He may not be running for president, but the “Shark Tank” star and billionaire technology investor Mark Cuban has a few opinions about his long-time rival Donald Trump. Via his Cyber Dust app and a few follow-up questions from me—they’re called “dusts”—Cuban wrote a long-awaited sequel to his last remarks about Trump, which were back in July.
If Cuban’s predictions go as well as his investments, Trump might have cause for concern.
The Love Affair Is Over
The longstanding feud between some of America’s most well-known billionaires goes back years. The two have squabbled back and forth on Twitter. In July, Cuban wrote to his followers about Trump, “I have to honestly [say] he is probably the best thing to happen to politics in a long long time. I don’t care what his actual positions are. I don’t care if he says the wrong thing. He says what’s on his mind.”
What a difference a few months makes. Sunday, via his app again, Cuban dusted his current opinion of his fellow billionaire, and it wasn’t too favorable.
“Donald’s political future is in trouble,” he wrote. “And it’s not because of anything he has said. No matter how outrageous or crazy. In fact what he has said has made him more popular. But unfortunately for Donald Trump, popularity doesn’t win elections. Votes win elections.”
Cuban’s view seems wholly different than that of most observers. Most people who don’t like Trump or predict failure chalk it up to his lack of political gravitas and outrageous. Cuban seems to think this matters little. Instead, votes matter most.
The Ground Game for Votes
Cuban continues: “Getting out the vote is a business like any other. It requires more than a plan or a goal, it requires a huge number of people trying to figure out who might possibly vote for a candidate and then doing the dirty work making sure they get those people to the voting booth to vote. Politicians call it the ground game. It’s science. It’s organization. It’s algorithms. It’s effort. And it’s expensive. From all I can tell Donald has not made that investment. Donald’s arrogance has blinded him into thinking that popularity in polls translates into votes. It doesn’t.”
I “dusted” Cuban (it’s a text that disappears) and asked how he knew Trump lacked ground game: “When he talks about how little he has invested. When I see Cruz Jumping in Iowa.” Cuban then urged me to research the issue.
This point is debatable. To an extent, it’s true: polls may not translate into votes. They aren’t always taken among people who actually go to the polls. For example, Marine Le Pen and her far-right coalition in France had been leading in the polls and had significant gains in France earlier this year but were unable to win any local elections just this last Sunday.
On the other hand, I have noted that Trump shares many similarities with former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura. He, too, had very little ground game before securing his election as governor.
Last month, Market Watch reported Trump might actually have some ground game to help secure the votes he needs: “Take Iowa and South Carolina. In Iowa, which holds the first caucuses of the 2016 White House race on Feb. 1, the billionaire has 12 paid staff members on the ground. That’s reportedly more than anyone except for Jeb Bush, and includes Chuck Laudner, the man behind Rick Santorum’s victory in Iowa’s GOP caucuses in 2012.”
However, in South Carolina, third in line, Trump only has two team members, although they are “public-relations executive Ed McMullen and former state House Majority Leader Jim Merrill — that one GOP strategist calls serious organizers who know how to win elections.”
There are 14 states with open primaries. In this case, Trump could secure Democrat votes, if he can persuade them to cross over. South Carolina is third, has an open primary, and Trump is polling well there. Is that enough ground game to win?
Ted Cruz Is Waiting for Trump to Fail
Cuban then shifted his attention to Ted Cruz. “The candidate that knows this best of all is Ted Cruz. Cruz knows Donald has no ground game and he is setting Trump up so that he can grab his delegates in the primaries. If Donald’s ground game is as weak as it appears the chances of his getting the nomination is zero.”
In October the Washington Post reported Cruz was running the best primary campaign by running, raising money, and staying on-point. Cruz is known to spend his campaign money wisely and often utilizes volunteers at local events. At a recent event with the Family Foundation in Virginia, he appeared as the keynote speaker and had only two staffers accompanying him. The rest of the group who accompanied him were all volunteers. (He did arrive, perhaps somewhat ironically, in a volunteer’s Prius.)
Trump is not running a campaign like any other presidential candidate has in the past. Traditional campaigns have lost the last two cycles. Just because he’s doing it differently doesn’t mean he’s going to lose. But it doesn’t mean he’s going to win, either.
Not one to exit quietly, Cuban closed with a zinger: “FYI: I would vote for Trump over Cruz any time. Cruz is Joe McCarthy incarnate.” Cuban isn’t the first to make that comparison, but the remark is interesting, considering all he just dished on Trump. Will Cuban prove to be right? Or if Cruz is the nominee, what then? Time will tell.