Donald Trump: An Announcement Like No Other
Style: Vintage Trump: brash, confident, aggressive, rancorous, gleeful. The setting in the glittering lobby of the Trump Tower skyscraper that holds his office and his home, surrounded by adoring fans, security guards, and a throng of reporters, was not something the Founders ever envisioned, but perfectly reflected Trump's life and lifestyle. From the kitschy pre-show Cats serenade, to the endless escalator entrance, to the rambling, conversational, near-stream-of-consciousness speech, the event captured the quirks, drama, and appeal of The Donald in all his flash and glory.
Deviated from his text to the max, veering off on tangled tangents about America’s place in the world (dangerous enemies, economic competitors) and about more prosaic happenings (those scary prison escapees). Employed some provocative rhetoric (about U.S.-Mexico relations, for instance). Targeted President Barack Obama and Jeb Bush with his usual mocking tone. While many of the other 2016 candidates on both sides of the aisle are downplaying or apologizing for their affluence, or bragging about financial struggles and student loans, his boastful calculations about his own immense wealth were stupefying and refreshing. After years of will-he-won’t-he, seemed to relish the major moment and perhaps went on too long for the crowd, draining some of the energy from the room–though for many of his core supporters, he can do no wrong.
Substance: Made a concerted and admirable effort to laundry-list his presidential plans before the speech was finished, calling for the replacement of Obamacare, cautioning foreign adversaries about messing with the U.S., expressing opposition to the current trade bill, promising to build a southern border wall and sticking Mexico with the bill, terminating Obama’s executive order on immigration, supporting the Second Amendment, ending Common Core, rebuilding infrastructure, resisting cuts in entitlement programs. Still, left open too many questions about the hows and wherefores, given that he has never run for nor held office.
Best moment: Protracted run-up to formal declaration of candidacy was spirited and engaging.
Worst moment: Lost his rhythm a bit whenever cheerful supporters in the crowd tossed out helpful prompts or encouraging chants.
Overall: A madcap production–garrulous, grandiose, and intense—that displayed his abundant strengths and acute weaknesses. For the first time in decades, Trump is a true underdog, but his ability to shape the contours of the nomination fight should not be ignored. On the debate stage, through TV advertising (positive and negative), in earned media, and by drawing crowds, Trump has the potential to be a big 2016 player. He staged an announcement event like no other, and now he will deliver a candidacy the likes of which the country has never seen.
Note: The overall grade is not an average of the style and substance grades, but takes into account other aspects of the announcement, such as staging and crowd reaction. In addition, a candidate’s overall grade reflects the degree to which the candidate’s standing in the race is improved by the event and performance.