It’s going to happen again. There once was a Clinton who was a candidate for President. He was competing against the inheritor of one of the most popular presidencies in modern times. It would be a tough fight. Then, out of nowhere a billionaire entered the contest. He was blunt, opinionated, and rich enough to self-fund, and he quickly built a following of voters who were sick and tired of the political class. The year was 1992, the Republican candidate was George H. W. Bush, the billionaire was Ross Perot, and his independent candidacy wrecked Bush’s chances.
Some later analysis raised doubts over whether Perot really helped Clinton win or not. Based on voter demographics and distribution the issue is unclear. But as a minimum it took the steam out of Bush’s candidacy and diverted vital resources to fend him off. Personally I do believe Bush would have won in 1992 without Perot’s interference.
This time it is a different Clinton and a different billionaire, Donald Trump. Like Perot, Trump is playing out a candidacy like none seen before, and the establishment hates it. He is dominating the news and issuing statements that make his fellow competitors flinch. I predict he will break off and run as a candidate of some minor party. This will ruin the chances of any Republican by bleeding off the Tea Party devotees who are essential for any Republican victory. The establishment would toss him out if they could, but the thought of an insurgent third-party worries them more than Trump turning campaign debates into a clown show.
Think this scenario is unlikely? Trump has already broadly hinted at an independent run if it appears that his chances within the GOP are failing. And the Tea Party has sent an unmistakable message of support in a recent Monmouth University National Poll. These hard liners have been chomping at the bit for someone who talks the way they do at home or at their local bar. No matter his funny hair and boasts of incredible wealth, they see him as one of themselves, and none of the other flood of hopefuls come even close.
The Clinton family seems to be blessed. Hillary had a reasonable shot without Trump running interference, but soon it will be much easier. Watch out for Chelsea in the future.
As an aside, I won’t recapitulate the odd and idiosyncratic Perot campaign of 1992. If you are interested there is a good Wikipedia article here. But there are several intriguing parallels to the Trump candidacy this year. I suspect that one yet to come might be a totally unexpected selection for his running mate. How about a reprise of Sarah Palin? A Trump/Palin ticket would be a marvel to behold and endlessly entertaining to hear.