Donald Trump spooks media and money

NEW YORK // Just a couple of weeks ago, one of New York’s best known media commentators told a private gathering of journalists: “I’m afraid. I’m very afraid.”

He was spooked by the then-distinct possibility of a Donald Trump presidency. The self-styled billionaire tycoon had just clinched the Republican nomination with apparent ease, while his most serious rival, Hillary Clinton, was still locked in a damaging struggle with Bernie Sanders. He was ahead of Ms Clinton in some of the opinion polls.

Over the past two weeks, there has been much to quell the media man’s fears. Ms Clinton eventually crept over the line in the Democratic race, got the (lukewarm) support of Mr Sanders, and was able to present herself as leader of a united Democrat presidential campaign.

Then the mass murder in Orlando seemed to bring out Trump’s worst again. The polls show him slipping ast as his idiosyncratic mix of prejudice, racism and triumphalism came to the fore, when compassion and sympathy were the required reactions.

The Republican old guard was said to be getting very cold feet, and not just at the prospect of more Trump volatility. They were, according to a series of articles in the Democratic-leaning east coat press, also worried about money.

A presidential campaign costs a lot of money. Some estimates reckon Barack Obama spent as much as US$1 billion in 2012 to defeat Mitt Romney, who spent $750 million.

Most of that cash comes from wealthy backers who want to see their man in the White House. But while an outlay of $1bn to win supreme power seems like money well invested, $750m to lose is a sheer waste.

The suggestion was that, now faced with the certainty of a Trump candidacy, many of the Republican elite were beginning to worry that he actually stood very little chance of winning.

Their concerns were heightened by a well-aimed media campaign highlighting the flaws in Mr Trump’s proudest boast: that he is a self-made billionaire who knows how to handle money and will help enrich ordinary Americans, as he did for himself.

Acres of newsprint have been expended in the past few weeks to show this claim is not all it’s made out to be.

The New York Times ran an investigation of Mr Trump’s record in the New Jersey leisure industry. According to the newspaper, the candidate “did not disagree” with its finding that he had lost hundreds of millions of dollars in Atlantic City, bankrupting local businesses while not paying his dues.

So, if he cannot win, and could not anyway be trusted with the world’s biggest economy, what would persuade Republican-leaning Wall Street grandees to support him to the tune of hundreds of millions?

The New Yorker magazine gave a vision of the outcome some of the Republican money men would prefer.

It quoted by name a senior Republican power broker saying: “My best hope is that he turns up at the convention and says: I’ve decided after all that my business needs me more. Thanks for the offer, but please choose somebody else.”

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Frank Kane

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