In his inflated claims to self-worth, Donald J. Trump likes to include a category of “goodwill,” meaning, well, nothing tangible. While he puts his value at $10 billion, more realistic voices put it at no more than $4 billion, and that’s assuming he’s not leveraged in debt to the hilt. After watching one after another of his enterprises go kaput – from airlines to casinos to steaks and vodka (oh, another Russian connection? gee whiz!) – he’s turned increasingly to name value alone. Many of those buildings with his name attached, it turns out, aren’t owned by him at all. The real owners just rent his name in exchange for, oh, well, something. How much longer can this game continue? Well, until the name and its sterling impression are deflated.

Believe me, more and more Trump is an elusive “brand,” based as much on his television-show posturing as anything. Successful businessman? Not as the stories of his failures, shady practices, and legal cases mount up. More and more, the question is what or who’s behind the cutout cardboard figure.

In the old days, we would have said this was nothing more than “image,” presumed status, or even a mirage in the distance. As the details pile up, a different portrait emerges. Call it showman or huckster, if you wish. It’s anything but a successful businessman whose word was good as gold. Quite the contrary.

As his bid for the White House encounters one disaster after another, and all of his brashness is returned in full measure, there’s reason to ask just where he’s heading. Where is his escape?

Or, more accurately, can he somehow salvage his brand?

I’m rather dubious. If his base turns out to be aging white males on the losing end of the spectrum, I doubt it. I just don’t see advertisers lining up for that. He’s the wrong demographic for most products. Hell, from what I’ve read, even Rush Limbaugh’s in trouble there.

One thing I’ll assume. Trump won’t believe his low ratings there any more than he trusts the polling surveys now or ballot tallies in November.

What would you do in his place?


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