With a few polls starting to show Donald Trump at or near the top of the Republican presidential field, we're starting to see more pundits evaluate him seriously as a candidate. This is a mistake.
Early polls in a presidential election are mainly a reflection of name recognition, a fact that plays right into the hands of a celebrity and master self-publicist such as Trump. Were he actually decide to run, Trump would sink in the polls once his past views were held up to scrutiny and conservative voters were reminded of his tabloid personal life. As Slate's Dave Weigel unearthed, back when he flirted with a presidential run in 2000, he called far a confiscatory tax hike and advocated Candadian-style socialized medicine. This, along with his anti-free trade economic views, led the Club for Growth to blast him this morning as a liberal.
Other analysts have tried to compare his potential to Ross Perot in 1992, perhaps if he ends up running as an independent. Yet there are key differences between the two men. Whereas Perot was a self-made billionaire, Trump inherited a fortune from his father and declared bankruptcy several times. While Perot was a folksy Texan who could pull off a certain everyman appeal despite his enormous wealth, Trump is an arrogrant, in your face, born and bred New Yorker. Being from New York myself, that sort of think doesn't startle me. But having covered the Rudy Giuliani campaign (who, incidently lead polls for much of 2007), I can say that it's hard to overestimate what a handicap being a New Yorker can be for a presidential candidate in other parts of the country. I can't tell you how many voters I spoke to in Iowa who were reflexively distrustful of Giuliani because of his New York background.
I can't predict precisely how long this Trump for president fad will last, but it's destined to fizzle.
The only thing, if any, that we can glean from the Trump boomlet is how unimpressed most Republican voters are with the rest of the GOP presidential field. But we kind or knew that already.