His bid for the Reform party was a preview of threats and paranoia that would characterize his successful 2016 run but some key elements were different
On a windy night 17 years ago, the pre-Apprentice, pre-Twitter, pre-president New York developer Donald Trump could be found greeting Reform party members at his Florida Mar-a-Lago mansion.
Trump 2000 campaign badges had been laid out on an ornate table: the same table where, two weeks ago, Trump tweeted a selfie captioned with the claim he was composing his inaugural address.
The curious numbered in the dozens, mostly Reform party members and off-season Palm Beach society, joined in the strangeness of Trump world by an enthusiastic British man from Yorkshire who made a living doing Al Jolson blackface impressions.
Weve come really from being a very successful businessman to being a very serious candidate, the 53-year-old Trump told the crowd. I am looking very, very seriously on whether it can be won.
Back then, Trump was seeking the nomination of the party created in 1992 as a vehicle for Texan businessman Ross Perot. He was unsuccessful, and he would ultimately withdraw in March 2000, conceding to far right candidate Pat Buchanan, whom Trump had accused of being a Hitler lover.
But what guests heard was a preview of the promises, threats, attention-seeking and paranoia that would characterize his successful 2016 run nearly two decades later. It sounded like a salesmans pitch a string of semi-articulated views construed semi-political policy positions.