This past week was arguably the best week of Trump’s general election campaign so far. However, it also bore witness to one mistake that made it less than perfect, and which Donald Trump will really need to avoid making in the future.
1. That “Veterans Rally”
The week began with a rally of veterans outside Trump Tower regarding his disbursement of the $6 million he’d supposedly raised for veterans in January. From a “3D” marketing and persuasion world, this was gold. Donald Trump has built a significant pillar of his personal brand in politics on the foundation of veterans’ issues. From the standpoint of public relations, taking a stance for veterans is brilliant in any respect, especially when dogged with such high unfavorables as Donald Trump is. Undermining that would be chipping away at this important pillar of his campaign and making his personal brand vulnerable. This would be a clear win for anti-Trump forces.
…Except it quickly became clear, even in leftist outlets, that Hillary Clinton’s camp specifically directed the rally. Now instead of looking like an authentic demonstration, the optics of it was that it was carefully coordinated, which made it lose its authenticity and instead look like a feeble attempt to cause outrage. Trump reinforced his veterans’ pillar over the weekend in Washington, putting him ahead on this poignant issue and with this important in-group.
2. “Protests” in New Mexico
Speaking of fake protests, they seem to accompany Donald Trump especially in the southwest. At a Trump rally in New Mexico, scores of “protesters” descended on the area, carrying Mexican flags, violently clashing with police, jumping on cars, and so on.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Donald Trump secretly has double agents organizing these things. The optics of carrying Mexican flags alone are a huge boost to his campaign, but the violence of the “protesters” carrying them just make it look even further like an invasion of a “non-American” tribe into the “American” tribe’s territory.
I’ve said that Donald Trump’s main problem is that he scares a lot of people, but this has the potential to be even more scary and infuriating. It’s the best sort of advertising for the Trump campaign, but I don’t think the leftist “protesters” and the Soroses holding the purse strings will learn this any time soon. These tactics are effective against pussified Republicans (which they’re used to going up against), but not people like Donald Trump who fight back.
3. A Governor Gets Investigated
This week, it came out that the Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, a key Clinton acolyte who made a big contribution to the Clinton Foundation, is being investigated by the FBI for irregularities in campaign contributions for his 2013 election bid.
This has the potential of being of strategic significance. The investigation of such a close ally has optics that are bad enough for Hillary Clinton, who has a personal brand around perceptions of dishonesty, but it’s made worse by the fact that Virginia is a key swing state, with McAuliffe signing an executive order allowing felons to vote (it’s currently being challenged in court).
This was a tactical defeat for Hillary Clinton this week, but if this blows up, it could turn into a strategic disaster.
4. He Really Doesn’t Want Her to Win
A video came out of Bill Clinton debating a Bernie Sanders supporter for 30 minutes this week.
Why was this a disaster?
- Former Presidents of the United states shouldn’t be spending 30 minutes debating some random supporter of an opposing candidate. It lowers their status.
- It looks like a lecture to Sanders supporters, alienating them further from Hillary Clinton.
Either Bill has totally lost all his 90’s persuasion skills or he doesn’t want Hillary to win. You know what the most likely answer is.
5. A New Slogan
Hillary Clinton, following in the footsteps of Jeb Bush this week, launched a new slogan, hoping it will light a spark in her uninspiring campaign. The slogan is “stronger together.”
This is the best slogan that Hillary Clinton has released in her campaign so far. No, that’s not a good thing, because it’s still a terrible slogan, and if this is the best she can do, she’s in big trouble. Quoting myself here:
One reason Trump’s slogan is so good is that “make” is a simple verb that calls the prospect to action. Everyone wants to join in “making America great again.” It’s unambiguously about YOU.
Hillary’s “stronger together” slogan is much better than her old “Hillary for America” slogan, but it still has no call to action. “Stronger together” doesn’t really mean anything – it gives you nothing to do. In this context, it’s an attempt to cast Trump as divisive, but it doesn’t do it. There’s no immediately recognizable implication for this, and in terms of completing a sale (or a seduction for that matter), delay is the ultimate enemy. If you can’t breeze your prospect through the sales process, you will lose the prospect. In this case, the slogan doesn’t breeze the prospect into easily agreeing with it that Trump = divisive.
In addition, “stronger together,” at least in my opinion, can be seen as a feel-good platitude designed to mask bullshit. It doesn’t call for change. It can be cast instead as calling for continuation. “Stronger together” sounds too much like “we’re all in this together” from 2012 – in other words, continuation. But Trump, as seen in the “again” part of his slogan, is calling for change.
Is this political market geared toward continuation or change right now? I’m sure you know the answer.
Aside from that, running a campaign as being explicitly against something is usually not a winner in terms of persuasion. Notice that even with Trump’s most outrageous comments, they all served to be something that would explicitly benefit the “American” in-group:
1. (Temporarily) banning Muslims makes Americans safer.
2. Building a wall makes Americans safer.
3. Renegotiating trade deals makes Americans richer.
And so on.
(Remember, logic has nothing to do with this. What was important is that these things can be perceived as benefits to the targeted in-group or demographic.)
Hillary still hasn’t offered any perceptibly positive selling point to any in-group but women, and that selling point is a relatively weak one. How does Hillary being in the White House while being a woman at the same time actually benefit the “women” in-group in concrete terms?
You know the answer.
The slogan was an eminent disaster predicted by the blueprint presented in Stumped. It will tell you how to avoid these mistakes and make headlines and slogans that actually work.
6. She Just Can’t Catch a Break
In addition to some other disasters this week, Hillary Clinton’s email scandal just won’t go away, and it roared back with another earthquake this week. A State Department audit found that her private server went against all measures of protocol and would have been denied had she asked for permission to use it. This stands in stark contrast to everything she’s said so far. The security breach was blasted by the State Department’s investigators, and it was made worse by Hillary Clinton’s staff refusing to cooperate with them.
This got so bad that Hillary Clinton’s allies are now reduced to saying that she did this “for the privacy of her friends and family,” and even Chuck Todd, the host of Meet the Press, was bashing the whole thing.
When your side is reduced to such nonsensical arguments that would have had you screaming bloody murder if someone on the other side did the same thing, and when the liberal media has turned against you, the Democratic candidate, you are in bad shape.
The drip-drip of this scandal will continue.
Result: Decisive Victory
7. Frame Control Par Exellence
A damning attack was blitzed across the airwaves in key swing states this week by Clinton allies. The attack consisted of a tape from ten years ago with Donald Trump “sort of hoping” that the housing bubble would burst so that “people like him” could buy at bargain prices.
This was a good line of attack. Donald Trump was framed as “a selfish, insecure money grubber who only cares about himself” to quote “goofy” Elizabeth Warren (and she sounded goofy there). Most politicians would have staggered at this and tried to explain it away, but Donald Trump isn’t like most politicians.
Instead of stumbling in trying to explain himself, Donald Trump used classic agree and amplify tactics, remarking that, though this was ten years ago (a way to cast it off as being irrelevant), as a businessman, that’s what he was supposed to do. This was the agreement. The amplification came when he said that the country could use someone like him that knows how to make money in bad times, as he would be able to do that for the country and make it rich.
Now instead of being a “selfish, insecure money grubber,” he’s the businessman that’s going to make money for the country, in contrast to the incompetent politicians that just want to sound good.
Utterly amazing, but not surprising. I predicted this exact thing when discussing the Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton matchup at the end of Stumped:
Additionally, with Donald Trump’s frame being what it is, he will take any attack against him, spin it into a positive, and throw it back at Hillary Clinton, or simply ignore the attack and counterattack with a much stronger stance. (pg. 142)
Aside from this battle demonstrating his master frame, it also displayed the incompetence of the Clinton campaign. This was a potentially good line of attack. Instead of using it in October, they used it in May. Now, in addition to Donald Trump neutralizing it, few will remember it, and even if they do, they will make decisions based on more recent information. This is the recency effect in action, and Hillary Clinton evidently doesn’t understand it at all.
Marcus Luttrell said that the guys in the Navy SEALS have a saying – “we’re not actually that good, everyone else just sucks.”
This week has proven that saying in many respects. While Donald Trump is indeed that good, Hillary Clinton and her allies make it all worse because they’re completely incompetent (she always has been). This combination is probably why Scott Adams has stated that Trump will essentially be running unopposed by October. We’ll have to see.
8. The Trump vs. Sanders Debate
I wrote about this before. It was a great move, but perhaps predictably, it quickly dissipated. The attention it generated alone was good enough and left Hillary in the lurch. Donald Trump’s refusal to debate Bernie Sanders was also hilarious:
Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. Likewise, the networks want to make a killing on these events and are not proving to be too generous to charitable causes, in this case, women’s health issues. Therefore, as much as I want to debate Bernie Sanders – and it would be an easy payday – I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.
What do you see here?
- Democratic process is rigged. This brands him as the outsider combatting the people rigging the Democratic primary system against Bernie Sanders, as seen in Schultz, who Sanders has targeted recently. This places Donald Trump as the natural champion of Bernie Sanders’ supporters.
- Donald Trump maintains an air of superiority and higher status than Bernie Sanders by refusing to debate him, as he “is second place.” Readers of The 48 Laws of Power will recognize this as Law 34 (the law that Bill Clinton violated above).
- He casts the media (a demographic most Americans hate) as an uncharitable out-group that won’t contribute to women’s health issues. Media = out, women = in. Guess who’s the champion of the in-group?
- It affirms his superiority over Bernie Sanders while remarking that Hillary Clinton is “crooked.”
Space dominated. Narrative framed. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders had no say over it.
9. Obama Campaigns for Trump
Barack Obama this week said Donald Trump “rattled world leaders.” While this may have been the smart attempt to play to the “scary Trump” angle, it backfired because Americans instinctively hate having the opinions of other countries dictate their affairs. Donald Trump capitalized on this and instantly reframed it as them being “rattled in a friendly way” and that was a good thing because he was going to stop other countries from taking advantage of us.
Frame, frame, frame.
10. Rattling the Court
It wasn’t all good for Donald Trump this week, however. At a rally toward the end of the week, he remarked that the judge in his Trump University case was likely to be biased against him because he was of Mexican heritage.
This was not, in my opinion, a good thing to do.
Fortunately for Trump, not much attention was paid to it, but showing disrespect for established institutions of law and crossing too close to the line on identity politics in a way which can’t be tied to other issues – such as immigration, terrorism, and so on, is probably a losing strategy in the general election. Nothing about this incident can be tied to solutions that benefit the “American” in-group. To me, this looked like another rare instance of Donald Trump letting tactics and operations (this time regarding Trump University), dictate strategy (securing an electoral coalition). If I were Paul Manafort, I would advise Trump to avoid these things from now on. No one will remember Trump University or make a decision based on it close to election time as things stand now. He needs to use the recency effect to his advantage, and in this instant, he didn’t.
A potentially seriously damaging development is now taking place, however, with buffoon warmonger extraordinaire Bill Kristol getting very specific about an “independent” bid to siphon votes from Trump. Things don’t look good for that right now, but Kristol is nothing if not delusional, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
Overall, we saw a lot of frame battles this week, with Trump winning every one of them and spinning negatives that could have been seriously damaging into positives. Read Stumped so Trump can teach you how to cultivate an unshakeable frame.