The thing that is causing Donald Trump's surge in the polls is the same one that will ultimately confound him in his pursuit of the presidency: The fundamental nature of what happens when a private sector mogul collides with presidential pursuits.
Moguls have a few personality traits in common. For one, they have short attention spans. Politicians have to at least pretend to listen to constituents, not to mention engage in "sitzfleish," literally sitting on their rears for long periods of time, either at public meetings or committee hearings. Second, moguls are talkers and order-givers, not listeners.
The life experience of a mogul is very different from professional politicians. Moguls, especially those who run private companies, are absolute rulers. They give orders and people follow them, period. They speak bluntly and often without regard to how multiple audiences will feel about what they've said. The remark Mitt Romney made in 2012 suggesting that 47 percent of the American public were essentially leeching off of the government sunk his campaign, but it was also a classic mogul statement, the kind of thing that would resonate in a boardroom but not in the heartland.
Moguls make tough clients to advise because they tend to be surrounded by sycophants, which doesn't prepare them for situations that may be out of their core competency.
Take criticism, for example. Trump is known for suing people and organizations that get under his skin, especially those who he believes underestimate his wealth. His recently sued Univision for $500 million for pulling the Miss USA pageant. His laundry list of past lawsuits include his ex-wife Ivana, The New York Times, Trump Entertainment Resorts, the country of Scotland and Bill Maher.
You can do this kind of thing when you have subordinates, consultants and attorneys who will be more than willing to do whatever you ask, not to mention praise you for your brilliance on the way to the courthouse.
Moguls instinctively view the rest of humanity as vassals, not constituents. This causes trouble when they have to meet with journalists, politicians or the general public. They wrongly believe that a tough journalist from a news program like 60 Minutes will be awestruck to be in their presence. As more than a few moguls have learned when meeting up with the likes of the late Mike Wallace or Brian Ross, these journalists aren't remotely impressed with them and won't hesitate to attack if given good ammunition.
Criticism, of course, hurts. No sane person enjoys it. But liking criticism isn't the point. Processing and learning from criticism is.
As for Trump, he is an opposition advisor's dream. All an opponent needs to do to make Trump lose his mind is to publicly estimate his net worth as being relatively low insofar as billionaires go. So central to Trump's identity is the idee fix that he is a uber-mega-multi-billionaire that an opponent need to do nothing more than keep poking him about it then let the cameras and his thin skin do the rest.
I have long felt that the unspoken objective of the presidential sweepstakes is to see how well a candidate withstands his or her beating. Trump's shoot-from-the-hip style is appealing to many at the moment, but outspokenness can quickly devolve into tantrum, which will eventually become a problem on the way to the Oval Office.
In the meantime, Trump's appeal will continue to be this: In an age when we all have to watch what we say for fear of being instantaneously declared "haters," Trump will say anything. In the end, it won't make him president but he'll definitely remain America's Ringmaster-in-Chief.