JOHN HEILEMANN: ... Some people think Trump was just in the race to pump up his TV ratings. So now that he's off the network, Al, is it more or less likely that the Donald will stay in the race, at least until Iowa?
AL HUNT: Well, I've never seen the light and really fully appreciated the virtue of the Donald's candidacy, John, and I think it's an exercise in self-promotion. But what I don't know is, does this make it more likely he'll drop out 'cause he doesn't have this show to promote, or does the Donald figure, "Hey, if I stay in, I'll get a couple more gigs just as good"?
HEILEMANN: It's an interesting question. I think the conventional wisdom is, he's got no TV career going, he's more likely to stay in 'cause what else is he going to do. I wonder, though, at this point, if there's no financial return on the backside, if there's no ratings to ramp up, those are the ways -- the previous theories had always been, well, he's jut pumping his TV ratings, that would lead to more money is his coffers. Now, if he runs, and he's got no TV career, it's all just net outflow. He's just writing check after heck after check, and I don't know how Trump will feel about that if it gets to be September, October, November, and he's not moving in the polls and he's writing all those -- seeing all those dollars flow out of his bank account.
Do you really think the issue here is strictly money? Until he announced his candidacy, I was skeptical about Trump's interest in actually running for president, but he obviously has had a huge interest in making people think he could be a great president. Ever see his Twitter feed? He retweets every message of praise he gets. There's a psychological craving for adulation there -- the Koch brothers don't do that. Yes, Trump may be in it mostly for the grift, but I think he believes his own lavish praise of himself. I don't think it's just an act. I can't imagine being like that, but then again I can't imagine being Bobby Jindal or Chris Christie or George Pataki and thinking, "I have a real shot at the presidency." There's something going on with these guys, something delusional and psychologically unhealthy, something that's not about cash. (Christie and Jindal will have all the corporate and media opportunities they want once they leave office.)
Trump is an emotionally needy candidate, but he's also like the somewhat richer guys in he donor class who feel vital when they think they're controlling the presidential race -- even when they're throwing their money away on a loser. Did Sheldon Adelson invest wisely when he gave all that money four years ago to Newt Gingrich? How about Foster Friess and Rick Santorum? For them, owning a presidential candidate was an ego trip. Trump is just trying to be both the sugar daddy and the rich man's toy.
And besides, the most recent polls suggest that all this drunk-at-the-end-of-the-bar ranting is actually working for Trump. In the next round of polls, he'll probably be in first place. So he's not going anywhere anytime soon.