With polls showing major traction for real estate mogul Donald Trump even as he ventures ever-deeper into conspiracy theories about President Obama, a strategy focusing on Florida is emerging as his potential path to victory in the Republican presidential primary – if he indeed runs.
The strategy is to do well enough in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, lose badly in South Carolina, where there are “too many Evangelicals,” and secure a momentum-building win in Florida, said Roger Stone, a longtime political confidant of Trump who is not involved in the Apprentice star’s current exploratory efforts.
“Florida landing right after South Carolina could give Trump a win in a ‘must win’ state for Republicans. Trump has an opulent winter home in Palm Beach and is popular in South Florida. Many Florida Republicans are retired New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania and Ohio Republicans — Trump is their cup of tea!” Stone said.
Still, even with Trump nipping at former Massachussets Gov. Mitt Romney’s heels in New Hampshire, he faces huge obstacles. And his traction may be more about dissatisfaction with the other candidates than it is support for Trump, experts say.
“This isn’t a pro-Trump vote as much as a convenient anti-everybody-else protest. Some surveys have shown Trump with disproportionate backing among Tea Party Republicans, too. He’s the kind of ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore’ candidate that might appeal to Tea Partiers—at least at first,” said Dr. Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
Among the class of Republican operatives who work professionally on campaigns, insiders say there’s concern about whether Trump is willing to put enough of his own cash in the race to have a real shot. The criticism is based on long-running speculation about how much of Trump’s wealth is tied up in real estate and other assets.
However, Trump recently purchased a Boeing 757 plane for $100 million, one indication he has substantial cash on hand.
The other main issue for Trump to overcome is whether he’s really running.
Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, expressed some openness for Trump but said he needs to bolster his credibility on cutting government spending.
But Norquist said Trump also has a higher threshold for surpassing speculation his flirting with a presidential run is for publicity purposes, given Trump’s remarkable talent for self-promotion.
“He needs to convince that he’s not doing this for publicity,” Norquist said.
Trump said in a recent interview he is giving the run “very serious thought” and will decide before June.
As part of a base-building strategy and to help differentiate himself from the rest of the campaign, he has made questioning President Obama’s birthplace a signature issue of his campaign.
At first, Trump merely demanded Obama produce his “long form” original birth certificate, not the “short form” certification of live birth Obama has released.
But since then, he’s ventured deeper and deeper into arguments that are seemingly unhinged from facts.
For instance, on the O’Reilly Factor, Trump said Obama’s long form birth certificate could say he’s a Muslim. Besides that Obama has long claimed Christianity as his faith, Hawaii birth certificates did not contain information about religion in the early 1960s.
Trump also wildly claimed Obama’s first autobiography was written by domestic terrorist William Ayers.
Stone said to focus on Florida, Trump would campaign in a unique way.
“If Trump runs in the Florida Primary he could revive a version of the front porch campaign style of William McKinley. Thousands would travel to McKinley’s home and he would come out on the front porch and speak. Trump could invite 1000 influential Republicans to the Ball room at Mar-A-Lago every Friday for two months next Fall and early winter and address and meet every important Florida activist,” Stone said.