Monocolumn

A daily bulletin of news & opinion

17 July 2015

I’m not usually one to employ the dictionary definition of a word to start a work of journalism but in this instance it only seemed right.

Trump. According to the Oxford Dictionary the word makes reference to one thing: “A playing card of the suit chosen to rank above the others, which can win a trick where a card of a different suit has been led.” As in, he “won the card game with a trump card”. And in the nascent race for US president there’s one player whose card is all in a name.

Donald Trump, who’s looking to become America’s next president, has his deck stacked. In spite of the other players in the crowded conservative field, he seems to be choosing a different suit for his play. He’s leading in a recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll of Republican voters and holding nothing close to his chest – up six percentage points in a similar poll from June.

Trump is the wealthiest candidate to ever run for this nation’s highest office. In recent disclosures the 69-year-old real estate and reality TV magnate claimed a net worth of $10bn (€9.2bn). Thus far the boldest part of his political platform is his take on US border security with Mexico, regarding which he has publicly stated that some of the Mexicans who illegally come into the US bring murder, rape and drugs. When asked to clarify his statements, he brazenly told the press he means what he said.

This candor has brought Trump a lot of flack but it has also emboldened a set of voters who side passionately with the tough-talking New Yorker. It’s a portion of the electorate that was arguably quite similar to the set that wouldn’t support another wealthy Republican who ran for US president in the last race.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was rich too. But his campaign was marred with snags stemming from how he was seen as too rich to be relatable. His reported net worth was $250m (€230m). Trump, who frequently publicly states, “I’m rich”, is orders of magnitude wealthier than Romney. So why does Trump translate so well and will it last?

Trump’s willingness to defy perceptions about what will lead to a conservative win is his trump card. In this case, his terse and racist words seem to be resonating with people in spite of his wealth. Maybe governor Romney should have taken off the gloves when it came to Mexico.

One thing’s for sure, Trump is the guy laughing all the way to the bank and the border. When his massive, red, white, black and gold private Boeing 757 lifts off from New York’s LaGuardia airport it’s clear who’s winning this round of poker. At least for now.

Tristan McAllister is Monocle’s transport editor.

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