Trump Throws a Monkey-Wrench Into GOP Primary Hopes
Policy + Politics

Trump Throws a Monkey-Wrench Into GOP Primary Hopes

Billionaire real estate mogul and celebrity TV host Donald Trump spent much of last week engaged in a high-profile battle with Spanish-language television network Univision and accusing the Mexican government of interfering in his business deals. Because really, nothing says “elect me to run the government and keep watch over the nuclear launch codes” like airing your business disputes on Twitter and attacking the leadership of a neighboring country.

It’s a prime example of why, since the moment Trump announced that he was planning to run for the Republican presidential nomination, the GOP has been getting increasingly nervous. It’s not because anybody expects him to win, but because if a combination of money and name recognition can earn him enough support in public opinion polls to muscle his way into the presidential debates, he could throw enough verbal bombs to screw things up for all the other candidates.

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During the 2012 Republican primary, which was often compared to a “clown car” as candidates blundered during debates, was a disaster for the GOP. It was expensive, and left Mitt Romney, the eventual nominee, much further to the right than he wanted to be, as well as substantially damaged by his opponents’ concerted attacks.

Avoiding needless acrimony in the primary is a major goal for the Republican National Committee this time around, but Trump’s current status may subvert that plan and make history repeat itself in the 2016 cycle.

Trump actually came in second in a Fox News poll last week, trailing only former Florida governor Jeb Bush. He also placed second to Bush in a Suffolk University poll of voters in the key primary state of New Hampshire. At the moment, Trump is safely ensconced among the GOP’s top 10 candidates, which clears the bar for competing in the first debate to be held in Cleveland in August.

The Univision blow-up this week will probably be good for Trump, in that it grabbed attention and will focus many primary voters concerned about illegal immigration on Trump’s strong anti-immigration stance. But what’s good for Trump is decidedly not good for a GOP working hard to repair its image with Hispanics. And, it demonstrates exactly why the party is concerned about a Trump candidacy.

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Trump, who in his presidential kickoff speech suggested that the majority of Mexicans who try to enter the United States illegally are rapists or drug dealers, got some unsurprising pushback from the good people south of the border, who took his remarks personally.

Donald Trump pinata

One fellow, with an evident taste for irony, decided to go all capitalist on The Donald. He designed a piñata highlighting the Republican presidential hopeful’s oddly-coiffed head, which Mexican children can pummel with bats at parties. Apparently, he can’t keep them in stock and has turned a tidy profit.

But Trump’s most notable adversary in the past week has been Univision, which announced Thursday that it would no longer carry the Miss Universe Pageant on its network. The network had agreed to a five-year contract to show pageant, which is partly owned by Trump.

The parties might have settled their differences quietly, and in court. But this is Donald Trump we’re talking about here. He told Politico’s Dylan Byers that the company had folded due to pressure placed on it by the Mexican government.

Via Twitter, Trump suggested that Univision might actually be controlled by the Mexican government.

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(Univision, based in New York, is actually a U.S. company that got its start in San Antonio.)

Then things began to get personal. Byers on Friday reported that a letter sent from Trump to Univision CEO Randy Falco, banned the network’s employees from using the Trump National Doral Miami, a golf resort near the network’s Miami offices.

Part of the letter quoted by Byers read, “Please be advised that under no circumstances is any officer or representative of Univision allowed to use Trump National Doral, Miami—its golf courses or any of its facilities. Also, please immediately stop work and close the gate, which is being constructed between our respective properties. If this is not done within one week, we will close it.”

Univision responded by issuing an order to all its employees directing them not to stay at Trump properties when they travel or to host events at facilities owned by Trump.

By Friday, Trump’s Twitter feed, which is typically filled with his retweets of people making fawning remarks about him, was practically dedicated to the Univision spat, including this call for a boycott of the network.

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Univision, to be sure, was not totally blameless. The company’s president, Alberto Ciurana used social media to post a picture comparing Trump to Dylann Roof, the white racist who murdered nine innocent African Americans at a church in South Carolina last week.

Ciurana later issued an apology, but Trump was not feeling magnanimous.

“Apology not accepted,” Trump said in a statement Friday. “I call for his resignation as president of Univision. He added, “Univision should not be allowed to host the Presidential debate. It is a total conflict of interest.”

Trump’s shtick may pay well in the primaries, but it doesn’t paint the picture of a candidate ready to engage in delicate international negotiations let alone domestic politics.

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