Donald Trump had another good week (even though it was marred by tragedy, those tragedies will generally benefit his campaign). This was also the final week before the conventions.
After this point, things will get a lot more serious, and the stakes are a lot higher. Donald Trump needs to not make damaging unforced errors from here, though he’s already well on his way, and the long term strategic situation favors him more and more (explained below).
Bernie Endorses the Sea Hag
Bernie Sanders finally bit the bullet last week, coming out in support of Hillary Clinton. This has been long-awaited in the Democratic Party, and they hope that finally, his remaining supporters will consolidate themselves around the nominee.
And yet, I mined the chatter. Most of it consisted of his people feeling deeply betrayed and sold out. Their hopes (which went completely against reality at that point) were quashed, and that’s always prime for an angry backlash.
Whether this gambit will succeed and bring over the overwhelming number of Bernie Sanders’ supporters that Hillary Clinton needs in order to win remains to be seen.
A series of new polls came out this week, and they were all good news for Donald Trump. As I remarked in last week’s post, the two weeks from June 29th to July 11th were decisive, and the strategic initiative has shifted. The results began to show themselves in the latest polls. Hillary Clinton’s sizable lead in Florida has been erased and reversed, with Donald Trump now leading slightly. Ohio is still a dead heat, and Donald Trump is also, depending on the poll, tied or leading in Pennsylvania. National polls also tend to show Hillary Clinton’s lead slipping. These are obviously good signs for Donald Trump.
The terrorist attack in Nice on Thursday, Bastille Day (and France’s national day) killed 84 people. It was an ISIS-inspired attack and used a truck as the primary weapon, which was new but had been talked about in Islamist terrorist circles for a long time.
I’ve said in the past few weeks that because of the way Donald Trump handled the Pulse shooting in Orlando, terrorism may not be as beneficial an issue for him. The way he responded just seemed too hard, too strong, too fast, making him prone to look like an opportunist as well as one that was somewhat bigoted.
Donald Trump learned his lesson though. This time, he responded strongly, but in the appropriate, perhaps even seemingly sensitive manner, postponing his news conference where he would announce his VP and sending his best wishes.
This is Donald Trump’s best gambit to deal with terrorism. As mentioned in Stumped, he’s already dominated enough space on it by taking such a far-out stance. Now he just needs to calmly prod people into reminding themselves of his stance, while he takes on a strong, but somber tone. He did it right in the aftermath of Nice. However, it’s still too early to call whether this will benefit him or if it’s neutral. It won’t benefit Hillary. That ship has sailed.
The End of Veepstakes
The search for a vice president ended this week and Donald Trump, as I expected, went with Mike Pence. Of the choices seemingly available, it was the best one. He fits all the persuasion criteria outline earlier (has a good resume, is visibly calm and even-handed, and is relatively unknown, so he can more easily mold his image in the way he wants). There were rumors that Donald Trump was seriously considering Chris Christie right up to the very end, and thankfully he didn’t or it would have ended his campaign. Newt Gingrich also proved his negatives in an interview when he suggested that Muslims who believe in sharia should be deported, which was too easy to further help the “crazy racist” kill shot against Donald Trump should he have been the pick.
Mike Pence is a mellow, nondescript pick who at once won’t overshadow Donald Trump but at the same time make him look less scary, which was exactly what he needed.
The 28 Pages
This week, the heretofore classified 28 pages of the 9/11 commission report which explored Saudi connections to the September 11th hijackers were finally released (for the most part, as a good few passages were still blacked out). The 28 pages affirmed Donald Trump’s narrative on border security, terrorism, and the Islamic world. It also gave him even more ample ammunition, should he decide to use it, to attack Hillary Clinton for taking Saudi money. As a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll post three:
Donald Trump and his team should obviously talk about these 28 pages much, much more.
The (Failed) Coup in Turkey
On Friday, the day after the Nice massacre, there was a coup attempt in Turkey on the scumbag Erdogan. It failed, but it still left a lot of people shaken.
As the polls bear out that the public generally thinks Hillary Clinton would better handle an international crisis than Donald Trump, this sort of situation would normally favor her. But this seems to have had no impact on the election. Hillary Clinton hasn’t utilized it (to my knowledge), and if she did, few would care. It was overshadowed by the massacre in Nice, because Nice is a Western city.
Ginsburg v. Trump
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made some remarks that she couldn’t think of Donald Trump being president and would move to New Zealand. Even among the left, her comments were panned. Although everyone knows it’s not true, the Supreme Court needs to appear to be impartial for its credibility, and what Ginsburg did was hardly impartial, immediately raising questions of her fairness should litigation from a Trump administration find its way before the court. Donald Trump was also quick to pounce with a superb linguistic kill shot (as always), saying that “her mind is shot:”
Justice Ginsburg of the U.S. Supreme Court has embarrassed all by making very dumb political statements about me. Her mind is shot – resign!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 13, 2016
This is so good, because it’s just conceivably true. She is old (and visibly so), which we automatically associate with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and loss of memory in general. Recall that this was a line of attack against Ronald Reagan in 1984 until he reframed it brilliantly.
And of course “shot mind” is broad enough that Ginsburg is bound to do something to set the time bomb of confirmation bias off in the minds of people.
Under so much pressure, Ginsburg had no choice but to capitulate, and Donald Trump’s frame was once again imposed.
Baton Rogue Shooting
On Sunday, another mass shooting of police officers took place, this time in Baton Rogue, where Alton Sterling was shot earlier this month. Three officers were killed and another three injured. Though the details are still fuzzy, the shooter (who was black) reportedly belonged to the “sovereign citizens” movement (I didn’t even know that still existed). I don’t know if that’s still the theory as of the time I’m publishing this post.
If this is so, the media will try to spin this as a right wing crime, but Donald Trump’s “law and order” stance already dominated all the space on this issue. Combined with the media furor over police incidents with black people and the Black Lives Matter movement which Hillary Clinton supports, the public will immediately associate it with the leftist narrative (even if it may not have been).
Though I don’t want to use the word “victory” in association with this, the Baton Rogue shooting plays into Donald Trump’s narrative, not Hillary Clinton’s.
Obama’s Approval Decline
While much was made of Obama’s relatively healthy approval rating, this month it’s dipped below 50% (unsurprisingly during the month of July, those same two weeks that were bad for Hillary Clinton). The current president’s approval rating is an indicator of the support for his party in the election to replace him, and 50% is the key number. If Obama’s approval rating dips further, that’s good news for Donald Trump. If it stays over 50%, it’s good news for Hillary Clinton. It’s dipped in recent weeks.
Some Thoughts on Hillary’s VP
There’s no question that of the VP options floating around Trump, Pence was the best one. Scott Adams says it well here.
What matters with Pence is how he looks in terms of contrast with Trump. The best choice for VP is someone who looks like a boring, washed-out version of the top of the ticket. You need that contrast to remind people that the top of the ticket is truly special.
Pence is an experienced politician. But you stand him next to Trump and he sort of disappears. The contrast persuades you – subconsciously – that Trump is better than an experienced politician. That’s totally irrational, and totally effective.
With that in mind let’s look at Hillary’s reported shortlist:
Theoretically helps to shore up the Berniepeople and left wing of the party unhappy about the nominee.
Yet even with her campaigning hard, it hasn’t had much effect on Bernie’s supporters. Her leftism is also squarely against the pendulum swing.
There’s also something else. “Goofy” fits Elizabeth Warren and Trump was right on the mark with the kill shot as usual. Yet, her goofiness and quirkiness give her an unusual charismatic factor that vastly overshadows Hillary Clinton (although that isn’t hard). Simply put, Warren is much more interesting and that’s bad for Hillary.
Hillary’s ego is also heavily invested in being “the first woman,” so don’t expect her to choose another one that will overshadow her.
Likelihood: Very unlikely
Adds the magic word “diversity” to the ticket, which is now the sacred cow of left wing politics.
Yet, Booker is also way more charismatic and interesting than Hillary Clinton so he brings up the same problems Warren does except probably worse because he’s more reasonable to a lot of people. I must admit that though I’m no leftist, I like Corey Booker. You might think that’s a winning combination, but again, he would completely overshadow her (and don’t underestimate her ego on this). He also has a bright future so he may be very wary at associating his personal brand with someone who’s viewed as negatively as Hillary Clinton is. Additionally, from New Jersey which is a solid blue state so he brings no strategic advantage.
A senator from Ohio, one of the three most crucial swing states, who is popular with the same base of voters Donald Trump needs, so picking him could deny Donald Trump extremely critical space that he needs, and not just in Ohio, but potentially in Pennsylvania and Michigan as well.
On the other hand, if Brown goes with her, the Democrats would almost certainly give up a senate seat that they need badly, which the party elite does not want to do.
So while this is undoubtedly the best persuasion gambit that I can see (indeed, the only one that seems to be available to her to retake the initiative, see below), it’s unlikely to happen. Brown also probably overshadows her, so that’s a drawback.
If he’s “the boring” Tim Kaine, that could help her a lot to not overshadow her. On the other hand, he doesn’t do anything for her electorally.
Again adds the magic word “diversity” to the ticket. He’s also not really well known so he has room to maneuver and mold his image the way he wants it to be molded, which is the advantage that Mike Pence brings to Trump’s ticket.
Yet, just because of his youth, he’s likely to overshadow her.
Likelihood: Possible (leaning against)
The governor of Colorado, a crucial swing state. You don’t hear about Colorado as much, but I’ve been playing with the possible combinations and those 9 electoral votes really matter a lot in the end, especially to Republicans.
He’s also very uncharismatic (from what I’ve seen, admittedly little) so there’s no real chance of him overshadowing Hillary Clinton. That’s good for her.
On the surface, if I were Hillary Clinton and I wanted a good persuasion pick with strategic impact, he’s my secondary choice.
Boring, uncharismatic, and from Virginia which is a key state (one which I expect Trump to lose anyway, so him being picked doesn’t hurt Trump as much as Brown does). Doesn’t hurt Hillary like some of the others will.
I expect him to be the pick.
Of course, Hillary Clinton is completely incompetent so don’t bet against her fucking up her pick.
Hillary’s Strategic Situation Prior to the Conventions
Aside from picking Brown and Hickenlooper, I don’t see much more for her to do on the board at the present moment. Believe it or not, heading into the conventions, she’s hemmed in up to her eyeballs.
1. Donald Trump’s “crooked Hillary” linguistic kill shot has gone off in full fashion and because of what Comey did earlier this month, it’s never going to go away. The specter of corruption will always hang over her.
2. Donald Trump already destroyed the “first woman”/”ImWithHer” angle with his “woman’s card” linguistic kill shot and “I’m with you, the American people” reframe. The historic nature of her female candidacy is now completely ineffective persuasion wise.
3. Hillary Clinton has already run so far to the left with her rampant SJWism that she’s thoroughly alienated a lot of traditional Democratic working class voters. She could theoretically try to pivot post-convention, perhaps with some success, but Donald Trump has already dominated so much space that it’s unlikely to do much.
4. Her SJW outrages aren’t going to work anymore. Donald Trump dominated yet more space with his “I am the law and order candidate” frame. There was a shooting in Baton Rogue that killed at least three police officers as of the time of this writing today. All of that favors Donald Trump now because Hillary went full tilt with her SJWism and came down on the side of Black Lives Matter. She can engage in politically correct outrage, but the high tide of its effectiveness has passed. For more on this, see Scott Adams’ posts on “racists vs cop killers” and “Trump’s glide path to victory.” Trump is – finally – making the pivot I predicted at the end of Stumped.
5. Additionally, Hillary Clinton seems to be getting outraged at the WRONG things, where Trump is getting outraged at the RIGHT things (terrorist attacks, cop killings, etc.). And voters already see Trump as being better on issues like ISIS.
6. Hillary Clinton can tout her experience, particularly in light of events such as the failed coup in Turkey on Friday, but we already KNOW that. It’s not a NEW OFFENSIVE that she can make. Additionally, it’s not terribly effective because Donald Trump already framed her experience, believably, as being associated with chaos and corruption.
7. Maybe the economy turns down, but voters already see Trump as being better on jobs. Plus, economic downturns negatively impact the party currently in the White House, and that’s the Democrats.
8. Obama’s approval rating has now fallen below 50%. If it steadily decreases over the coming months (likely because of terrorist attacks, cop killings, and possible job slowdowns), that hurts Hillary Clinton.
9. Hillary’s best shot is embarrassing Donald Trump in the debates, but that’s a dicey proposition. Debates, as you should know by now, aren’t about policy and rationality but about focus, attention, and frame control, and Donald Trump is the master of all three. She might win the “policy” sub-battle, but Donald Trump is likely to win the persuasion sub-battle that counts.
Donald Trump, on the other hand has numerous strategies that he can and will deploy, and I’m expecting him to come out with his biggest bombs in August, and then prepare to fully humiliate her in the debates just like he did with everyone else. He will also continue to pivot to make himself less controversial and scary like you’ve already seen happening over the past couple of weeks. I’m now hearing that he’s going to do some kind of tour de force to black and Hispanic communities, just like Scott Adams predicted. Will that dramatically increase their support for him? Probably not, but it can make him seem less scary, and that’s what he needs.
The crucial question is: how much more scary can Hillary make Trump seem? It doesn’t seem likely that she can do any more, at least as things currently stand. Trump on the other hand can make himself seem less scary, and we are seeing that.
If I’m Hillary, I need to do my best to learn Trump’s gameplan, try to embarrass him in terms of persuasion in the debates, and hope that demographics save me and that the Obama coalition turns out full-tilt. But even that’s dicey because you’re going to have a ticket with two very uninspiring, uncharismatic, low-social proof people on it. Her “project fear” strategy against Trump suddenly looks like it’s reached the point of diminishing returns. Her millions of dollars in ads in swing states appear to be having zero impact. Chapter 7 of Stumped is here.
Of course, that’s the game as it currently stands. The game always changes.
Speaking of Stumped, a wonderful person left this fantastic review the other day:
Donald Trump’s rise and current domination of the political scene is a mystery to the experts and the pundits. At every turn they predicted Trump’s failure. Just a handful of people predicted Trump’s success early. The author of “Stumped” is one of those few.
The book is a full spectrum analysis of Trump and his methods. Scott Adams at his blog predicted Trump’s rise and eventual election to the Presidency more than a year ago. But Adams focuses almost entirely on the persuasion techniques that Trump applies. “Stumped”, on the other hands, looks at Trumps’s persuasion techniques, personal branding, domination of media space, projection of masculinity and leadership, social proof, and more. It examines his marketing methods, tactics, strategy, and operations. The analyses are tied back to general techniques that anyone can apply in business and in life.
“Stumped” also analyzes the current U. S. political situation and how Trump created a compelling offer. The author identifies this offer as the key element allowing Trump to survive and even gain after every confrontation and controversy. “Stumped”, correctly in my view, identifies the struggle between globalists and nationalists as the key issue of the 2016 election. Trump has come down decisively on the nationalist side, and this is the source of his strength.
Using the analysis framework established earlier, the book discusses the Republican candidates, the possible evolutions of the Republican and Democrat parties, and the various voting blocs of the U.S. electorate. The book includes an analysis of all U. S. Presidential elections using the framework defined in the book. I found this very interesting, although it is not directly relevant if what you are interested in is Donald Trump.
The book is short, about 150 pages, but is packed with interesting and useful analysis. If you are interested in any of U.S. politics, Donald Trump, persuasion, or marketing, you will want to read this book. I highly recommend it.