That said, because of his high negatives with primary voters, I don’t believe Trump will be our nominee. He’ll lead for now, but once the field narrows, support will consolidate behind other candidates.
Until then, some Republicans deem Trump’s presence to be disastrous. Not me. I think he’s a Godsend. And since I like thanking God, let me outline why I give thanks for the outlandish Donald Trump.
Look at those debate audiences! Fox averaged 24 million viewers, while CNN netted 22.6 million. Want to compare? In 2012, the primary debates averaged less than 8 million viewers. That’s Trump, folks. That’s a chance for GOP candidates to impress millions of Americans who would otherwise ignore them.
So how did it go?
Fiorina, Rubio, and to a lesser extent, Chris Christie (?!), dominated the 2nd debate. Though testier than usual, Fiorina flourished, delivering concise answers and a home run on Planned Parenthood. I found Rubio much more impressive, as he dazzled with knowledge and style—but his delivery seemed almost too smooth; too “above the crowd.” Not so with Christie, who blended “working guy” relatability with lawyer-like skill. Were he not so despised by the grassroots, Christie would soar in the polls (but hey, he IS so despised by the grassroots). Honorable Mention? Ted Cruz. Though he received few accolades, I thought Ted’s second debate was very good—a noticeable jump from the first.
These folks should send money to Trump. Thanks to The Donald, unprecedented numbers saw them kill it on stage, and that equals big advertising bucks. My goodness, could you imagine a Rubio-Fiorina ticket right now? The Democrats would be ruined. And Cruz? 24 million Americans find him a lot less scary—again, thanks to Trump. Christie? He’s gone from nonexistent to almost existent.
Right now, Democrats are facing a division of campaign dollars. Hillary takes her share, as does Bernie. Should he enter, Joe Biden would get millions from Obama’s base, further spreading Leftwing money.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump takes virtually no campaign dollars. He’s using his own. This leaves donors either helping other candidates or holding back, waiting to see who breaks through before they over-commit. Either way, it’s great for Trump’s rivals. Bush started hot, but as his campaign fizzles, large bundlers will look elsewhere. Cruz and Carson continue raking it in, while Fiorina and Rubio are attracting wealthy supporters. As the field narrows, money pools.
On a side note, Trump claims Rubio is “owned” by his contributors, but that’s laughable coming from someone famously “owned” by his own business ambitions. Seriously, what’s the difference between Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers (who’ve yet to commit) owning Rubio, while Trump owns Trump? Think about this, folks. Since Trump has given far more to liberals than Adelson/Koch, and his views lay well to their left, then why is it better to be owned by Trump than them? Immigration? Trump never cared until recently, and Rubio’s current proposals achieve about 95% of anything Trump could do. After that, Rubio is far to Trump’s right—just like Rubio’s funders.
That said, Trump is still helping. A lot. Not only has he provided enormous free advertising via debate coverage, he’s also leaving campaign contributions to everyone else. Wow.
The PR Lesson
Whether good or bad, all moves by Donald Trump are BIG. His blunt talk on immigration? BIG. Foolish comments on universal healthcare? BIG. Heckling China and Mexico for “ripping us off”? BIG, BIG, BIG.
This provides two critical PR lessons for Trump’s GOP rivals:
- Keep your message simple, direct, and bold. Yes, all candidates claim to know this, but they have no clue. In a superb example of marketing prowess, Trump took an issue where strong measures poll well (immigration), and he blew it up. Mexico? They’re ripping us off and sending us criminals. Birthright citizenship? It’s a perversion of the 14th Amendment (he’s right, by the way). The border? Build a wall—now. Criminals? Gone. Sanctuary cities? Bye-bye.
No delays. No compromise. No kidding. Fellow GOP candidates, this is how you awaken a nation that has given up. You strike a nerve, then soothe it. You ask for everything, then “compromise” at a place better than your real goal. It’s called “negotiation,” and Trump should charge exorbitant fees for the clinic he’s conducting.
- Avoid petty sniping. Trump’s comments regarding other candidate’s looks, poll numbers, or wives should serve as examples to avoid—but some candidates aren’t listening.
Carly responded to Trump’s “face” debacle with a terrific ad and a strong debate comment, but her bristling tenor with Trump diminished her “above it all” mojo. Likewise, the normally unflappable Marco Rubio fell into labeling Trump a “freak show.” And Mr. Congeniality, Ben Carson, fumbled badly with a comment on Trump’s religious faith.
Two candidates who aced this lesson are Ted Cruz and Chris Christie. Cruz shows vision for the future, courting Trump’s supporters by respecting their guy. As for Christie, I felt he had the second best moment of the last debate (after Fiorina’s Planned Parenthood triumph). Chastising Trump and Fiorina for squabbling over business records, Christie noted how voters could care less, and how the squabbling wasn’t helping the American worker. Impressive.
Never before have GOP candidates received such bold lessons on the campaign trail. Beta-testing concepts most wouldn’t try, Trump prepares candidates for the modern era—an era of low information voters and reality stars. Scott Walker couldn’t sail these waters. Jeb Bush is drowning. Bobby Jindal’s sterling character and brilliance mean nothing, because they don’t “connect.” It’s a new age.
The Final Gift
Perhaps Trump’s greatest gift isn’t to other candidates, but rather, to GOP voters. Trump teaches us what to seek in a candidate, even if it’s not him. We need more than ideological purity, and much more than election victories bringing piddling results. We need to win again. We need some things fixed—like, really fixed. We need a sealed border, competitive schools, an energy plan that rewards production over activism, trade deals that level the playing field—we need action, people.
Most of all, we need to convince a skeptical electorate that good things can happen. Go big or go home, folks. When a nation tunes out and stops believing, it takes big messaging to tune it back in—and big results to help it believe. We need a salesman. We need a candidate who sells Americans on America, not one who assumes they already get it (or even like it).
Let Donald Trump be a lesson to us on the mopey Right. Let’s stop fixating on Obama. Combined with our hopelessness and rage, this obsession leaves us sounding like bitter ex-husbands re-re-re-explaining what their wives took. Enough! As we gripe, Americans nod their heads, then look for exits.
Let’s share great ideas. Listen to Cruz discuss the border, and to Jindal discuss energy! Listen to Rubio discuss higher education reform! Listen to Carson discuss healthcare, Christie discuss Entitlement reforms, or Fiorina discuss pretty much everything! For goodness sakes, we have all the ideas! Let’s learn from The Donald, selling these ideas with a wink and, “People, you’re gonna love it!”
What’s the starting point? Giving thanks. No, don’t overlook Trump’s problems, as these point us to better candidates. But let’s give thanks for huge debate audiences. Give thanks for freed up campaign dollars. Give thanks for big talk, bold marketing, glaring mistakes, and everything else our candidates need to see. Above all, give thanks that, once we replace whining with selling great ideas, we can tune in this tuned out society, and “Make America Great Again.”
Let’s all join hands and give thanks…for Donald Trump.