Sunday, January 24, 2016


Every Donald Trump hater has a theory about how you'd really beat Trump if you were serious about it. Here's Ross Douthat's theory:
... think back to that misty time, two years gone, when one of Trump’s current rivals -- Chris Christie, that’s the one -- was seen as the presumptive Republican front-runner. What was the basis of Christie’s appeal? Simply this: He was a jerk, but he was your jerk. He was rude -- but to people who deserved it. He was an S.O.B. -- the S.O.B. the country needed.

Then think about why the “Bridgegate” scandal was devastating to his image.

... it devastated Christie because it flipped his brand. Instead of the jerk who looks out for the average guy, he became the jerk whose allies had stuck it to commuters. Instead of the tough guy fighting for you, he became the tough guy whose goons would mire their constituents in traffic for a pointless little feud.

Now apply that model to the Inevitable Nominee....

To attack him effectively, you have to go after the things that people like about him. You have to flip his brand.
Douthat goes on to explain how you apply this approach to Trump:
Tell people ... about all his cratered companies. Then find people who suffered from those fiascos -- workers laid off following his bankruptcies, homeowners who bought through Trump Mortgage, people who ponied up for sham degrees from Trump University....

Find the people hurt by Trump’s attempts to exploit eminent domain: The widow whose boarding house he wanted to demolish to make room for a limo parking lot, the small businessmen whose livelihoods he wanted to redevelop out of existence.
But here's the problem: Most of that is out there. It's been out there since Trump rose to the top of the polls. His voters don't care. His voters don't care about anything he said or did before he seemed to become "their SOB."

That's because Douthat is mistaken about what brought Christie down in the eyes of national Republican voters. It wasn't that he had come to be regarded as an SOB for the wrong side -- that may have been what Jersey voters thought, but that wasn't his problem with Republicans nationwide. Christie's problem with Republican voters across the country was that he had stopped seeming like an SOB at all.

First he embraced President Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Then, after Bridgegate, he was apologetic (or at least he apologized for what he was shocked, shocked, to learn his staffers had done). When you saw him on TV, he wasn't yelling at a union teacher -- instead, his political survival was being discussed by Rachel Maddow, or Joe 'n' Mika. He'd been brought low. He was no longer the guy who put his enemies on the defensive.

Then he compounded the problem by spending a year as the head of the Republican Governors Association. No longer was he the video bullyboy you saw on Fox News every couple of weeks. He was too busy roaming the country doing favors for influential Republicans, in the hope that they'd help him in the presidential race.

Republican voters may not know about the ordinary Americans who've been victimized by Donald Trump, but they've seen him attack people Megyn Kelly and Ted Cruz -- people they like. It hasn't bothered them. They've seen him attack John McCain on the one aspect of McCain's career they still respect, his military service. It hasn't upset them. In New Hampshire, Jeb Bush is running ads in which the father of a child with cerebral palsy expresses disgust at Trump's attack on a disabled reporter.

Trump voters don't care.

Why? Because attack like this reaffirm the impression that Trump is an SOB. As long as he seems to be primarily an SOB on the voters' side, they don't care if he's an SOB toward anyone else.


mlbxxxxxx said...

It is not evident that republicans cannot be put off Trump. It is evident that he has a durable base of support that will be with him whatever. However, they are not a majority. It's not even clear they are real voters, though obviously many are. The challenge is to make sure they do not become the majority. Ads educating voters on the "real" Trump absolutely will be effective in stunting the growth of his support. But we don't really have to prognosticate much longer, the ad onslaught has begun and soon we shall see.

sdhays said...

I think if Jeb? had done this several months back, he could have knocked Trump back on his heels and maybe saved his campaign. It's not that Republican voters actually care about this stuff, but it could have put Donald on the defensive, just like David Letterman did when Donald was whining about outsourcing and David asked him to show the audience where Trump-brand ties are made. But Jeb? is a total nincompoop; so that didn't happen.

At this point, I don't think anything is going to stop Donald Trump from being the Republican nominee. I just don't see a plausible path for anyone in the Klown Kar to take him down. A couple months ago, I thought Cruz had a chance, but I don't think so now. For the rest of those hapless idiots, I just can't imagine any of them catching fire fast enough to make a difference.

But this is the kind of thing that makes Donald vulnerable when he's up against Hillary. The Democrats have been critical of Donald so far, but they've been pretty restrained. All this bad stuff with Donald is "known", but it's not well-known by average people.

A winning (Democratic) campaign will make sure everyone knows how Donald Trump lies, cheats, and steals about everything he does. It will ridicule him for his many bankruptcies. It will puncture his persona of success and get him splutteringly angry. It's probably best for Hillary herself to be a step away from most of this (both sides, and all), but the point that if the conversation is going to be all Trump, all the time (and, unfortunately, I don't think we can stop that), it needs to be moved away from what he says (because he can lie very well and I don't want to see the media let him "etch-a-sketch" come August) and focussed on what he is.

It's a fair bet that most Republicans won't care and still vote for Trump, but some of them just won't. An older member of my family is a life-long Republican, but she said at Christmas if he's the nominee, she just may not vote at all in November. This is just an anecdote, but Donald's "ewww" factor is really high, and it will be present in November. It doesn't have to be yooooge in order to swing an election.

Tengrain said...

I think you are exactly right. Douthat doesn't know about branding, it doesn't happen in the past, it is always about the present guiding you into the future.

Christie broke his brand in the eyes of his market at the moment he and The Kenyan Usurper were friendly following Sandy. It happened in real-time in front of their eyes.

Trump would have to embrace immigration in front of their eyes to break his brand. That ain't going to happen.



northierthanthou said...

It may well be that Trump's supporters are pretty much unshakable, and I do think it's at least partly because they see him as a means of hurting those they hate. I suspect the key to beating him isn't shaking up his base; it's simply isolating them. Trump must be deprived of moderates. Those on the fence must be lured to the other side.

Ten Bears said...

He probably could gun someone down in the street and get away with it.

Curt Purcell said...

When Jeb demanded an apology for his wife and didn't get it, he should have punched Trump in the mouth, then stood over him shouting, "How ya like that low energy, bitch?!" At that juncture in time, that was his only path to the presidency. He blew it. Who can stop Trump now? Among Republicans, only Trump could do it, by showing weakness or making himself look like a loser. Hilary, of course, will hand him his ass.

Arthur Mervyn said...

Ross Douthat: "Then find people who suffered from those fiascos ..."

Didn't Romney have the same baggage (people suffering because of his business's purpose of making them suffer)? And he became the GOP nominee in 2012.