Sign up FAST! Login

What ‘The Apprentice’ Taught Donald Trump About Campaigning

Reality TV, like Mr. Trump’s campaign, is a product of a fractious time of niche audiences. When there are hundreds of entertainment outlets, “least objectionable” is death: You need to stand out.

And he does. Like reality TV itself, Mr. Trump is a love-or-hate proposition. In a general election, true, you need much more than 23 percent of the vote (which is Mr. Trump’s number in a recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll of the Republican field). But in today’s television, a 23 share is a landslide — and in a crowded primary in an ideologically fragmented party, it is large enough for first place.

Understanding these dynamics has let Mr. Trump reverse the polarity of primary campaigning. Where traditional candidates have gaffes, he has publicity opportunities. Even his ugliest remarks — saying, after a rough debate on Fox News, that the moderator Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her wherever” — seemed, among his followers, to burnish his reputation as a straight shooter. It’s “The Real World” approach to politics: Let me show you, America, what happens when candidates stop being polite and start getting real!

It’s paradoxical that Mr. Trump should be the one to bring primary politics further into the niche-media era. After all, he was a boldface name when Ronald Reagan was president, and there was a time, in the 1990s and the early 2000s, when he seemed like a holdover from the Gordon Gekko ’80s, a nostalgia piece, a Rubik’s Cube, a shoulder pad.

“The Apprentice” revived him as a celebrity, which, business success aside, is the entire point of Donald Trump. The key to Mr. Trump’s appeal as host of the show was the key to his appeal before and since: his attention to surface appearances.

Stashed in: Trump!

To save this post, select a stash from drop-down menu or type in a new one:

Fascinating that he benefits from there being so many candidates. 

Were he just running against one candidate he'd be in second place. 

Running against 15 people, he's by far in first place.

Just like in The Apprentice. 

You May Also Like: