Daniel Dale, the Toronto Star’s Washington correspondent, had a moment of déjà vu last weekend when Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump made the outrageous claim he could go shoot someone on New York’s Fifth Ave. and not lose votes.
“I thought, ‘where have I heard that before in the Rob Ford context’,” said Dale, who covered Toronto city hall during the infamous Ford years. “I did a few seconds of Googling, and Doug Ford said a nearly identical thing in 2010 about Rob Ford and his voters.”
For those of us captivated by the presidential race, observing from afar often feels like watching a reality show in the making. But for Dale, reporting up-close on Trump’s campaign sometimes seems like reporting on a spectacle he’s already seen. A rerun of sorts.
“It’s just uncanny sometimes,” Dale told me. “Last week, during Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Trump, she attacked elites who are ‘slurpin’ off the gravy train’.’’
In advance of heading to Iowa to cover Monday’s first caucuses to determine voters’ early choices, Dale answered my questions about the challenges of covering presidential politics, circa 2016, in general and the Trump show in particular.
How is covering Trump similar to covering Ford?
“Both were considered a joke at the outset of their runs, then rocketed to the top of the field, then stayed there despite supposed gaffes and errors. Both are affluent men (though Trump is much richer) who have managed to appeal most strongly to lower-income voters. Both have said offensive things about minority groups. Both are considered by many voters to be authentic straight-talkers despite their frequent dishonesty. Both have engendered unusually strong devotion from their supporters. Both attack members of the media and media outlets and both have skillfully exploited anger at elites and a government perceived as out-of-touch.”