Presidential Campaign

Is Trump deliberately throwing the election to Clinton?

In August 2015, I wrote a column for The Hill titled “Is Trump a Clinton plant?” At the time, I wrote that I was not seriously suggesting that Donald Trump is running as a Hillary Clinton plant for the purpose of bringing a second Clinton to the White House, but noted some facts.

{mosads}For many years Trump, has heaped high praise on both Bill and Hillary Clinton throughout their tenures at every major office they have held since the 1992 campaign. I also noted that Trump has offered praise and campaign donations that continued for many years to prominent liberals and Democratic leaders such as Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.).

A year after my tongue-in-cheek column asking whether Trump is running as a plant to elect Hillary Clinton, I will now raise the possibility, much more seriously, that one way to explain Trump’s repeatedly self-destructive behavior could be that deep down Trump does not want to win the election and is clumsily throwing the game.

I am not stating that I believe that Trump wants to lose to Clinton, but I am suggesting there is at least some possibility that this is the case.

Why might Trump, in theory, want to lose the election?

Perhaps Trump originally decided to run to get some publicity for his business, or satisfy his ego, but never expected he had a real chance to win. Perhaps it suddenly dawned on Trump that he did have some chance to win, and was petrified at the thought of filing the detailed financial disclosures that presidents are required by law to file, for the same reason he is hiding his tax returns and which, I predict, he will never willfully release. Perhaps Trump suddenly realized he did not really want his finger on the nuclear button. Perhaps he just concluded that he did want to do the work that the presidency requires.

Think about it. If a candidate genuinely wants to become president, would he repeatedly insult the giant wave of Hispanic voters? Would he insult veterans who were heroic prisoners of war by saying that he “like[s] people who weren’t captured”? Would he repeatedly insult the 2008 GOP nominee and great war hero, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.)?

If a candidate actually wants to become president, would he and his advisers plan a strategy that includes praising the mass-murdering communist dictator of North Korea? Which voters did Trump believe he would win with that one? If a candidate truly wants to become president, would he and his foreign policy advisors plan a strategy that repeatedly praises Vladimir Putin, the strongman dictator of Russia, and say he is not sure he would defend Europe nations from a Russian invasion? Does Trump believe there is a pro-Putin vote in America?

Or, as Trump often says, perhaps there is something happening here. Some people might say he does these things because he wants to lose the election and is throwing the game to Clinton.

I have been to many rodeos in national politics, and literally every single major player in politics that I know expected Trump to “pivot” after the conventions to appear to take more responsible positions and say fewer irresponsible and self-destructive things. Republicans believed Trump would pivot with hope; Democrats believed he would pivot with dread.

Nobody I know believed that Trump would pivot in the opposite direction, becoming even more irresponsible and self-destructive after the conventions.

Did Trump and his campaign managers develop a strategy to attack a Gold Star mother and father? Could any presidential candidate who wants to be elected seem to publicly support Russian espionage against America, and take positions so extreme that a former acting CIA director calls him “an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation”? Would any candidate who actually wants to win make comments about the Second Amendment and a political opponent so that the Secret Service is not happy, the same kind of comments that helped Harry Reid pulverize his Republican opponent into dust in his last reelection campaign?

I predict that Trump will never release his tax returns because there is something in those returns he intensely fears being revealed. Shall we speculate about what could be so devastating in his undisclosed tax returns? Is it not possible, possibly even likely, that he might dread the thought, for similar reasons, of filing his financial disclosure papers if he is elected president?

There has been some speculation in GOP circles about whether Trump might drop out of the campaign. This is possible, but I doubt it. The more likely scenario, if Trump does not want to be elected president, is that he will keep saying and doing things that any freshman political science student in college would know will doom his candidacy, and that after he loses a potential landslide to Hillary Clinton, will shout from the rooftops: “I was robbed!”

I am not saying that I believe Donald Trump is trying to throw the election to Hillary Clinton, but I am saying this is a prospect that is now worth seriously considering if the endless series of Trump blunders and gaffes continues.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Chief Deputy Majority Whip Bill Alexander (D-Ark.). He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. Contact him at

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.


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