Monday, February 01, 2016


Hillary Clinton's people are telling Politico's Glenn Thrush that they're gearing up for a general election battle against Donald Trump:
After months of laughing off Trump -- and assuming his ascent would propel the Republican Party to a 1964-style wipeout -- her campaign and its allies have begun to steer time and resources into framing lines of attack against the blustery billionaire....

“There’s plenty of material out there,” said longtime Clinton confidant James Carville. “We just have to figure it all out.”
But is this the right approach?
The emerging approach to defining Trump is an updated iteration of the “Bain Strategy” -- the Obama 2012 campaign’s devastating attacks on Mitt Romney’s dealings with investment firm Bain Capital, according to a dozen Democratic operatives and campaign aides familiar with the accelerating planning inside Clinton’s orbit. This time, Democrats would highlight the impact of Trump’s four business bankruptcies -- and his opposition to wage hikes at his casinos and residential properties -- on the families of his workers.

One Obama ally who helped frame the 2012 Bain strategy added another line of likely attack: “He’s a landlord. Everybody f---ing hates their landlord.”
But does everybody hate their landlord? Aren't quite a few ordinary people in America, including some who aren't even close to being rich, landlords and landladies themselves? Maybe they rent out one room, which allows them to barely scrape by, and they know what it's like to have a conflict with a tenant, so they might identify with Trump, even if they learn that his treatment of tenants was awful?

In general this year, don't some people seem to think that being an SOB as a landlord might be a sign that you're the kind of tough guy we need now as president?

I agree with this unnamed person quoted by Thrush:
Not everyone agrees that Bain-style attacks will dent Trump: One former Obama campaign and White House adviser said that Romney was wounded by the attacks on his business practices because it contradicted his compassionate-conservative pitch to swing voters. “We nailed it because it nailed Mitt on his motivation: He wasn’t this nice guy he claimed to be,” the former staffer said. “Trump never claimed to be nice. ... "
Greg Sargent has a point:
... I’m hoping that Dems take more seriously the notion that Trump might be tapping into something very real with the larger argument he is making about our political system....

As I’ve tried to argue, Trump is basically vowing to break the political system over his knee and get it working again. He is not claiming that “government is the problem.” Rather, he’s arguing that the stupid fools running the government are the problem, and that the bought-and-paid-for politicians and corrupt bureaucrats are the problem, because they are basically cheating you -- they are not trying to make America work for you; instead they are making it work for the illegals and the major corporations and China.
And this does pose a threat to Democrats. Working America, an afilliate of the AFL-CIO, recently sent canvassers to working-class white neighborhoods outside Cleveland and Pittsburgh and found quite a bit of support for Trump -- support that wasn't limited to Republicans:
* Donald Trump was favored by more than a third of those who chose a candidate (38%), overwhelming all other Republican candidates (27% combined). Nearly the same number chose one of two Democratic candidates, Clinton (22%) or Sanders (12%).

* While most of Trump’s support comes from the staunch Republican base, 1 in 4 Democrats who chose a candidate showed a preference for Trump.

... So, what do people like about Trump? When it came down to a question of personality vs. policy, Trump’s attitude was the dominant factor. Nearly half of voters who identified themselves as supporters volunteered that they like him because “he speaks his mind.” Four times as many voters responded that way than “I agree with his policies.”

The #2 answer? They like Trump because he's "tough/angry." I don't see anything on this chart that talks about empathy.

So I suspect that a lot of people who are seriously thinking about backing Trump in November aren't going to be dissuaded by the "nasty landlord" line of attack. But Hillary's people are also mentioning Trump's multiple bankruptcies. Martin Longman (BooMan) sees Trump's business failings as a ripe target:
Donald Trump really has gone into bankruptcy four separate times. His casino empire really did completely implode in massive, epic failure....

And let’s not forget that Trump University was a complete fraud and a failure, that Trump Airlines was an idiotic idea that went bust, that no one (except a couple of Israelis) wanted to drink Trump Vodka, or eat Trump Steaks.

If you haven’t read about the complete failure of Trump’s Taj Mahal and his reliance on junk bonds (after promising the New Jersey legislature that he would never use them), you really should get on that. And then send a link to all your crazy Trump-supporting friends and family in your Facebook and Twitter feeds.
The Working America report suggests that this and other aspects of Trump's business career (and pro-business policies) might disillusion voters:
An Ohioan who said his biggest issue was the economy and that he liked Trump’s business experience was less enthused when he considered Trump’s bankruptcies and his tax plan that favors the wealthy and corporations.

A voter for whom immigration was the paramount issue was uneasy when he considered Trump’s use of undocumented workers on some of his own development projects.
BooMan suggests bringing up the fact that Trump is probably worth only $2.9 billion, not $10 billion as he claims. I don't think that will work -- to someone living paycheck to paycheck, $2.9 billion is an unfathomably large amount of money. But yes, bring up the casino failure and the airline failure and the for-profit pseudo-university failure. Although none of this has made a dent in Trump's support among Republicans, it might work with the rest of the electorate.

In general, I'd just show Trump being made a fool of. The famous clip in which David Letterman chats Trump up about his ties and then embarrasses him by noting that they're made in China probably belongs in a general election ad because it reveals Trump as a hypocrite and because it reveals him as a paper tiger:

Trump doesn't always win. Trump doesn't always get the last word. Trump doesn't always vanquish foreign foes (or even try to). Trump isn't the tough guy he claims to be. You want to beat him? Find any footage, from his business career or elsewhere, that makes him look ineffectual or weak.

Yes, maybe even this, from the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner:

(Working America report via Bruce Bartlett.)


Victor said...

The most effective tool against a demagogic pompous blowhard, is to mock that person.

And Trump, is more mockable than almost everyone else, when you consider he's practcally lived in front of a camera or mike his entire "adult" life.

petrilli said...

He (Trump) is extraordinarily thin skinned and easily trolled.
I've always thought this one would be a Trump brand killer if it could stick.
All of Trump's fatal weaknesses are in in his perceived strengths. After the primaries, if he emerges as the candidate, I think the opinion making landscape will allow more traction for the bankruptcies, mob ties and Trump University scam to sink into some of the more swayable blue collar and suburban types who like the tough-guy persona but have voted Democratic in the past. Right now, the Village is just having too much of a party covering him to put any turds in the punchbowl until after Super Tuesday. He's an overstuffed pinata just begging to be to be broken. As for the Dems, it isn't the late 90's any more. I don't think the Village will get away with "earth toning" and "Lock boxing" Clinton or Sanders like they did to Gore. This is especially true for Clinton in this regard, IMHO.

Feud Turgidson said...

Both Trump and Cruz are remarkably immature, selfish narcissists, but Trump comes across as more acceptable, both as a person and as a candidate, simply because Trump's BRAND is more mature.

The brand Trump is loud, crass, suffused with hypocrisy, routinely racist, self-centered and, on the whole, clownishly repulsive - but it's been pretty much been all those things for decades. Poor glistening young Ted Canada seems as repulsive or more as a person, but he's still in the process of establishing his brand, and the room and time available left for him to do that within the context of this presidential cycle doesn't seem nearly enough to start with and is shrinking daily.

It seems to me the only conceivable route around this problem, assuming Cruz still wants to win NOW, as opposed to setting himself up as the 'It's my turn' dude for 2020, is for him to resort to some combination of statements, stunts and policies that risks making even Trump seem relatively safe.

I'm not saying it's impossible, but so long as Cruz stays with such a course, which, if he doesn't win in Iowa would seem the ONLY course available to him to win the GOP nomination in this cycle, then Cruz will in effect be walking a tightrope between skyscrapers in a high wind and a driving rain, and he may well be kissing his cringe-worthy-hug, icky-rapey-kissing career goodbye.

Anonymous said...

I still think that Trump will begin to have a problem when the conversation turns from "the system is broken and run by fuckin' idiots" to "here's how I fix the system and un-fuck the fuckin' idiots." Because he never mentions that at all. It's all "I'm the king of making deals" and "top guys, great guys, the greatest, I hire them and they'll fix it." And it's at that point that the criticism of Trump as a decades-long peddler of bullshit and false promises really kicks in. "Is this a real plan, Mr. Trump, or is this a scam to hoodwink decent people like Trump University?"

Charon04 said...

You can not beat Trump by emulating him, or his behavior.

Recall Harry S Truman's point - give the voters a choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, they will choose the real Republican every time over the fake.

Besides, the fraction of the public that likes Trump's dominance shtick is pretty limited. Plus, Hillary's image is pretty established, is not going to change.

trnc said...

"Aren't quite a few ordinary people in America, including some who aren't even close to being rich, landlords and landladies themselves?"

Nitpicky, I know, but I suspect a lot of people who are technically landlords because they rent out a room in their houses probably don't think of themselves as landlords, kind of like how right wingers on welfare don't think they're taking advantage of gov't programs like "those other people." But I think it's true that trolling Trump non-stop will send him over the edge to the point where even some of his supporters might reconsider.