The Slatest

Donald Trump Just Pulled the Same Political Trick He Has for the Past 28 Years. It’ll Probably Work.

Donald Trump addresses the 42nd annual Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 27, 2015, in National Harbor, Maryland.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Uh-oh, here we go again.

An ABC affiliate in Manchester, New Hampshire, is reporting that Donald Trump will make a “major” announcement in Manhattan on June 16 and then head to New Hampshire the following day. WMUR’s source stopped short of “saying outright” that Trump will officially launch a presidential campaign at either event, but the television outlet says the implication is clear: “All signs point to a Trump declaration of candidacy.”

I have no way of knowing whether The Donald will actually run for president this time after decades of hinting at the idea in exchange for some free PR. The real estate mogul-turned-reality star has taken a number of steps in the past few months that—if taken by anyone not named Trump—could fairly be interpreted as an interest in running a legitimate campaign. He launched an exploratory committee in March, and made several staff hires in a few key states. Just last week he unveiled a 17-person leadership team in New Hampshire, the state that has long served as the stage for his will-he-or-won’t-he show going back nearly three decades.

But until he actually proves otherwise, I’m not buying what he’s selling—and neither should you. A quick trip down memory lane: Trump first flirted with a presidential run in the 1988 cycle, when he capitalized on a “Draft Trump” campaign launched by a local GOP official, which laid the groundwork for all the head fakes and political self-hype that has followed. Trump used a similar trick during the 2000 campaign, suggesting that he would run on the Reform Party ticket, and again in the lead-up to 2012, when he spent months teasing an official run before finally pulling the plug so he wouldn’t have to give up telling people they were fired on his NBC show, The Apprentice. (His long-overdue departure from the unofficial horse race came in classic Trump-form: “I maintain the strong conviction that if I were to run, I would be able to win the primary and, ultimately, the general election.”)

The bait-and-switching hasn’t stopped since. He promised a “big surprise” at the Republican National Convention in 2012 and then an “October surprise” that would dramatically change the election, neither of which are worth fully rehashing here (or anywhere else, for that matter). In case it’s not yet clear exactly what we’re dealing with, consider Trump’s recent claim that he has figured out a “foolproof” way to defeat ISIS but that he can’t tell anyone what it is for it to work. “If I run and if I win,” he told Fox News, “I don’t want the enemy to know what I am doing.”

If Trump’s June announcement doesn’t turn out to be another bust, that might actually be worse news. He will never seriously compete for the GOP nomination even if he is officially running for it. But, as I explained last week, he could very easily steal a spot on Fox News’ 10-person debate stage this summer thanks to his name recognition alone. That might make for good TV, but it’s hard to imagine it making for a fruitful debate.

Read more of Slate’s coverage of the 2016 campaign.