If the 2016 election is a grease-soaked dumpster fire, Donald Trump might be about to spray it with a hose full of cooking oil. Last month his campaign raised an astonishing $82 million, leaving him with $74 million on hand at the start of this month. We can safely assume a lot of that's going toward red hats and Trump Steaks ... but so far, none of it's being spent on television ads. Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, aka "Who?" have both spent, uh, infinity times more money on TV ads than Donald Trump has.
Trump's spent $0 on TV since the start of the general election campaign, compared to $52 million spent by the Clinton campaign. While Hillary's people have already booked a full range of ads in battleground states through November, Trump still seems to be relying on all the "free" publicity he's getting from media (like us!) since the start of the campaign. The only problem is, since the end of the primary, that coverage has taken a distinct turn from "Donald Trump might be a genius" ...
... to "Holy shit, did that guy just threaten to assassinate the former secretary of state?" And as Donald's amped up the crazy, his poll numbers have -- fucking finally -- responded in a way that almost makes you think American voters might be rational people.
So what in the Devil's blond hairpiece is Donald Trump planning to do with all his tens of millions of dollars? I can see two realistic possibilities.
1) Donald Trump shows up at a one of his "yuge" rallies with a crate full of AR-15s and body armor and actually goes full coup on all our asses. That's maybe a 10 percent chance, at the outside. So higher than it would be for any other candidate in modern history, but still pretty darn unlikely. Which leaves us with ...
2) Donald Trump is putting together some spectacularly expensive stunt to win America over.
Donald is playing 4-D chess. Unfortunately, the game is horseshoes.
It's impossible to predict exactly what kind of dumb, expensive stunt the Trump campaign might go with. But a plan like that would absolutely be in character with Donald Trump. Remember, Trump's original plan was to make the RNC a spectacular, star-studded event filled with the likes of Mike Tyson and, uh, Mike Ditka.
Like the political version of Dancing With The "Stars."
And although he got only Scott Baio in the end, Donald's clearly still hungry for the kind of mass public adulation that comes from doing something flashy and dumb in front of tens of thousands of people. Remember, this is the man who delivered the longest convention speech in 40-some years and then spent the next couple of weeks bragging to crowds about getting 24 minutes of applause. What this guy wants is a rally.
Charles Russell/National Archives and Records Administration
Right-wing activists in the U.S. have long been frustrated at their inability to put together the kind of massive crowds of activists seen at, say, the 2003 Iraq War protests. There have been several high-profile flopped "marches on Washington" since President Obama took office. The most noteworthy was probably the Taxpayer March on Washington in 2009, which had between 60,000 and 80,000 attendees if you ask actual experts on crowd estimation and up to 2 million attendees if you ask people with their own historically accurate George Washington costumes. A massive Trump rally actually might draw hundreds of thousands of people to the national lawn. The man's supporters aren't lazy.
And Donald Trump is a demagogue at his core. You only have to see him speak in front of a crowd to see how much he clearly enjoys it. That's what he loves about running for president, and it's a thrill no amount of TV ads are going to give him. From the beginning, Trump's been a campaigner who hates letting other people do anything for him. And the best reason to suspect Donald might be readying some spectacular, public stunt is that -- quite simply -- it might work.
This NPR article from the 2012 election is one of the better articles you'll read on whether or not political campaign ads actually work or not. Near the end it quotes a political scientist, Lynn Vavreck, who said:
Trump's clearly ceded the TV game to the Clinton campaign. But he may be betting that a yuuuge stunt near the end of the election could garner enough media attention to flip the momentum back to his campaign. And once all the news is focused on his giant crowds and screaming supporters, what will all of Hillary's ad dollars be worth? It'd be like a second Republican Convention, only not followed by a Democratic Convention and not partly controlled by the meddling boobs in the Republican Party who won't let Trump be Trump anymore.
Or he's planning a coup. Either way, maybe buy some stock in Smith & Wesson.
Get some insight into Donald Trump's Twitter strategy in Check Out This Weird Theory About Trump's Twitter We Found and The Laziest Lie Of Donald Trump's Entire Campaign (So Far).
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