Picture your dream presidential candidate.
I’ll bet he speaks freely, and doesn’t rely on polls. That he appeals to people who don’t usually vote, like blue-collar Americans who sometimes feel left out. That he crosses party lines.
I’ll bet your candidate gets attention because people want to read stories about him. He gets free news media exposure without having to deluge you with TV ads. When he does run ads, he puts his money where his mouth is by paying for them himself, instead of hiding behind mysterious super PACs.
In many ways, Donald Trump is your dream candidate.
The only problem? He’s Donald Trump.
There’s so much to like about him, in theory: He’s a populist. He says things other people are afraid to say. He works with a small team of people he trusts — not a vast armada of social-media specialists, wardrobe people, debate coaches, and publicists.
He doesn’t hide from the press. He answers questions clearly.
If only the things he said weren’t so wrong.
Maybe you’ve been annoyed since my opening paragraph because your dream candidate isn’t a “he.” I hear you. Real Clear Politics polling has Hillary Clinton beating Trump by 44.6 percent to 42.6 percent, on average.
That’s closer than anyone would have guessed a year ago.
Some percentage of Trump’s voters like the hateful, dumb things he’s said about Muslims and Mexicans. I suspect, though, that lots of Trump’s voters don’t take him seriously on those points. They know, like everyone over the age of 6 knows, that we can’t punish everyone in a given group for the actions of a few.
These voters tolerate the sillier things Trump says because they like other things about him: that he has no strings, doesn’t cater to any big business except his own, doesn’t play by the old, boring rules.
Now, imagine another dream candidate: someone whose campaign has all of the many good qualities of Trump’s, but none of the bad ones.
There are lots of wonderful things about Donald Trump’s campaign. It’s just that he isn’t one of them.