Lindsey Graham announced his presidential run in his tiny South Carolina hometown. Ted Cruz declared his candidacy at a religious college in Virginia. Just yesterday, Jeb Bush formally launched his campaign at a packed Miami auditorium with a carefully chosen, racially diverse cast of listeners behind him. These Republican candidates tried their best to come across as ordinary folks: approachable, down-to-earth and sympathetic to the everyday American’s plight.
Donald Trump didn’t even try.
On Wednesday morning, Trump descended the shiny escalator in his namesake tower on Fifth Avenue, where office rents are among the highest in the country, to announce that he, too, is running for president. He was wearing his trademark suit (no rolled-up shirtsleeves and cowboy boots – good luck in Iowa). When he referred to ordinary Americans in his speech, he talked of a factory owner and a doctor that he knows.
Trump wasn’t merely being open about his wealth. He was flaunting it, by design. Trump’s pitch is essentially that he is a businessman who has made himself extremely rich, and can do the same for the U.S.A. In this sense, his run for presidency has a lot do with his career in real estate.
“My father succeeds time and time again where government has failed beforehand,” said Ivanka Trump, introducing her father in the flag-clad lobby of the Trump Tower. She pointed to his role in building an ice rink in Central Park, restoring the façade of Grand Central Terminal and working on the renovation of the Penn Station post office. “He is battle-tested. He is a dreamer. But perhaps more importantly, he is a doer.”
Donald Trump, who ironically entered the room to the tune of the subtly anti-capitalist Neil Young song “Rocking in the free world”, picked up his daughter’s cue.
“America needs a leader – someone that knows business,” he said. How exactly would he lead? For starters, he said he knows “the smartest negotiators in the world” – presumably some of them in real estate – and plans to assign them to different countries to negotiate trade terms. (Will Fredrik Eklund finally close on that Trans-Pacific trade deal that Obama couldn’t even sell to his own party? More on that in the 2017 season of Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing”.)
Trade and cross-border capital flows appear to be a main focus of his campaign. And, perhaps surprisingly for a businessman who has done much of his work overseas, he struck a decidedly protectionist tone. He vowed to confront (and somehow tax) China for devaluing its currency, while going to lengths explaining how he would pressure Ford to build its next factory in the U.S. “We don’t have victories anymore. We used to have them,” he said. “When was the last time anyone saw us beating, say, China in a trade deal? I beat China all the time.”
It wasn’t immediately clear when and in what capacity Trump beat the People’s Republic of China, but apparently he was again referring to his business track record.
Beyond all the talk of business and trade, Trump also dished out some Republican classics: rants against Mexican immigrants, talk of threats from ISIS and Russia, and professions of love for veterans.
Here are some more highlights from Trump’s speech, in no particular order:
“When Mexico sends its people, they don’t send their best.”
“[ISIS] just built a hotel in Syria, can you believe that?”
“I like China. I just sold an apartment for $15 million to someone from China.”
“China is killing us.”
“I have lobbyists that can produce anything for me. They’re great.”
“I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.”