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Art of the Deal: How Donald Trump Negotiated His Nomination by John Manfreda
At the time, people wondered if he was serious. Many doubted that he could secure the nomination, as many now doubt that he can win the presidency.
Understanding how serious he actually was, requires knowledge of two things:
- his political history
- his most referenced book: The Art of the Deal. Trump’s Political History
The idea of running for president wasn’t new. It began in 1988, when political activist Mike Dunbar came up with the idea. Trump was dissatisfied with both the Republican candidates: George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole. Trump claimed they were “duds.” Despite creating full page ads in the New York Times, which explained his own foreign policy, Trump ultimately decided not to make a presidential bid.
Though this was the first time a Trump bid for the White House was discussed publically, it certainly wasn’t the last.
For the rest of the 1980s, and for much of the 1990s, he remained with the Republican Party. But in 1999 that changed. Trump left the Republicans and joined the Reform Party. He said the reason for his departure was because it became too conservative, while Democrats were too liberal. Trump claims that through the Reform Party, he was hoping to help form a more centrist organization.
In the year 2000, Trump teased with the idea of running for president as a Reform Party candidate. He even wrote a book called The America we deserved. In it, Trump claims he dropped out of the race due to the party’s internal conflicts.
In 2001, Trump joined the Democrat Party. During his time with the Democrats, there were rumors that he would run for president in 2004. However, in 2004, his TV show The Apprentice was launched. He also toyed with the idea of running for president in 2008. While with the Democrats, Trump also considered running for governor of New York—but ultimately decided not to.
Disillusioned with the Democrats, in 2009, Trump switched back to his original party: the Republican Party. But his big splash didn’t come until 2012 when he questioned Obama’s legitimacy as president, and, once again, claimed that America was missing quality leadership. He, then, seriously looked at a 2012 presidential run.
Trump ultimately concluded he wasn’t ready to leave the private sector for politics. He also thought Mitt Romney could defeat Barack Obama.
In 2014, there was again speculation that he would run for governor.
Trump’s Politics Now
After years of contemplation, Trump decided to finally run for president in the 2016 Republican primary. But Trump’s announcement still had people wondering: “Is he serious and can he win?” Then and now, some still have their doubts.
To answer the questions, one must understand the philosophy outlined in his book Art of the Deal. This book is one of the best ways to understand Trump’s political past and current actions. In political interviews, discussions, and speeches, he cleverly brings in Art of the Deal. In fact, one of his famous presidential candidate announcement quotes is: “We need a leader who wrote The Art of the Deal.” Not having met Donald Trump personally, I found this book to be a great source for understanding his political actions and motivations.
Why Trump Walked Away From Past Political Races
After reading Art of the Deal, Trump’s political actions became clearer. I concluded that he was always serious about running for office, but would only do so if the environment was favorable. Understanding Trump’s negotiating methods are central to my conclusion.
The Art of the Deal, Chapter 2, page 53 states: “The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it. That makes the other guy smell blood, and then you’re dead.” He also repeatedly says: “No deal is better than a bad deal.”
On page 54-55 he addresses the key to negotiating successful real estate deals. When it comes to real estate, most people say you need a great location. However, Trump claims that you don’t need the best location in order to negotiate a successful real estate deal. Instead, you need the best deal. Location can be enhanced through promotion and psychology. Trump also states: “What you should never do is pay too much, even if it means walking away from a very good site.” (page 56)
This helps explain his resistance to commit to past political races. In 1988, Trump would have had to face Vice President George H.W. Bush. Bush benefitted from Ronald Reagan’s popularity as most Americans were well off financially and Reagan’s success was seen as Bush’s—which won Bush the nomination on the first ballot. Trying to dethrone the Reagan Revolution likely wasn’t the deal Trump wanted to walk into. He did what he does when presented with a bad deal: he walked away from it.
Had he run in 2000, he would have had to run as a third party candidate in a party rife with internal conflict, while running against the man who was vice president under a popular president: Al Gore; as well as Bush legacy heir: George W. Bush. Once again, not a good deal for Trump— he walked away from it.
In 2004, he would have had to unseat G.W. Bush in the middle of a war—a wartime president has never lost a re-election in the history of U.S. presidential elections.
In 2008, there was Hillary, the rise of Obama, and anti-Republican feelings with which to contend. Even though Trump was a registered Democrat at the time, he had Republican ties throughout the 1980s and 90s, so this obviously wasn’t a good environment for him, either. He did what he always does when confronted with bad deals, he walked away.
In 2012, he would have had to face Mitt Romney—a favorite of the baby boom generation— in the primary. Then in the Presidential election he would have to face Obama, who was basically backed by the press. So Trump decided to do what he is accustomed to doing when presented with a bad deal: again, he walked away.
Remember, these unfavorable environments for a Trump campaign would have required him to step away from his business and let someone else make the decisions—a role he apparently wasn’t willing to relinquish just yet.
But it isn’t just Trump’s theory of walking away from a bad deal that would explain all of his actions. On page 51, he talks about knowing your own market. He states: “I do my own surveys and draw my own conclusions.” Then on page 52 he adds: “The other people I don’t take too seriously are the critics—except when they stand in the way of my projects.”
Based on these statements, it becomes clear that during those elections, he did his own due diligence, and decided those elections weren’t the best environment for him.
In 2015, all of that changed.
Part 2 - Why 2016 is Different
The 2015-16 GOP primary offered a political environment where there was no clear-cut favorite. None of the candidates had a clear and established base of supporters. The frontrunner, Jeb Bush, had a toxic last name—something Trump could attack and brand in his unique style. Governor Scott Walker’s state of Wisconsin was ranked 40th in private sector job creation, and the state budget faced fiscal woes as well.
Other high profile candidates included Rick Perry, who didn’t remember which departments he wanted to shut down; Mike Huckabee who has failed to generate any momentum in past elections, Chris Christie who is unpopular with the conservative base; and Carly Fiorina who lost to Barbara Boxer in her senate bid. This field of Republican candidates was the perfect batch for a Trump move.
When it comes to the presidential opponents in the general election, his potential opponents were even weaker than his Republican primary opponents. Hillary Clinton, who even then, was the front runner for the Democrat Party, had the Benghazi scandal hanging over her head—not to mention a litany of past scandals such as White Water. With her track record, Trump could make the name Hillary Clinton synonymous with the words greed, corruption, and criminal—which become the moniker: “crooked.” Additionally, she lacks charisma and grace.
Most Americans view Bernie Sanders’ affiliations with the socialist party and his touted a 90% income tax rate as extreme. By now, many may have forgotten Martin O’Malley—whose image was tarnished by the Baltimore riots. Then there was Jim Webb—who didn’t seem likely to fire up the Democrat base with his views on Climate Change and willingness to defend the confederate flag.
Here, Trump finally had the opportunity to go from long shoot to favorite. This is the environment he’d been waiting for. But it wasn’t just the candidates that gave Trump the edge in this election. It was probably the change in public sentiment and the toxic political environment for establishment candidates that may have enticed him into the political arena.
Most voters have been dissatisfied with the GOP, the Democrat Party, and career politicians. In fact, many Americans have expressed that a third party is needed.
This environment was perfect for a promoter like Trump—who was anything but a politician. He is brash, confrontational, savvy, straight forward, and rebellious. Unlike past elections, this is what the voters crave: someone who isn’t a politician. Trump can deliver just that. Due to their unhappiness with President Obama, he even has a chance to sway African-Americans into voting Republican.
This is the political environment Trump has been waiting for.
How Trump Took the Spotlight from the Other Candidates Realize Trump has spent years burnishing his brand. He is always marketing himself as a rich and successful businessman. Therefore, he could pay for his own campaign. He didn’t need lobbyists’ money.
Remember this: Trump didn’t become rich by throwing money away or blowing it on a good time. On page 358, he tells about the Wollman Rink that he completed after the New York government failed. In the end, it was $750,000 under budget—which is reflected in his campaign strategy of cost effectiveness.
On page 56 he reveals: “One thing I have learned about the press is that they are always hungry for a good story and the more sensational the better.”
Looking back, it is easy to see this principle at work. It exposes his belief that he didn’t need to spend as much money as traditional candidates. Yes, his primary campaign had its costs, but, due to his ability to feed the hungry press, it was more cost effective than the other Republican candidates. Trump knows how to generate a story—which garnered him air time, promotional time, and/or marketing time with the media. This led to more TV press and allowed him to receive more interview offers than other presidential candidates. He made his case to people on a more consistent basis than the other candidates.
The media loved that Trump wasn’t afraid to broadcast what other people wouldn’t even whisper—such as Americans won’t elect another black president due to Obama’s performance, or more controversial remarks saying McCain wasn’t a war hero. Sound bites such as these were made for Twitter and give Trump more coverage, future interviews, and a new medium to communicate his unique message.
He followed up the above quotes, stating that there won’t be another black president because Obama has not helped out the black community. After his McCain remarks, he added that McCain hasn’t helped Veterans get the care they need while acting as a sitting senator and that our country needs to do more to help our veterans.
Additionally, Trump has a huge Facebook and Twitter following. In the age of digital and social media, this made it easier for Trump to generate a sensational story. Whether it’s a Twitter fight, or Facebook quote, Trump generates news anywhere, at any time. Remember, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, all those social media accounts are free. Talk about cost effective communication—you don’t get more cost effective than free.
Access to social media, combined with Trump’s relationship with the press, allowed him to make his case directly to the people on a more regular basis than candidates in past elections were able to do.
The next quote from Art of the Deal that I’ll cite is from page 58: “The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people’s fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole”—which surely reflects the tone of his campaign.
He has said: “I will be the greatest jobs president God has ever created.” He’ll beat China. He will build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it. All of which definitely sounds like the guy who wrote Art of the Deal. This “bravado” had the public wanting to communicate with him, instead of a candidate trying to communicate with the public and allowed him to make his case to the people more frequently than his opponents.
It is clear, having spent years building up his following, Trump knows how to use social media. At his fingertips, he has a big audience. He frequently, and effectively, communicates with them.
His political opponents didn’t have the time to create a large following or the practice communicating their messages. Instead, their time was spent trying to raise money. This gave Trump a PR edge that his opponents couldn’t overcome. He spent less money campaigning and more time communicating. As a result, he owned the spotlight.
Part 3 - Debunking the Trump Conspiracies
When it comes to presidential conspiracies, no one’s presidential campaign has generated more conspiratorial talk then Trump’s. One of the more popular ones was that he is a Democratic plant.
People forgot that before Donald Trump was ever a Democrat, he was a symbol of 1980’s wheeling-and-dealing Reaganomics wealth boom. He wrote a best-selling novel and had his own board game. He was a Republican for a long time, before he ever tried out the Democrats.
People pointed to his campaign contributions as proof that he really was a Democrat. From 1989 to 2011, Trump did donate $581,350 to the Democrat Party and only $497,690 to the Republican Party—with a good amount donated to Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, and Nancy Pelosi.
In his defense, when operating in the Real Estate industry, where permitting, approvals, licensing, and government bureaucracy were part of his everyday life, he had to maintain good relations with public officials of all parties, not just Republicans.
Trump is also in the gaming business. Naturally he is going to befriend a powerful Senator from Nevada who is very influential on public policy in the gaming industry. Remember, he had to protect his business.
Regarding the Clinton donations, she was a senator in his home state. She carried a lot of weight in the Senate. He also lives in a Blue state—which requires him to have good relations with his public officials that are Democrats (especially the very influential ones).
When it comes to Nancy Pelosi, she was the Speaker of the House. Trump had, in 2006, a newly opened Los Angeles golf course. While not directly in her district, Pelosi is still in the state of California. As Speaker, she has enormous sway over federal law. It made sense, to protect his golf course, for him to befriend the most powerful lawmaker in the state. In addition to California, he also holds major properties in New Jersey and New York—all states that generally elect lawmakers who are Democrats. As a businessman, Trump did what was best for his business and protected his assets.
Looking at his donations from 1989 to the present, Trump’s donations to Republican candidates outnumbered his donations to Democrats. So overall, his campaign contributions to Republicans are still greater than those made to Democrats—Republicans: $961,140; Democrats $584,850. Trump has donated significantly more to Republicans than Democrats.
If he had been a plant for the Democrats, they were probably unaware of, or overlooked, the disparity.
In 2004, his show, The Apprentice, finally aired on NBC—which is a left-leaning news organization. Before claiming the Democrat plant conspiracy, at least consider the possibility that he joined the Democrat Party to get NBC to air his show. I have no proof that this is true, but the idea is worthy of consideration—especially in light of the “plant” conspiracy that floated around.
Proof Trump was Serious
When Trump announced his candidacy, many claimed he wasn’t serious; that he was just putting on a show. As previously stated, however, political office is something he has been considering for years—during which time his ideas were percolating. Go back to his 1988 interview on the Oprah Winfrey show. In it, he talked about making our allies pay their fair share. He criticized Japan for not allowing U.S. companies to sell products into their markets, while we allow them to sell into our market. He ranted about our trade deficits. He claimed the Kuwaitis were living like kings. Most importantly, he said if things continued the downward trajectory, he wouldn’t rule out a run.
The Trump heard on Oprah’s nearly 20-year-old interview, sounds a lot like the one we heard in the primary election: bad trade policy, our debt, and the horrible shape of our country. You can easily replace his Japan rhetoric of the 1980s, with that of Mexico, or China today. In fact on page189, Trump says this about Japan: “What’s unfortunate is that for decades now they have become wealthier in large measure by screwing the United States with a self-serving trade policy that our political leaders have never been able to fully understand or counteract.”
When you look at his past political actions and campaign strategies, they reflect his Art of the Deal views.
But if you want more proof that he was serious from the beginning, and will do what he says once in the Oval Office, look at page 60 in chapter 2. This chapter is called Trump Cards: The Elements of the Deal. In it, one of the listed elements is: “Deliver the Goods.” Part of the Trump Brand isn’t just promotion, marketing, and bravado, it’s being able to back up its publicity with results.
If being able to talk a big game were all that was required to build a real estate empire, there would be tons of Donald Trumps out there. But he is unique. Building the Trump brand requires more than talk; it requires action and results. This is why he isn’t all talk when he is on the campaign trail, and what seems to be more important to him than money is his brand. That is a brand that communicates quality, excellence, and results.
If Trump were to go back on his word, break his promise to the people, and not deliver the “goods,” he wouldn’t be considered just another politician, like so many candidates. Other politicians don’t have a brand, Trump does. If he were to act like many politicians—all talk and no action—he would destroy his brand. Any successful entrepreneur/business owner will tell you, your brand means everything. The old saying is: “my word is my bond,” but to Trump, his brand is his bond.
This is what makes Trump unique, this is why he isn’t a politician, and this is why if elected, he would deliver the results, because that is the Trump Brand.
If you want more proof that Trump is serious, Mexico and China have both responded to Trump’s accusations that the countries are ripping America off. If they thought Trump was just putting on a show, the respective leaders wouldn’t have tried to make their case directly to the American people. Remember, they have their own country and people to please.
Part 4 - What Type of President Will Trump Be?
When it comes to what to expect from him, some things are obvious, while others no one knows—not even Trump himself. Consider what he said on page 1: “I play it very loose. I don’t carry a briefcase. I try not to schedule too many meetings. I leave my door open. You can’t be imaginative or entrepreneurial if you have too much structure. I prefer to come to work each day and just see what develops.”
He might not have everything planned until the last minute, but there are some things that we do know.
We can know he is going to restructure trade deals—or do away with them altogether. With Trump in the Oval Office, NAFTA, Japan, Korea, the transpacific partnership trade agreements will be, at least, revised. International trade has been a main topic of his conversation since the 1980s.
Likewise, we can expect relationships with OPEC countries to be restructured.
On page 321, Trump asserts: “Objective qualifying standards ought to be adopted for any bidder on a city job. Provable past performance, for example, should be required across the board. In addition, any contractor who does good work for the city—coming in on time and on budget—ought to be given priority on future city jobs.” For the rest of that chapter, Trump attacks the ills of government contracting. Therefore, expect a revamped government contracting process from a President Trump.
Referencing his dealings with a project on the West Side, page 346, Trump says: “Providing jobs, in my view, is a far more constructive solution to unemployment then creating welfare programs.” From this quote, and other recent comments about the country’s terrible infrastructure, it is safe to assume that he will try to re-build the nation’s infrastructure. It will be a means of creating jobs and attracting future businesses to invest in the U.S.
In the Art of the Deal, he also talks about providing incentives to invest, such as tax-free zones. Such proposals, and other types of tax cut plans—maybe even a new tax code, should be expected when Trump becomes president.
What many people originally failed to see is that Trump has either always wanted to be, or thought at one point in his lifetime that he would have to try and become, president. What this history makes clear, is that he has been negotiating this presidential run since the 1980s.
Just days before the convention, the latest Rasmussen poll gives Trump his biggest lead yet over Hillary Clinton: 44-37. Yet, the general consensus among the political, multinational, and intellectual elite is that she is going to be our next president. As a resident of Washington DC, I am confident this poll hasn’t changed their minds. They’ll claim that Trump is a racist, he doesn’t have a plan, or he isn’t specific about his plans, and that he won’t release his tax returns because he must be hiding something. Even some Republicans don’t like him and fear he is a loose cannon. The list goes on and on.
Instead of focusing on what he is or isn’t during his presidential run, the elites need to examine who he is. The media elite understand that Trump isn’t a politician, that he isn’t politically correct. But he is a businessman, an entrepreneur, who built a global organization that does business all over the world. Trump isn’t just his name; it is his brand. Beginning in 1974, when he became president of the Trump Organization, he has built his brand through years of work, dedication, and excellence. Since then he has achieved unimaginable success.
In 1976, he partnered with the Hyatt Corporation to build the Grand Hyatt hotel. In 1986, he took over a failed public project and rebuilt New York City’s Wollman Rink. He built Trump Tower, created the celebrity Apprentice show, and Trump International Chicago. These, and other successes, are the definition of the Trump brand—not a rally speech or a cable TV debate. It is something Trump has that differs from all other politicians.
Trump cemented his brand in the mind of the American people long before this election. Through his business practices, they understand what they will receive when they buy a Trump product: integrity, excellence, and satisfaction. When voters support Trump, it is not about his speeches, or his rhetoric; not his politically incorrect mantra, or his outsider status. What they are truly voting for is the Trump brand, and for that brand to equally reflect American prosperity, foreign affairs, and the future of this country. The American voter is hoping that, in 2017, the Trump brand becomes America’s brand.
In football, all coaches have a playbook that dictates strategy, game plan, and execution. Bill Walsh’s signature playbook was called the West Coast Offense, the 85 Bears signature playbook was called the 46 Defense, in the late 90s-early 2000s the Tampa Bay Buccaneers called theirs Tampa 2. Trump’s run for the presidency isn’t any different. For Trump, his playbook is called the Art of the Deal. This book outlines how he is strategizing, planning, and executing his run for the presidency.
Understanding Trump’s playbook explains why he doesn’t need to release his tax returns, he doesn’t need all Republicans to like him, and why his voters don’t care that he is a loose cannon. It’s why he doesn’t need to be detailed and why attacks from the press claiming that he is racist haven’t derailed or hurt him like they would other candidates.
Donald Trump’s run to the White House could be described as, first they ignore Trump, then they laugh at Trump, then they fear Trump, then they get Trumped.
John Manfreda majored in Pre-Law at Frosburg State Universtiy and received his MBA at Trinity University. He has co-authored The Petro Profit report and dividend stock report, and is a former Bullion Broker. He has been featured in Forbes, the Edmund Burke Institute, The Money Show, the Examiner, and the Smart Money investor. This piece was originally written during the early primary season and predicted Trump’s win. It has been updated and revised to reflect the current political environment.
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