Donald Trump will lose his zest for campaigning as it gets harder and drop out before Iowa, and Republicans eventually will nominate a presidential candidate who has previously held elective office, a senior strategist for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign said Monday.
Speaking at the Clinton School of Public Service, Stuart Stevens said that running for president is “the least enjoyable experience that adults voluntarily enter into.” In August, he wrote in The Daily Beast that Trump wouldn’t even run in order to avoid being tagged a loser, and he still believes that will happen once running for president stops being fun.
“The idea that Donald Trump would win, everything we know about politics has to be wrong, and I don’t think it is,” he said.
Stevens said the race largely will be decided in the first four states of Iowa (where he said Ben Carson or Sen. Ted Cruz will win), New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, which he called “functional playoffs.” He said voters won’t really start paying attention until early January for the Feb. 3 Iowa caucus. He said Iowa and New Hampshire are decided by a small number of voters and that it’s important for voters to know the candidates. That’s why, after Romney lost New Hampshire to Sen. John McCain in 2008, he did 100 town halls in New Hampshire between his announcement and the primary in early 2012.
Stevens, who earlier worked for President George W. Bush’s two presidential campaigns, said that Jeb Bush still could be elected president despite being forced to lay off campaign staff because of sagging fundraising numbers.
“No one can get nominated for president without being humiliated,” he said.
As for the Democrats, Stevens marveled that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders continues to poll well at the same time declaring himself an anti-capitalist.
“I think it is a big moment in politics. I doubt he’ll be the nominee, but I think it’s really important,” he said.
Stevens was at the Clinton School to talk about his book, “The Last Season.” Following Romney’s 2012 campaign, Stevens spent the next football season attending Ole Miss home and away games with his 95-year-old father and then wrote a book about the experience. When he was a child, they had often gone together to Ole Miss games in Jackson.
Stevens said that college football has a special relationship with the South. He described living in New York with other Southern expats who, prior to cable TV, commiserated each Saturday at the poor quality of college football available in that part of the country.
He said college football has helped mend racial fissures in Mississippi, which he said is the most Southern state, and Ole Miss, which he called the most Southern university. He recalled the Ole Miss students who left college to volunteer for the Confederacy and died in Pickett’s Charge. He also recalled the 1962 national championship season when, at halftime of the Kentucky game, Gov. Ross Barnett told the crowd that he loved Mississippi and its customs the day before James Meredith would integrate the university amidst mob violence with help from federal troops. On Monday, Ole Miss voted to remove the state flag from its campus because of its Confederate symbolism.
Now, in the very Grove where students once were mustered for the Civil War, players of both races are celebrated and then walk past a Confederate war memorial into the stadium.
“In many ways, college football in the South played a similar role as rugby in South Africa,” he said. “It was the first time that blacks and whites cheered for each other and really meant it, and I think once you do that, it’s very difficult to go back.”