.

TRUMP 2016

Posted by TheAntiHillary | Report as abusive

Does anyone seriously think that he can win Texas?

Posted by M-1R | Report as abusive

If a guy can win on a Republican ticket after he contributed to Obama, Harry Reid and Ted Kennedy, then the USA’s collective IQ has hit in double digits and is falling rapidly. Frankly in a context between him and Hillary Clinton, I would rather see Kim Kardashian’s gigantic rear end get elected.

Posted by evilhippo | Report as abusive

Birther.

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

All hail King Donald, friend to the 1%.

Posted by brotherkenny4 | Report as abusive

Donald Trump will win the nomination and become the President of the United States of America!!!!!!

Posted by sunshine47 | Report as abusive

I don’t think you have anything to tell Donald Trump. All you “experts” have been wrong about everything having to do with Trump.

I love his immigration plan and support him.

Posted by Captainrogers | Report as abusive

If Donald can keep the middle class as a priority, who is the major group to win over , he wil become president. He is a breath of fresh air in a political machine that has slowly distroyed this great county since the start of the Reagan years. If the republicans were smart they would start backing hm instead of fighting him. One thing is for sure, if he runs as an independent, The democrats will win, and God help us all if we get another fours years of the democrats.

Posted by cheeze | Report as abusive

My wife and I found this informative article while searching how to get involved in the Trump campaign in our area. I haven’t felt this enthusiastic about a Presidential candidate (read “Making America Great Again!) since Ross Perot. The only reason that we not now registering as a Republican is in the event that Mr. Trump is not nominated by the GOP. (then we’ll have to research how to offer the most support for Mr. Trump as Independent candidate).

Chad & Janet Vienna
Escondido, Ca

Posted by ChadVienna | Report as abusive

The Real Question is why not? I remember when everyone said a Black President was not possible. Look what happened. This country is enjoys change

Posted by Apples136 | Report as abusive

I hope Trump can maintain the momentum and win the votes other republicans leave behind when they drop out. I’m no dancing Trump puppet, but I sure trust him more than any other of those greasy worms that are running Republican and Democrat!

Posted by mopyduck | Report as abusive

IF I recal Correctly Perot’s Family was Threated with serious bodily harm if he continued in the race …So he dropped out!

Posted by AAA747 | Report as abusive

Trump needs to tone down the attacks on other republicans (because they can’t beat him) and start pushing policies. He needs to form plans to aliminate the national debt, and to secure the means for our military can take out ISIS. So far I agree with his five points immigration plan. He can beat Hillary or any other democrat. The RNC leadership must to stop attacking him, start supporting him and starting listening to his message so far he has been right about illegals and murders, John McCain and everything else he has said. He wants to stop foreign aide to nations that attack our interest and who supports terrorism. Trump is the man to turn this country around, with a strong running mate we as patriot constitutionalist conservatives could control the executive branch for 16 years, moving this country to greatest again.

Posted by jjfloyd | Report as abusive

American democracy is fading away through a sad combination of decades GOP strategy to protect their minority party at the cost of democratic principles, outdated geographic skewing that has stripped American urbanites of their fair representation, a deeply selfish wealthy population that has no interest in paying taxes to improve the country’s future, and the sad confusion of money with free speech and corporate “rights” with personal civil liberties.

Donald Trump winning the Presidency in 2016 would be the ultimate triumph of greed and money taking advantage of ignorance and geography to push our democracy past the point of no return.

To those of you who think Trump is not owned by “special interests”, do your homework and use your brain… Trump IS a “special interest” who has no interest in anyone’s “greatness” other than his own. You have nothing to gain from a Trump presidency unless you are extremely wealthy and are looking to be a part of the growing wave of wealthy corporate interests whose only interest is using our crumbling democracy and ignorant complacency to strip the wealth from the middle class until they’ve picked the corpse of the American dream clean for their own personal gain. That’s the new capitalism.

Posted by Loothor | Report as abusive

American democracy is fading away through a sad combination of decades GOP strategy to protect their minority party at the cost of democratic principles, outdated geographic skewing that has stripped American urbanites of their fair representation, a deeply selfish wealthy population that has no interest in paying taxes to improve the country’s future, and the sad confusion of money with free speech and corporate “rights” with personal civil liberties.

Donald Trump winning the Presidency in 2016 would be the ultimate triumph of greed and money taking advantage of ignorance and geography to push our democracy past the point of no return.

To those of you who think Trump is not owned by “special interests”, do your homework and use your brain… Trump IS a “special interest” who has no interest in anyone’s “greatness” other than his own. You have nothing to gain from a Trump presidency unless you are extremely wealthy and are looking to be a part of the growing wave of wealthy corporate interests whose only interest is using our crumbling democracy and ignorant complacency to strip the wealth from the middle class until they’ve picked the corpse of the American dream clean for their own personal gain. That’s the new capitalism.

Posted by Loothor | Report as abusive

I think Donald Trump would make a great President. Of the Shady Acres Senior Condo Association in Florida. Which is exactly where he is going to end up. And when he does, remember this Conservatives: We told you so.

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

Trump is a heady mix of Reagan & George W. Bush with a hint of Sarah Palin & Herman Cain. Plus he’s always had a good relationship with the blacks.

Posted by TaQuandra | Report as abusive

If someone remotely like this narcissistic clown can become president, the nation’s education system needs far more improvement than anyone has yet suggested.

Posted by Stuff183 | Report as abusive

If Donald Trump becomes our next President of the United States. The world’s leaders will have to respect the United States. In fact, they will not only respect but scared.

Posted by UANavy | Report as abusive

Surveys, polls, and focus groups are ways of getting you to tell politicians the lie that you will believe. Don’t respond. It’s their job to tell us what they truly believe and will try to do, not the other way around. By denying them this information, you also reduce the value of their television, radio, and autocaller ads. This is because you deny them your feedback on their message which is what they need to place more or pull their ads. — Don’t respond to polls, surveys, and focus groups, particularly if you are an undecided voter. — Don Krieger

Posted by DonKrieger | Report as abusive

UA Navy hopes: “If Donald Trump becomes our next President of the United States. The world’s leaders will have to respect the United States..”

Haha. Yeah, “Respect” is not the word that comes to mind for most people when they look at Donald Trump. Maybe for you :)

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

Trump could win if he were unopposed.

Posted by snowyphile | Report as abusive

Yep spend, spend, spend, money is no object. So he will build a wall around our boarders,change the constitution, and sell the country to the highest bidder ( Just good business ) 2 billionaires that have never had to work and most of the donkeys and elephants have the same problem they have no clue about what to do about anything in this country. You want this country up and running again? I do. That s what drives me but I can do nothing without the help of the American public, Fixing our country should be top of the list.

Posted by Dehlyn | Report as abusive

There is good information in this article from Mr Rollins. But the headline of the article implies that there is a scenario in which Trump can win. This article does not contain a description of that.

Posted by happycathappy | Report as abusive

@Stuff183 Your reference here is about Obama, right? Sounds like a perfect description of Obama.

Posted by fedupaj | Report as abusive

A thought-provoking article. I’m as upset as anyone with America’s current political situation, but I haven’t lost my mind yet. Trump as president is a truly terrifying prospect.

Posted by PiedType | Report as abusive

Ed Rollins hasn’t won a major campaign since the 1990s. He is desperate for Donald Trump to hire him but there’s no way that Trump would.

Enjoy your retirement instead!

Posted by Flavius32 | Report as abusive

if you dont vote for Trump you are an idiot and once elected, President Trump will have you deported …

Posted by maxwellsuperman | Report as abusive

Trump isn’t stupid. Which is more than I can say for ANY of the others — republican OR democrat…don’t worry about Trump being “organized enough” and stop with all the hand wringing. The America-hating left is NOT the majority. And if he wins the nomination (extremely likely) he WILL be the next president…thank God.

Posted by closer71 | Report as abusive

Trump could very well win the GOP nomination, but he needs to win the election by getting the electoral votes. To do this, he needs to appeal to different sectors; Hispanics, Blacks, Hispanics, women and whites….and language. We don’t even have an official language..ENGLISH!! It’s sad that this country is so divided; A formula for the demise of a nation.

Posted by rbbarthyo | Report as abusive