Depending on your perspective, real estate mogul Donald Trump has either injected a lot of celebrity-sponsored life into the national Republican party or has become a nuisance of epic proportions for people trying to have a reasonable conversation. But whatever your perspective is, one thing is unquestionable: 'The Donald,' as he's called by both his fans and detractors, almost certainly doesn't care what you think. He'll happily chew his critics out at the drop of a hat, and he doesn't care who knows it.
And, to hear him tell it, the GOP should adopt precisely the same approach. Speaking to a gathering of Republican activists who chose to honor "The Donald" with their "Statesman of the Year Award" last night, Trump called for the Republican party to shed any pretense of being the nice people in the room and hammer their opponents as hard as they could.
"I hope they are tough as hell and mean as hell and they fight fire with fire. And if they do–and if they're smart because it's all about being smart–we're going to have a great president of the United States," Trump said at the event.[...]
Trump also posited his belief-perhaps introspectively–that successful people have trouble running for office because of their own success.
"They've been tough. They've been competitive. They work. They built their business," Trump said. "And honestly, they have left people in their wake, and they've made enemies."
Trump, who flirted with a presidential bid last year, argued that successful business people are the kind of candidates needed for political office, but their "enemies" eventually become roadblocks in their campaigns.
"They can't really go out there. They can't put it together because all of those people that they beat consistently over a lifetime...all of those people come back to haunt him," he said.
He continued: "And I see it happening with Mitt. Mitt was a successful man, he did a great job."
Trump's reasoning is simple: the Democrats are already slamming Romney as an inadvertent murderer, and a tax cheat, so why should Republicans keep the gloves on? From Trump's perspective, there's no point.
He may be right, but data is scarce. Despite President Obama's blistering assault on Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's business record, the polls have remained close over the past week. Obama currently leads Romney by an average of 1.2 percentage points nationally, according to RealClearPolitics, and polls show the key swing states Ohio, Virginia and Florida as dead heats. In fact, two polls out today show Obama and Romney in an exact tie both in Ohio and in Michigan.
That doesn't necessarily mean that the Obama campaign's attacks were busts (Obama led Romney by a wider margin before the selection of Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan), but it does suggest that negative advertising offers a relatively fragile advantage, and a high degree of risk that a particular criticism might engender sympathy for the person on the receiving end.
However, Trump's line of thinking may yet turn out to represent the Romney campaign's line of thinking as well. The former Massachusetts Governor has yet to really begin spending his massive war chest against the President in earnest. Once that begins, it's anyone's guess how Romney will press his attack.