Here’s a different way of viewing Donald Trump’s appeal. Think back to Mitt Romney’s emergence as a candidate of some appeal. What was the case for Mitt? It resided mainly in his success in business and in a high profile business-like venture — saving the Winter Olympics in 2002.
The case for Trump is, in many ways, different. Trump is the anti-politician; Romney had served as governor. Trump seems mad as hell; Romney was calm.
Even so, I believe that what appeals most about Trump to many voters is that he’s a man who can get things done in more than one realm and who, by virtue of this ability, has become enormously successful. Mitt Romney also fit this description, albeit on a smaller scale.
Romney got quite far in presidential politics; Trump is unlikely to do as well. But what was Mitt’s main problem? In my opinion, it was his inability to connect on a personal level with voters and to move them emotionally.
Donald Trump does not have this problem. He connects, and in a visceral way (for better or for worse).
Trump connects in part because he’s unscripted and thus appears genuine. Romney always seemed to be trying out one poll-tested message or another. This made him seem wooden and, to some, phony.
What was Romney’s second biggest problem? I believe it was his inability to answer attacks about his business record — layoffs at company’s he invested in and so forth.
On the evidence of the first debate, in which a moderator asked the candidate about the bankruptcy of several of his companies, Trump seems better equipped to deal with these sorts of attacks (though they are still worrisome). He hits back. And as an unabashed braggart, he makes the case for his business success much more effectively than Mitt ever did.
To be sure, Trump has liabilities that Romney was free of. I don’t think I need to rehearse them here.
My point is that Trump shouldn’t be viewed as merely a vehicle through which disaffected Republicans vent their frustration, though he certainly is that. He’s a candidate whose core credential — huge success in business to the point that people trust him to get difficult things done — is the same as the core credential of the GOP’s most recent nominee for president. And he’s a candidate who doesn’t labor under the most recent nominee’s biggest deficiency.