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THE INSIDE STRAIGHT DOPE

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was a long, twisted and sometimes surreal run, but he started with a vision for how to win the biggest prize, and it played out just as he’d predicted

REVIVAL MEETING: Before entering the race, Trump concluded that adding his celebrity to a campaign that tapped into the anger of disaffected white working-class voters could topple the Democrat’s electoral firewall in the Midwest.
MARK WALLHEISER/GETTY; PREVIOUS SPREAD: IAN MACNICOL/GETTY

IT WAS MONTHS BEFORE DONALD J. TRUMP MADE THAT NOW-LEGENDARY RIDE DOWN THE ESCALATOR OF HIS BELOVED TRUMP TOWER ON FIFTH AVENUE IN MIDTOWN MANHATTAN.

Few outside his inner circle had any inkling the controversial New York real estate developer turned reality TV star was thinking seriously about running for the highest office in the land, let alone what kind of platform he would adopt.

They knew Trump had flirted with campaigning for the White House several times, going all the way back to 1988, when he told two reporters for Newsweek—just days before the filing deadline to run in the New Hampshire primary—“OK, I’ll give you guys a scoop: I’m not going to run.” Then he paused, leaned across his desk and with a smile said, “but if I did, I’d win.”

Confidence, of course, has never been an issue for Trump. Overconfidence, yes—the notion that anything he touches ends up as a “huge win,” never mind the many instances in which the opposite happened: his multiple bankruptcies, debt defaults and fraud allegations. And now, in the spring of 2015, he was talking to a few family members and confidantes about running for president. And he wanted to get in touch with a former Republican senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum, who had served two terms before losing big in 2006. In 2012, he was the runner-up to Mitt Romney in the Republican presidential primaries. Ensconced since then in a Washington, D.C., law firm, Santorum had written a book that attracted little attention: Blue Collar Conservatives, Recommitting to an America That Works. But Trump had read the book, very carefully, in fact, and was intrigued. He called Santorum and asked if he would come to Trump Tower for a visit. Santorum was a bit surprised by the invitation but said yes.

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25th November 2016
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