Moore tells quite a story. He claims that Trump decided to run for president not because he thought he would win, but because he was “unhappy with his deal as host and star of his NBC show The Apprentice” and hoped to strengthen his negotiating position. The plan went horribly wrong, however, when NBC instead cut ties over Trump’s remarks about Mexican immigrants. By the time Trump realized he would actually become the nominee, running for president no longer looked so appealing to him. Moore then suggests that recent controversies caused by Trump on the campaign trail may be “all part of his new strategy to get the hell out of a race he never intended to see through to its end.”
For anyone horrified by the prospect of a Trump presidency and baffled that a reality-television star became the Republican presidential nominee, it must be comforting to imagine that even Trump never thought things would end up like this. That this was a ploy, rather than an earnest attempt to win the hearts and minds of American voters. But whatever Trump thought of his chances when he entered the race, and whatever his motivations, his campaign has clearly resonated. Moore acknowledges Trump's success, writing that the candidate reached the top of the polls among Republican voters as he “ignited the country, especially among people who were the opposite of billionaires.”
In the past, Moore has even warned that Trump should be taken seriously. “Nobody should treat it like it’s a joke,” he told Fox News host Megyn Kelly in May. And in July, Moore predicted on Real Time that Trump will win. Yet telling people that the candidate never intended to run a winning campaign, and may now be looking for an exit, nevertheless delegitimizes the idea of Trump as a serious candidate.
To dismiss the rise of Trump as unserious is to avoid reckoning with his very real popularity and what that says about the American electorate. Any theory that Trump is now actively sabotaging his campaign also leaves the impression that the candidate will be responsible for his own un-doing. If Trump’s political end looks like foregone conclusion, what’s the motivation for those who oppose him to volunteer and organize during the election, or even get out and vote?
It would be one thing if Moore made clear that the claims are speculation. But he says that he knows “for a fact” that Trump never actually wanted to be president without providing hard evidence. By the time he gets around to the idea that Trump is sabotaging his own campaign, however, he frames it as a theory. “Let me throw out another theory,” Moore wrote, before adding: “Maybe the meltdown of the past three weeks was no accident … Unless he is just ‘crazy,’ the only explanation for the unusual ramping up, day after day, of one disgustingly reckless statement after another is that he’s doing it consciously (or subconsciously) so that he’ll have to bow out or blame ‘others’ for forcing him out.” (Moore did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Hope Hicks, Trump’s spokeswoman, declined to comment on Moore’s claims.)