Sandler: The ‘Bulworth’ candidate has arrived
Seventeen years ago, Warren Beatty starred in a movie in which a U.S. senator running for re-election tries to commit political suicide by doing the worst thing he can think of — telling the truth. Whatever pops into Jay Bulworth’s mind is what Jay Bulworth says. A mediocre movie is made and a catchphrase in politics is coined, “the ‘Bulworth’ candidate.”
The “Bulworth” candidate, an all-id candidate, was an intriguing cliche. In the next seventeen years, many candidates attempted to be Bulworth and provide voters with straight talk, but all crashed and burned as the bluntness was just more packaged political speech in a different parcel. Until now none have really succeeded. Enter Donald Trump.
When Donald Trump announced his candidacy in the GOP primary earlier this year, it was regarded as a stunt. Sources said Trump was just speculating about being a candidate for leverage in various marketing deals including his NBC show, “The Apprentice.” But soon he was an official candidate and channeling id through the microphone.
He started to relate to what a lot of Republicans were thinking but not hearing from candidates. Trump skyrocketed to the top of GOP primary polls and is now besting Democrat challengers in head-to-head matchups. Trump flummoxed consultants and campaigns alike and is leaving everyone wondering if the “Bulworth” candidate can become the “Bulworth” president.
That remains to be seen. Trump has his own wealth, which is more than capable of financing his presidential race. Right now, Trump has all the oxygen in the race. Trump has the instant fascination of the electorate. It is hard to see anything around and beyond Trump at the current stage of the race. But will voters start requiring more than id? They haven’t yet.
What is more amazing is the fights Trump has picked and won. Trump’s race started to gain steam when he took on former presidential candidate Sen. John McCain and gently mocked him for getting captured during his service in the Vietnam War. Next, Trump took on popular Fox host Megyn Kelly and won. On a regular basis, Trump takes on political figures calling them “losers” and “stupid.” Trump’s campaign has transformed “hot or not” into the political version, “winner or loser.” Tom Brady is a winner. Frank Luntz is a loser. Donald Trump’s world of id has very clear lines.
With the GOP primary calendar starting in less than five months, the candidates have little time and an eternity. But first they have to take away Trump’s microphone. A New York real estate mogul has controlled the dialogue up to this point. All of us watching the “Bulworth” sequel are interested to see how this one ends.
Stu Sandler is a Republican consultant, co-founder and partner of Grand River Strategies