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I thought Trump 2016 would play out like Running Horse. I was wrong.

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Donald Trump is coming to Fresno on Friday. It’s going to be a “yuge” event for Trump fans, Trump opponents and the media.

His first visit here was unusual, to say the least. Maybe that’s why I so completely misjudged the Trump for President phenomenon.

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The photo with this story was taken by Georgeanne White on May 25, 2007. White currently is Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s chief of staff. Nine years ago (to the day, as I write this), White held the same position with Mayor Alan Autry.

Autry in May 2007 had 19 months left in office. Swearengin has seven months before being termed out. Maybe Trump likes to come to towns with lame-duck mayors.

I was a sports reporter at The Bee on May 25, 2007. A tip to the newsroom led to me rushing out to the moribund Running Horse golf course/residential project west of town. Donald Trump, we were told, was there.

We all know the story by now. Trump really was at Running Horse headquarters at the corner of Whitesbridge and Hughes avenues, west of Chandler Airport. He and Autry and their staffs were discussing the project’s past and potential.

Donald Trump and Alan Autry in a doublewide trailer amid 400 acres of dust and debris. Hard to believe, but true.

Just about every reporter in town had received the same tip. We all waited for The Donald to emerge. White snapped the photo as he held court with the media.

I wrote a blog for The Bee in August 2015 about the months-long Trump/Running Horse melodrama of 2007 and how that might help interpret the significance of Trump’s campaign for the Republican Party presidential nomination.

“The Trump for Running Horse saga was dead from the get-go,” I wrote at the beginning of the story published Aug. 26. “We just didn’t know it for months. My guess: So, too, is the Trump for president saga. This, too, will take time to sink in.”

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Donald Trump is the 2016 presumptive Republican Party presidential candidate. The polls show he has a legitimate shot at succeeding Barack Obama as chief executive of the most powerful nation on earth.

Where did I go wrong with my blog of last August?

I offer two explanations.

First, I don’t think clearly.

Second, I had assumed at the start of the Running Horse story in 2007 that Trump was, above all else, deft in handling complex business/political issues. And make no mistake, turning the Running Horse fiasco into something positive for investors and community alike was going to require nimble thinking, skillful diplomacy, deep pockets and lots of perseverance.

A list of the forces involved would include City Hall, state redevelopment law, federal bankruptcy law, jilted buyers of residential lots, jilted vendors and subcontractors, the PGA Tour, Jack Nicklaus, West Fresno politics, racial politics, class politics and, most volatile of all, the skyrocketing expectations of thousands (perhaps tens of thousands) of Fresnans who believed Donald Trump could work a miracle on a side of town mighty short of miracles.

Trump didn’t produce a miracle at Running Horse. The drama in 2007 took several months to run its Trumpian course, but eventually The Donald (acting through personal lawyer Michael Cohen and daughter Ivanka Trump) cut his ties to Fresno and Running Horse.

I viewed Trump’s effort with Running Horse as anything but deft. I thought he was bored with the details.

This isn’t to say he isn’t a miracle worker in other arenas.

So, as I wrote my blog of last August, I thought: Running Horse is representative of Donald Trump’s system: Lots of show to the delight of everyone (including me), but little substance if he’s not in the mood.

Nothing wrong with that. America is a free country. I simply figured Trump’s quest for the GOP presidential nomination would reveal a candidate more concerned with dramatics than, say, the particulars of free trade or the proliferation of nuclear weapons. You know – stuff a president has to excel at even if he (she) isn’t in the mood.

And I figured voters, as did many Fresnans in 2007, would grow tired of the showbiz candidate and settle for other candidates – the “establishment,” if you will – running more traditional campaigns.

As I’ve already admitted, I was dead wrong. I won’t make any more predictions about Donald Trump the politician. I won’t make any more predictions about where America is headed.

But I am very much looking forward to Trump’s Friday morning rally at the Convention Center. Whether he likes it or not, Fresno occupies a unique spot in the Trump resume. He has scouted business deals and done business deals in towns all across America. But I’m guessing no other town has had a fling with Trump quite like Fresno’s in mid-2007.

Friday’s rally will be Trump’s first visit to Fresno since that crazy afternoon nine years ago. What’s he going to say to us?

“No hard feelings!”

“You could’ve been a contender with me!”

“Put me in the White House and you’ll get your golf course!”

“Alan Autry for vice president!”

“Suckers!”

Or maybe Donald Trump will say: “I’m sorry, Fresno. I’m sorry it didn’t work out for us in 2007. My intentions were honorable. And so is my campaign to be president for all 320 million Americans. Here’s what I mean by that….”

I voted twice for Bill Clinton (born Aug. 19, 1946). I voted twice for George W. Bush (born July 6, 1946). Maybe a Donald Trump (born June 14, 1946) who says something like that on Friday would convince me to vote yet again for a first-year Baby Boomer.

George Hostetter
George Hostetter is The Sun’s Fresno Civic contributor – covering the City of Fresno, County of Fresno, and Fresno Council of Governments.

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