One of Donald Trump’s campaign themes is that he is a successful businessman and Washington outsider running against the big special interests of the Establishment (TM), and he’s been able to run on this very successfully by relying on the only thing Trump has ever really been good at selling — his personality.
None of the other GOP candidates has every really attempted to attack Trump on his business and branding acumen — primarily because in the wake of two elections that saw Barack Obama beat Republicans with slogans more apt for a Pepsi soda can than economic progress, they still haven’t figured out the game of running as a product and not a person.
But Mitt Romney is different. Mitt Romney is a successful businessman from the world of Trump. When Romney walked onto the stage today in an albeit probably vain attempt to plant the last flag of ideology over personality, he teed up right where it can hurt Trump most: his image and his branding.
Romney reminded the audience in the crowd and on social media that the way to push Trump off the deep end is to remind people he is not a self-made successful product. He inherited the only company he’s claimed success for in his entire life.
Everything Trump himself has set out to do beyond promoting the name he was born with has failed. Trump’s airline failed. Trump’s vodka line failed. Trump’s magazine failed. Trump’s football league folded. Trump’s steak line failed as did his first attempt at a board game.
The candidates heading into tonight’s debate might do well to study Romney’s line of attack. Attacks on policy fail because Trump’s policy positions change from day to day, sometimes even from hour to hour, and he couldn’t care less because he’s winning, winning, winning. What Trump does care about is the public perception of success. Trump does care about the Trump brand.
That’s where he can be hurt the most. Candidates need to stop thinking like Ronald Reagan with Donald Trump and start thinking more like Don Draper.