Angry voters had embraced the anti-establishment, anti-elite brand of politics he is offering Americans.
But with a few days of distance, the vote to leave the bloc appears to only illustrate how much trouble the Republican White House hopeful has had in the wake of his unprecedented primary success to look, well, more presidential.
In many ways, the values espoused by the Leave campaign in Britain echo those championed by the billionaire real estate mogul — career politicians are bad, the economy is broken and an openness to immigrants can be dangerous.
But from slightly off-kilter comments to full-fledged gaffes, the 70-year-old Trump has shown a serious lack of preparation for the general election battle with Democrat Hillary Clinton.
That has reinforced the idea that the only person calling the shots on his campaign — which has stuttered to get off the ground and lacks the grassroots organization needed in the run-up to November 8 — is Trump himself, and maybe that isn’t a good thing.
– Trump making it harder for himself? –
Early Friday, as a stunned world woke up to the news that Britain would leave the EU — and the ensuing market crash, Trump organized an eye-popping press conference at his golf course in Turnberry, Scotland.
“You know, when the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry, frankly,” said Trump, sporting his trademark “Make America Great Again” baseball cap.
Clinton quickly seized the moment, releasing a new video slamming Trump for worrying more about his business interests than about how a Brexit would affect the US economy.
“Every president is tested by world events, but Donald Trump thinks about how his golf resort can profit from them,” an off-camera voice says in the message, with images of Trump in Scotland scrolling in the background.
“He tried to turn a global economics challenge into an infomercial,” Clinton said Monday, doubling down at a campaign rally in Ohio.
Once back on US soil, Trump tried to regain the upper hand, firing off blistering attacks against the media and changing tack.
“I called Brexit (Hillary was wrong), watch November,” Trump tweeted.
Nevertheless, what he said before Britain went to the polls was not that crystal clear. On the eve of the vote, he said: “I don’t think anybody should listen to me because I haven’t really focused on it very much.”
For Larry Sabato, a veteran political analyst and head of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, “Trump certainly capitalized on Brexit — but he complicated his own task by his determination to sell his new golf resorts.”
– Democrats, take heed –
Nevertheless, the results of Britain’s EU referendum should serve as a warning for those Democrats who already see Clinton as an easy winner in November.
Britain’s pro-EU camp, which warned of the economic calamity a Brexit would cause, was beaten. That could be a powerful wake-up call that a campaign built on painting Trump as a disaster — a card Clinton has repeatedly played — has its limits.
But the win for the anti-EU camp in Britain does not automatically translate into a Trump advantage in the fight for the White House.
Britain and the United States have very different demographic make-ups — a crucial difference, given the central role of anti-immigration sentiment in the two elections.
“America, being a country of immigrants, turns its immigrants into full-fledged voters pretty quickly compared to other countries,” wrote Elaine Kamarck of the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.
“The result is that in America, there is a sizeable voting bloc of new Americans who have the ability to counter anti-immigration sentiment.”
For now, the White House is sidestepping any and all comparisons between the two contests.
“It’s hard for me to see whether a referendum in the United Kingdom can project a lot about a domestic political race in the United States, five months from now,” said one of Obama’s spokesmen, Eric Schultz.
Obama should soon throw his considerable political weight behind the former US first lady’s historic bid to be America’s first female commander-in-chief — and hopefully bring on side those Democrats not yet on the Clinton train.
Ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next month, Trump is still jockeying for position, rearranging his staff with the firing of top aide Corey Lewandowski and seeking to polish his stump skills.
“A teleprompter isn’t enough,” said Sabato, referring to Trump’s latest speeches — all scripted, not off-the-cuff monologues as the political novice did for months.
For now, Trump’s numbers are not so great — the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll released Sunday gave Clinton a 12-point lead.
AFP / Expatica