by Rod D. Martin
June 16, 2015

The Republican Establishment wants to write him off as “not serious,” “a clown,” anything but a real threat.

But Donald Trump’s candidacy is very real indeed.

Trump is smart, media savvy and a brilliant negotiator. He’s amassed a $9 billion fortune through precisely those skills, and spent much of that time outsmarting wildly successful politicians, starting with Ed Koch. He’s been contemplating this for 16 years, and he can dig more change out of his couch than the rest of the field combined can raise.

It’s that last bit more than anything else that bears watching. Trump can self-fund a primary campaign on a grander scale than any conceivable opponent. Money doesn’t equal victory, but the lack of it usually equals defeat. And Trump is not limited to his own pocketbook. Wealthy businesspeople across the country may suddenly find the need to support their old friend and associate, or at least to ensure that they continuing having the opportunity to do business with him. There are a lot of people who can’t afford to be on his bad side.

Clearly the Republican Establishment hasn’t figured that out. They are doing everything they can to insult and humiliate the man.

That’s a mistake. The same money that can make him a powerhouse in the primaries can make him a spoiler in November. In 1992, Ross Perot took 19% of the vote, nearly all of which came out of George Bush’s hide. Bill Clinton was headed to a big loss. Perot made his victory possible.

Waving a red flag in front of this bull is foolish. Attack his positions, but keep it in bounds. Below the belt could cost more than its worth.

Of course, the principal reason the Beltway guys hate Trump is that he hates them. He’s brash, he’s vocal, and he absolutely can’t be corralled or controlled.

That is exactly why he could gain a lot of traction. It’s not just the populism. It is the visceral disgust across America not only with the very GOP Establishment Trump assaults. People are desperately tired of politicians who can’t be pinned down and who don’t keep their word. But you never have to wonder what Donald Trump thinks, and he’d rather chop off his finger than sugar coat anything.

That could catch fire. For a time it did for Chris Christie. In many quarters it has for Ted Cruz. But no one does it like The Donald.

In any case, yes, for those who’s asking: Donald Trump is no joke. Don’t underestimate him.

UPDATE: Erick Erickson on “Why Donald Trump Matters“.