From the start, skeptics have speculated Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency is the political equivalent of riding a barrel over Niagara Falls — a risky, publicity stunt. Their theory: Trump never really expected to become a nominee; he just wanted to draw attention, snare some headlines, and boost his business profile. Maybe score another TV show. Or go on tour with Taylor Swift. Who knows what rich people dream of?
To be sure, Trump has rarely missed a chance to promote his brand with his presidential bid. This week, even amid the final frantic days of the race, he took time to cut the ribbon on his new hotel just blocks from the White House. In a way, that’s kind of how he began. He entered the race by riding an escalator down from his corporate headquarters, to proclaim against a backdrop of American flags, “It’s great to be in Trump Tower!”
When he racked up Super Tuesday wins in the primaries, he celebrated by plugging his private club in Florida, saying “It’s so great to be at Mar-a-Lago!” When he flew to Scotland to open a new resort in the wake of the Brexit vote, he briefly wished the Brits “a lot of luck” then spoke at length about the virtues of his golf course.
Trump has bragged repeatedly on the campaign trail about the value of his name no matter what it is attached to: steaks, bottled water, land, airlines, office buildings, casinos, a magazine, and on and on. Never mind that some examples aren’t exactly rip roaring successes — Trump has steadily used his brand to push his policies, and his policies to push his brand.
This week, the raging question has been: If Trump loses, will his brand suffer? I think it might. For about as long as it takes to iron a hundred-dollar bill. But I suspect once the roar of the election is over, his barrel will pop to the surface, and a grinning Donald Trump will once again be laughing all the way to the bank.
(CNN’s Tom Foreman is the author of “My Year of Running Dangerously”)