I will confess that I was impressed with Trump’s fairly gracious and mature response to his second-place finish in Iowa. The fact that he also stayed off Twitter the night of his loss seemed to indicate that he — or someone in his inner circle — understood that the worst thing Trump could do is have a Howard Dean moment. At the same time, it seemed like a risky way for him to go, given that his graciousness and maturity also made him sound like a conventional politician, which is not a good look for him.
Regardless, it didn’t last. He’s now tearing up Twitter whining about how the Iowa caucuses were “stolen.” (See below). This may be an attempt to re-grab the spotlight. Every other time he wasn’t dominating the conversation three things happened: 1) His poll numbers dropped. 2) He did or said something wild to get the limelight back. 3) His poll numbers went back up.
That may be all there is to this petty whining about the Iowa results. But what’s worrisome is that it also seems consistent with the longstanding fear that Trump may bolt from the GOP and run as an independent. It’s not hard to see how he could continue in this vein about how the system conspired against him, he wasn’t treated fairly, the party is rigged, blah, blah and blah. The logical conclusion to such complaints would be to take his marbles and go home or run as a third party candidate. While I’d love to see Trump drop out, neither argument is very good for a party that needs Trump’s supporters a lot more than it needs Trump himself. Fortunately, right now at least, Trump isn’t complaining about the GOP so much as he is about Ted Cruz. The worrying sign would be if/when he generalizes the fraud charge to the whole party or the system itself.
I should note, Trump’s concerns may indeed be sincere (which is different than saying they’re accurate). Today on Morning Joe, Trump admitted he had no idea what a “ground game” was until very recently. He has no data operation to speak of and he thinks relying on media polling is just fine. If you believe that media polls reflect reality — and it’s pretty clear Trump thinks quite highly of the ones that say he’s #1 — and then the polls miss the mark when the votes are counted, it’s easy to see why you’d think fraud is to blame.