Born in Queens, New York, on June 14, 1946, Donald Trump has lived a grandiose life: nearly every aspect of the businessman turned reality television star turned political pundit turned presidential candidate is big: In 1968, Trump graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelors degree in economics. Three years later, he went to work for his father’s large and successful real estate company. Trump left his father’s business as a young man and struck out on his own. After initial successes, Trump fell on hard times, declaring business bankruptcy during the real estate downturn in 1991 and taking on considerable personal debt.
Trump built back his empire including casino hotels, condo developments around the world and the development of country clubs. He parlayed his business reputation into a valuable public persona as the brash, straight-talking boss on the television show The Apprentice. Trump also has authored a string of bestselling selft-help and autobiographical books, most notably, “The Art of the Deal” and also enjoyed a reputation for marrying, and divorcing exceptionally beautiful women.
After announcing his suspicion of President Obama’s citizenship, the “birther” movement embraced Trump. Over the following years, appearances at conservative gatherings such as CPAC built Trump’s reputation as a vocal conservative, and were instrumental in building the momentum towards his presidential announcement.
Donald Trump announcing his candidacy, June 16
While Trump’s now-infamous announcement speech encompassed a range of issues, foreign and domestic, the focus of much public reaction to his candidacy has been Trump’s remarks about immigrants from Mexico and the status of border security. After claiming that undocumented immigrants from Mexico bring with them an un-addressed crime problem (“They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people”), Trump insisted that he would build a border wall capable of stemming the tide of immigration from Mexico. In an interview with CNN, he stood by his remarks.
Trump brings a similarly aggressive view of foreign policy to the table, especially in response to the Obama administration’s handling of the Middle East. He has said that he would “bomb the hell” out of ISIS, and repeated in his announcement speech that no candidate would be tougher on ISIS than he would be. When pressed for the details of his plan in an interview with Greta Van Susteren, he would not give any details, though he had previously supported sending in ground forces. Trump also supports ending the current nuclear negotiations with Iran, and instead imposing harsher sanctions.
The backbone of Trump’s campaign pitch, present both in his presentation of himself as a candidate and in the formulation of his proposed policies, is his background and experience as a successful businessman. “Donald J. Trump is the very definition of the American success story, continually setting the standards of excellence while expanding his interests in real estate, sports and entertainment,” his website announces.
– Name recognition. Conservatives know who Donald Trump is. Everyone knows who Donald Trump is. Between Celebrity Apprentice and his transformation into a political commentator on television and at conservative gatherings, Trump has built a name for himself in the public sphere. This has probably helped his early polling, although there’s nothing to say Trump can’t parlay his popularity into political success, moving forward.
– Money. Trump can afford to self-finance many of his campaign expenses, which is a substantial advantage for a candidate seemingly fighting against the mainstream expectations of an electorate: he’s not a traditional candidate, but Trump can afford to be unusual.
– Gaffes. Political commentators are used to branding certain candidates unelectable due to a perceived lack of decorum, or self-control. It happened to Sarah Palin, and it continues to happen to Joe Biden. Trump, however, seems to embody the pinnacle of this criticism: his careless rhetoric has gotten him in trouble from the very beginning of his campaign.
– Experience. Yes, Trump’s experience in the business world is formidable, and yes, this may translate in voters’ eyes to an acceptance of Trump as a strong leader. However, without any history in elected office, except in his role lobbying for business interests or speaking privately with politicians, Trump will have a lot to learn in order to contend in the Republican primary. For now, he must develop his political awareness in order to survive the electoral process.