I learned one thing and remembered another from last night’s Trump townhall, especially from the latter 10 or 20 minutes of it. The first is that Trump has friggin’ huge eyebrows. I’m not sure how I missed this. But they’re huge — and yuuuuuuge, I guess. I’m not sure how I didn’t know this before.
The second point is more substantive, perhaps. And that is that Donald Trump can be very appealing, even charming. No, this isn’t saying I’m charmed myself. But going back to something I said a week or so ago, you can’t be the star of a very popular reality tv show for a decade and not have some element of appeal – some draw for a significant subsection of the population. And notably, one which I do not think was nearly as ‘raced’ as things are with him now.
Yes, admittedly, it’s sort of an anti-charm with Trump. The ever-presence of the cartoonishly big ego is part of this. But it’s an appeal nonetheless.
This is not really a subjective point. As political observers we should view it as an objective reality. You can’t be the star of a big reality show on network for a decade if don’t have a certain appeal.
I would add more generally that Trump’s discussion of his personal life – and particularly being a teetotaler, no alcohol, drugs or tobacco – was a particularly fascinating, humanizing moment. Some people drink a lot, some barely ever drink. But never drinking – except for recovering alcoholics – is a pretty edge case phenomenon in our culture. He apparently has lived it for his whole life. And he preaches it to his children. But remember, Trump’s older brother Fred Trump, was an alcoholic and a heavy smoker who drank himself to death at 43. I don’t think you have to get too far out on a armchair psychologist limb to think there’s a lot going on there. I suspect Trump, like many with some family history of addiction, knows that he could easily become a drinker if he started.
In any case, here’s the political point. Trump’s no Cruz and he’s no Jeb. As I’ve argued, Trump is a high unpredictability candidate. Cruz almost certainly loses a national campaign and in a very conventional way – Goldwater, McGovern, etc. Trump might well do even worse – he’s alienated huge and relatively electorally volatile chunks of the electorate. But I could also see him doing substantially better. I could see him winning a national campaign. Not likely but possible.
He has an appeal. And again, this is not my arguing his case. I think it is an objective fact, one political strategists would be incredibly foolish to ignore. He can come off as very genuine, very straight-up. And I think he could – I stress, could – appeal to loosely identified Democrats and certainly Dem-leaning independents receptive his anti-establishment message and economic nationalism.