"No one remembers who came in second," is a quote often attributed to pro golfer Walter Hagen. Twice, in the space of six months, it was tweeted out by golf lover and perennial winner (if you believe his own hype), Donald J. Trump. And on Monday night, after he was beaten by Ted Cruz in the Iowa caucuses, it was gleefully retweeted by tens of thousands of Twitter users in the wake of a defeat Trump said would never come.
Trump's indelible pride had set him up for a huge fall. In his mind, there seemed to be little doubt that Iowa would be a landslide in his favor. Trump would win and win easily—according to Trump. It was typical braggadocio from the property tycoon who brushes aside criticism on a daily basis, even when it is rooted in plain-as-day facts from his past that counter his current narrative.
Check out images from the caucus night:
To lovers of contradiction, Trump's twitter feed is a goldmine. For every position Trump has taken, it's almost guaranteed that you can find something to undermine it in his Twitter archive. And so when Trump fell into a surprise second place on Monday night, a quick search through his tweets for the word "second" quickly unearthed two beauties:
“No one remembers who came in second.” – Walter Hagen
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 17, 2014
“No one remembers who came in second.” - Walter Hagen
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 30, 2013
It almost seemed too easy. But with such a tasty morsel of irony served up, few could resist sending it off into the internet on wings of scorn. The speed with the tweet began to circulate was breathtaking. A screengrab of the 2013 tweet, taken at 10:52 ET, 20 minutes or so after networks started calling the Republican race for Ted Cruz, showed just 485 retweets and 324 likes.
By the time this post was finished, Trump's earlier tweet had more than 17,000 retweets, with the other accumulating close to 20,000 retweets. The numbers were jumping, at that stage, by more than 100 retweets a minute. Trump's uncharacteristically gracious concession speech did nothing to dampen the schadenfreude.
A more polished politician would have maintained a cleaner, more groomed trail of communications, but Trump has eschewed advice on all the traditional campaign tactics, including internal polling and scripted stump speeches. Rather, he flies by the seat of his pants, unloading off-the-cuff speeches and whatever comments come to mind at town halls, rallies and even during televised debates. In his past as a businessman, he was accustomed to saying whatever was most useful to whomever needed to hear it, as long as the deal got done. The result is a rich seam of inconsistent material that flip-flops regularly across policy lines. And backing it all is his trademark hyper-confidence, and disdain for the loser. On a day when Trump was the first loser, all that comes home to roost.
See photos from Trump's 2016 campaign: