The fact that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump could actually become President of the United States in a few short days is something that would have seemed completely preposterous a couple of years ago. Actually, even the idea that Trump could win the GOP nomination once seemed far-fetched when it all began. But win it he did, and the race between him and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is still expected to be incredibly close, despite the fact that Trump has seemingly gone from one outrageous campaign scandal to another. But does Donald Trump want to be president?
It sounds like a ridiculous question to ask this close to Election Day — you'd think that anyone who wasn't 100 percent dedicated to leading the country would have been weeded out long ago. But, according to CBS News, it's one that many people are asking. And outlandish as they may seem, some of the theories kind of seem like they could even be plausible. Trump is, after all, a candidate like no other, and one who has made countless seriously questionable decisions while running for president that it seems like someone looking to win the majority of the American people's vote wouldn't be doing. Could it be that Trump never actually intended on winning the election after all? Here are some of the most prominent theories. The Trump campaign did not respond to Romper's request for comment regarding theories about Trump's run.
It's An Elaborate Public Relations Stunt
If there's anyone who knows how to garner his own publicity, it's Donald Trump. And honestly, as someone who has built his entire career based more upon his own name and brand than anything else, it makes sense that he'd want to do anything he possibly could to boost his profile. Does that include running for the country's top office? Maybe.
According to Quartz, the idea that perhaps Trump found himself leading the GOP without ever thinking that would actually happen is a pretty popular theory. For one, it kind of makes sense: Trump's all about ruffling feathers and making big statements, but he's often been criticized for being light on actual policy or strategy plans.
Filmmaker Michael Moore, for one, certainly believes this is the case. In an essay on Medium, Moore claimed that Trump's bid for president wasn't ever about actually winning, but about getting his name in the headlines enough that he could boost his negotiating power as the host of The Apprentice. Moore explained,
Of course he wouldn’t really have to RUN for President — just make the announcement, hold a few mega-rallies that would be packed with tens of thousands of fans, and wait for the first opinion polls to come in showing him — what else! — in first place! And then he would get whatever deal he wanted, worth millions more than what he was currently being paid.
The other half of this theory dictates that, well, Trump was caught off guard by how many people were actually willing to vote for him, and that's when the tides turned. Since then, the theory goes, he's been trying to sabotage his own campaign — so that he doesn't actually have to run the country.
He's Secretly Working On Clinton's Behalf
Given Trump's immense disdain for Clinton, this one might seem hard to believe on the surface. But, according to CBS News, it's one that has a lot of people wondering — including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who ran against Trump for the GOP nomination.
One facet of this theory is that the Trump campaign has unveiled a deep division among the Republican Party, which is a serious issue that could really undermine the GOP entirely. According to The New York Times, 160 Republican leaders have either refused to endorse Trump, or have withdrawn their endorsements at some point during his campaign. And, according to CNN, the notion of somehow trying to force Trump off of the ticket has been something some GOP members have been advocating for for months. Then, of course, there are the long-time Republican voters who have found themselves in a seriously uncomfortable bind: they don't want to vote for Trump, but they also don't want to vote for a Democrat. If Trump was trying to help the Democratic Party, the theory goes, he's done a pretty good job at helping the GOP implode.
Then there's the fact that, uh, Trump used to be a Democrat. According to CBS News, Trump was a Democrat until 2009, and has gone on record even as late as 2012 saying how much he liked and admired Hillary Clinton's politics (Clinton and her husband also attended Trump's wedding in 2005).
Then there's the fact that, in 2015, The Washington Post wrote that Trump and former President Bill Clinton spoke by phone prior to Trump announcing his election bid, during which time Bill allegedly "encouraged Trump’s efforts to play a larger role in the Republican Party." This would certainly seem to support the theory that Trump and Clinton were somehow on the same side, but both Trump and Clinton's camps have denied the story, noting that the call was of a personal nature and the two did not discuss the election. According to CNN, Trump has also said that he'd already decided to run against Hillary before his talk with Bill, claiming, "my mind was already totally made up. I was already running, essentially. We didn't really discuss it."
He's Getting Ready To Launch Trump TV
Another popular Trump conspiracy theory? That Trump's extremely unorthodox (and really, unprecedented) campaign is all a bid to launch a right-wing media empire. And while that might sound strange at first, it actually kind of makes sense.
In a YouTube video from September, Uproxx advanced the theory that Trump never really intended to lead the country so much as he wanted to launch a conservative news network. And given the fact that he's mobilized a not-unsignificant portion of the electorate who is totally fired up and would likely already form a pretty solid viewership, it's honestly not necessarily a bad idea from a business perspective (although, you know, from an ethical perspective, running for president just to ensure the success of your new television network is pretty horrifying).
Adding to fuel to the Trump TV fire is the fact that, on Thursday, Fox News reported that it obtained a casting notice from an "up-and-coming conservative media network currently in development," looking for hosts and reporters. It hasn't been confirmed who is behind the notice, and Trump has told Fox News previously that he had "no interest" in pursuing a news station if he were to lose the election. But according to Fortune, the Financial Times reported in October that Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner "informally approached LionTree Advisors chief executive Aryeh Bourkoff about setting up a Trump TV network after the presidential election." (Romper's request for comment was not immediately returned by Kushner.)
Of course, the most unbelievable part about any of this, is that, well, none of these theories sound entirely unbelievable. In a campaign where it appears that literally anything goes (and that it likely will down to the very last second), it feels as though anything could happen, and somehow, none of it will truly be a surprise.
Although there's no way of knowing whether the public will ever truly find out the answer to these questions, what we do know for sure is that, on Nov. 8, one candidate will win. After that, well, I guess we'll just have to stay tuned.