CLEVELAND – Back in late September of 2010, Carl Paladino ventured up north to the famous Sagamore resort in Bolton Landing, where his campaign for governor basically slid into adjacent Lake George.
The battling Buffalonian, whom the New York City tabloids were already labeling “Crazy Carl,” blew up at a New York Post reporter.
“I’ll take you out,” he told the Post’s Fred Dicker.
Paladino’s campaign essentially ended that day. The tabs had been fed raw meat.
And though Paladino had won a smashing victory in the GOP primary, and though he would claim the state’s nine western counties that even victorious Andrew Cuomo later viewed as a significant protest vote, the chance of an even better showing throughout upstate had evaporated.
The Politics Column revisits that bizarre incident at the end of last week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland because Donald Trump now finds himself as a similar candidate in a similar situation.
For sure, Trump has launched the most unconventional presidential campaign in history. And he won because it was unconventional. The establishment crew tried their establishment best and failed.
Trump left this convention city on Friday as the GOP’s presidential nominee despite a long list of bizarre quotes and incidents that played well to a disaffected and angry base. He exploited the same political dynamic as Paladino in 2010, when he won New York’s Republican primary for governor 2 to 1, and 94 to 6 percent in Erie County.
So now Trump begins his general election campaign, aided by the same political tailwinds that supported Paladino in New York six years ago.
And Trump faces the same decision that faced Paladino, who did not transform into something more “gubernatorial.” Now the 2016 candidate must decide about becoming more “presidential” – something at which he has hinted but has never fulfilled since the end of the New York primary in April.
On April 15, he told The Buffalo News that what its reporter had witnessed the previous night in Manhattan was more akin to what would lie ahead. That’s when he took on Ted Cruz by defining the “New York values” that his rival had disparaged as the courage of fallen New York City firefighters on Sept. 11, 2001.
“At the right time I will make that pivot,” Trump said in the telephone interview. “I think I started to make it. You saw that last night.”
Three days later in First Niagara Center, Trump reverted to Trump with attacks on “Lyin’ Ted” and “Crooked Hillary.”
During the convention in Cleveland, Paladino reflected on his own failed campaign, the possibility of another run for a governor and what Trump must do to win.
After several instances over the past few weeks in which Paladino generated familiar controversy with some of his off the cuff remarks, he seemed to acknowledge he must change.
“Yeah,” he said. “I’ve got to tamp that down and stick to the issues.”
Would he have fared better in 2010 with that approach?
“I am what I am,” he said, acknowledging that the approach worked in the primaries just as it did with Trump.
“I got my name out there with the bombast,” he said, stopping short of saying anything more, but with a look that suggested the idea of a different approach has at least crossed his mind. Paladino and Trump have proven kindred spirits. The Buffalo developer sat in the front row of the front and center delegation throughout the four days of Cleveland strategies – that’s how he ranks.
It will be interesting to see if Paladino shares with Trump what he learned from 2010. He is looking at another run for governor in 2018, and Trump embarks on his historic general election campaign.
For both, bombast and bravado will always remain part of the picture. It’s who they are; it’s what they do.
Now they must determine how far bombast and bravado goes in achieving their goals.