The Corner

Politics & Policy

How Will the Donald Perform Tonight?

We’ll find out tonight if Donald Trump was right when in December 2013 when he told a disbelieving group of political professionals that he would win the presidency while breaking all the rules.

“You can’t run for president on [free] earned media,” one attendee recalled telling Trump.

The billionaire looked up, and paused for a long moment. “I think you’re wrong,” Trump said.

So far Donald Trump has been winning his bet. The latest records field with the Federal Election Commision for the last quarter of 2015 show him spending money in an unorthodox way. He loaned his campaign $10.8 million last quarter and spent $6.9 million of that.

As Politico reports:

A significant portion of that, $940,000, was spent on campaign paraphernalia, including yard signs, bumper stickers, buttons, t-shirts and, of course, hats. In fact, about $450,000 — or nearly 7 percent of all Trump’s fourth-quarter spending — went towards hats, presumably including the now-iconic hats bearing Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

That’s more money than the campaign paid its data vendor L2 (which received $235,000 for “research consulting”) or than it spent on strategy consulting ($281,000). It’s almost as much as the campaign spent on field consulting ($551,000) or payroll ($518,000) . . . his highly unconventional campaign spending is likely to fuel questions about whether his campaign has built enough infrastructure to convert the energy he’s tapped into votes.

We’re about to learn how Trump’s bet plays out in the most intensive retail political environment this season: the Iowa caucuses. Half of me, who loathes the “staff infection” that the Republican consulting class has brought to the party, is rooting for him. The other half, that knows Donald Trump and all of his internal contradictions, is leaning for him to be taught that he can’t break all the rules. 

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