“Voters vote on how they feel and what their instinct is,” Howard Dean said on Morning Joe, explaining Donald Trump’s popularity in the polls and in particular with the New Hampshire focus group that John Heilemann spoke with.  I think H.L. Mencken, if he were alive, would look at the group, smile, and toast the booboisie [(boo-bwa-ZEE) noun: a selected part of the general populace composed of uneducated, uncultured people] with a frosty beer and a stogie.  A candidate with a house of cards financial statement is perfect to run a government in the same condition.

These good folks to a person were all about The Donald. They say he speaks the truth, that he’s like one of us, he’s Reaganesque, that he doesn’t care what people think, these people like his roughness, they say he’s in tune with what we’re wanting, he’s got commonsense, like putting a wall on the border, and more than anything, he’s rich and successful. What would a Trump presidency look like? “Classy,” they said “a presidency of hope.”

One gentleman even said “it’d be nice to see the debt clock go the other direction.”  Maybe he’s got a point, after all, if Trump knows how to do anything it’s stop a debt clock. He has filed for corporate bankruptcy four times, in 1991, 1992, 2004 and 2009. As Forbes reports, these bankruptcies were connected to over-leveraged casino and hotel properties in Atlantic City. He’s never filed personal bankruptcy, “an important distinction when considering his ability to emerge relatively unscathed, at least financially,” writes Clare O’Conner.

Trump did take some financial lumps before learning to gamble with other people’s money without risking his own resources. He’d financed the construction of the Trump Taj Mahal with junk bonds and he couldn’t service the high interest. He was personally $900 million in personal debt and had to sell his yacht, his airline, and his stake in a handful of other businesses. That wouldn’t happen again.

Trump learned not to guarantee debt with his own wealth. “The first bankruptcy was the only time his personal fortune was at stake,” said Ted Connolly, a Boston bankruptcy lawyer who used Trump as model for getting out of debt in his book The Road Out Of Debt: Bankruptcy and Other Solutions to Your Financial Problems. “He learned from it. He’s insulated.”

If lenders are dumb enough to lend to Trump  without a personal guarantee they deserve to get stiffed. Atlantic City lawyer Michael Viscount says Trump’s creditors knew what they were getting into when they lent him money over and over again. “They’re all big boys and girls,” he said. “They’ve all played this game before, in the insolvency space. The company that possessed his name filed bankruptcy because it was overleveraged. What does that tell you? People want to lend him money. He does grandiose things with it.”

In his book Dead Bank Walking, former CEO and Chairman of Security Pacific Bank Robert Smith relates a story about Trump. When Smith met Trump for the first time, “he had already been heralded as a genius and seemed to be at the leading edge of everything.” The word around SP was that Trump “was enigmatic, luminous, absolutely charming.”

Smith describes the real estate mogul as Clintonesque and “he could no doubt have been an evangelist.” However, “Trump was building a house of cards.”

Trump needed $50 million to get started with a project to revitalize the Ambassador Hotel area in Los Angeles. At the time the area was depressed and Smith expressed his doubts. “Not to pop your balloon, but that precinct is a miserable, terrible, decaying area.”

The Donald was shocked at being declined. Smith’s loan officers were ever more stunned. “You said no to Donald Trump?” The account officer pleaded, “Bob, deals like this–if they succeed–will catapult us up the ladder. Everybody will want to bring their deal to us.”

“Trump succeeded in part because of charisma,” writes Smith. He was passionate, and professional, presented convincing scenarios, and was able to compel and dazzle entire board rooms with the ardor of a True Believer.”

The Donald keeps telling us over and over how rich he is. His financials are so big and complicated they just can’t fit in the government’s election forms. Or perhaps there’s no there, there. Mark Cuban calls Trump a Paper Tiger. “How much cash does Donald have?” Cuban wonders, “We don’t know for sure. But we do know whatever cash he has, post his several corporate bankruptcies, he hates to spend it”

In Dead Bank, Smith also wonders about Donald’s resources. “And, while Trump presented a financial statement with many million dollars of net worth, the ability for him to bail out even this one project out was limited–because it was leveraged on an illiquid base of questionable value.”

But while Smith turned down the Donald, just four months later, a credit submission came across his desk for Taj Mahal Enterprises. Smith’s minions had lent Trump $10 million. The CEO asked his credit officer what the loan was for. “It’s for part of an initial study on the feasibility of restoring the Ambassador Hotel.”

Smith, in his words, “raised holy hell.” “I don’t need $10 million to tell you the feasibility of that: it’s zero.”

The rumors around Security Pacific were that Trump never made a single payment. Whether he did or didn’t, Smith confirms, “Two years later we wrote the whole thing off. It was a loss. And sure enough, a decade later (2000), the Ambassador Hotel remains a ghastly eyesore.” The hotel was demolished in 2005 and 2006 and is now the site of a school.

The huckster Trump wants us to think Mexico will pay for a border fence and all of the jobs in China will return. Bankruptcy is a business strategy and promises to pay aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. Us common folk will be drinking free bubble-up and eating rainbow stew.  But then there’s Mencken reminding us, “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

With Trump, it’ll be especially hard.