Trump Being Trump: General Election Style (Week 18)

What a difference a week makes.

Last week, Donald Trump retook the persuasion lead in the election, and at just the right time. Today is labor day, and from here on out the stakes get raised even higher. Polling will be more frequent and classically, “people will really start paying attention,” though in the age of social media, I’m fairly certain this trope no longer applies.

“Women Don’t Like Her”

Remember when The Donald said that so many months ago? I’ll remind you.

I said after that that the “war on women” and “first woman president” tactics were over, and that has essentially been the case with some exceptions such as at the Democratic National Convention. You don’t see Hillary Clinton talking about her being a woman anymore, or even so much that “Donald Trump is a misogynist.”

But this week, the linguistic kill shot became true, at least for the moment. More women now view Hillary Clinton unfavorably than favorably. Her favorability rating also dropped by double digits across multiple important Democratic demographics:

Note the media’s “leading the witness” tactic here too. Can you spot it?

I don’t put as much stock in “favorability ratings” as a lot of other political scientists, especially during this election, but it is a significant development directly related to Hillary Clinton’s loss of the persuasion initiative. Her robust post-convention bump has now completely evaporated, Dukakis-style. If women don’t come out to vote for her, it’s over.

Result (for Trump): Victory

Trump Takes a Trip

Donald Trump’s campaign went international this week, when, at the invitation of Mexican President Nieto, he ventured down to Mexico City to have a talk.

This was an incredibly bold and ballsy move. Donald Trump is one of the most hated people in Mexico, and Nieto, who is also unpopular, might have tried to score some points by turning him into a shit show down there and humiliating him. Instead, a productive meeting seems to have taken place, lies about the wall notwithstanding. What was more important was that it appeared to be amiable, and you saw Donald Trump as President in that trip, standing side by side with a foreign leader.

The sensory information was so strong that people were saying things like “the two presidents” and “President Trump.” That’s not only thinking past the sale, it’s seeing and hearing past it. What you saw was Donald Trump as President of the United States meeting with a foreign leader on mutual interests without an embarrassment or a catastrophe, and sounding well-informed. There was nothing abnormal or scary about it, and that was the image he needed to dispel. He also completely dominated the frame in Nieto’s own house, showing you what a strong negotiator he could potentially be, just like he’s been saying for the past 15 months.

Donald Trump Pena Nieto meeting Mexico
The body language tells it all. Limp wrist vs. strong wrist, no eye contact vs. deep eye contact.

Result (for Trump): Decisive Victory

Hillary, Meanwhile…

Made her only public appearance of the week giving a by all accounts boring speech to the American Legion. She also looked terrible, fueling rumors over her health, her biggest vulnerability and the only currently feasible path Donald Trump has to making her scarier than the lunatic character. Scott Adams said what we were all thinking:

It would only be a preview of the storm to come.

Result (for Trump): Decisive Victory

The Immigration Speech

Arguably the most highly anticipated event of the week was Donald Trump’s immigration speech. He delivered it in Arizona just hours after meeting with President Nieto, at a large rally, which was a mistake in my opinion. You’ll see why.

Overall, it was mixed. Content wise, it was superb. First, it was specific and policy-rich (so Hillary’s side can’t attack him on the angle that “he doesn’t know anything” or “he lacks specifics”). It was also superb because it reframed the immigration debate. Hillary’s people can’t attack the initiatives to deport criminals or have a legal immigration policy that selects for the best people that can help America and its people succeed (by far the most important part of the speech). There’s simply no high ground on that. There’s no target you can feasibly attack with those things, so reframing is impossible.

Trump bringing out the families of people murdered by illegal aliens was also a nice touch. These are tactics the left has ordinarily used, and they have always worked because they trigger word-thinkers into overdrive. Trump flipped the script and did it for the right wing for once. The incident paired these families with illegal immigration and the implication to word-thinkers was that “if you don’t stop illegal immigration and crack down on sanctuary cities and criminal illegal aliens, you don’t care about these families or their loved ones that were killed.” The pairing was so powerful that cognitive dissonance on Twitter was at light speed. One “journalist” actually said that bringing out those families was a sign that “this was pretty much a hate rally!” You could tell just how effective it was by that.

But……there was one yawning gap in the speech, and that was the delivery and the tone Trump used. It’s impossible to attack the actual content of the speech without cognitive dissonance that makes you look ridiculous, but Trump’s biggest problem is that he’s perceived as a lunatic, and I knew as it was going on that the voice tones he used and some other off-script quips (“not gonna happen!”) was going to add to the confirmation bias for a lot of people that he’s a lunatic demagogue. I knew, for instance, that the Clinton side was immediately going to say that the speech was “dark,” and like clockwork, I woke up to find Tim Kaine use that word in association with the speech. Trump left a big opening for his opponents to take advantage of, rather unnecessarily.

That day showed undoubtedly that there are two Trumps – the one that shows up at rallies and the one in more private, intimate settings. It would have been wiser for him to paint the immigration picture on the latter canvas, particularly after his trip to Mexico. I said on my last post on Trump that one of the things he should probably do is eschew some of the big rallies and use his charismatic factors in other ways to defuse the “lunatic” character in more intimate settings. He didn’t do that at the immigration speech – at least not to the fullest extent that he could have, and we already saw just how powerful that tactic I wrote about can be with his meeting with Nieto. And unfortunately for Trump, the recency bias of memory will mean that the immigration speech will be prioritized over his meeting with President Nieto, since it happened afterward.

The speech seemed to show first and foremost concern for the American people (“Team America”), can’t feasibly be called “racist” without major cognitive dissonance by word-thinkers, and showed “policy credentials” so he doesn’t seem crazy (to quote Scott Adams), and as Scott Adams also remarked, the word “priorities” effectively lets him get out of the “deportation force” plan while still looking tough and strong on illegal immigration in general. That was very strong persuasion indeed.

But the tone of voice he used could easily be perceived by word-thinkers as yet another instance of Trump as lunatic demagogue, and lunatic demagogue is the character he needs to get away from at all costs. If he can do that, he wins because there’s no other reason to vote for Hillary. If he can’t without making Hillary something worse (which is very difficult), he loses.

Ultimately, it seems similar to his RNC acceptance speech in that it could have been much, much more effective.

Result (for Trump): Inconclusive

Taco Trucks Everywhere!

After the immigration speech, one of Donald Trump’s Latino surrogates remarked that there would be “taco trucks on every corner.”

This by itself can’t be called “racist” because in the media’s mind, only white people can be racist, so Latinos (not a race) get a pass for saying things like this. But it did associate the Trump campaign with more things that can be considered “racist” in another context, so word-thinkers will likely conclude that “while this guy can’t be racist, he might be giving cover for racists.”

Result: Defeat

Iran Deal Blowup

Last week, more information came out that Iran was engaging in more nuclear shenanigans, essentially benefiting from the deal while America got nothing. I can’t recall the details. I don’t really care to. Any issue with Iran benefits Donald Trump, persuasion wise, though it won’t be near enough to win.

Result (for Trump): Victory

More Smoke, But Really No Fire

Last week, revelations came out that Bill Clinton used taxpayer funds under the Former Presidents Act to pay Clinton Foundation expenses. This included people who helped her set up Hillary’s private email server, among other things that blurred the lines between the Foundation and the State Deparment. Nothing technically illegal, but it does add yet more confirmation bias to “Crooked Hillary.” This still won’t be enough on its own, but if Donald Trump ever gets out of the lunatic frame, it will.

Result (for Trump): Victory

Hillary The Hawk

Last week, Hillary Clinton seemed to insinuate that any “attack by Russian hackers” could be responded to militarily. Since this is routine now, and since things like the DNC hack aren’t exactly priorities for the American people, she sounded instead like a warmongering hawk – exactly how most people view her. War with Russia is probably scarier than anything Trump has proposed.

Hillary Clinton warmonger Russia

Result (for Trump): Victory

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Last week saw the release of August’s jobs report. It wasn’t a good one. About 151,000 jobs were added during the month, a drop from the 180,000 that were expected. As I’ve remarked multiple times up to now, a bad-sounding jobs report benefits the party that isn’t in the White House. That’s Trump’s party.

Result (for Trump): Victory

The FBI Roars Again

As the week ended, the FBI released documents on its interview with Hillary Clinton in early July. It wasn’t a pretty picture.

She couldn’t recall getting briefings on how to handle classified information. She couldn’t make out that a big red “C” stood for classified material on a document. She said she suffered a concussion and could only work two hours a day. She had her aides smash several blackberry devices with a hammer! There’s a thumbdrive out there with the entire Hillary Clinton archive and no one knows where it is. She can’t remember much about her classification powers. She used the advanced deletion program Bleachbit to delete many of her emails after she said she would turn them all over.

And so on.

There are only three possibilities in light of this information.

  1. Hillary Clinton is lying through her teeth to the FBI.
  2. Hillary Clinton is suffering from dementia.
  3. Both.

Pick one.

Your move, Godzilla.

But it gets worse!

Remember when people were assuring us that Hillary Clinton wasn’t hacked? Remember when Donald Trump said she was likely hacked and our enemies have a blackmail record on her? Who’s right?

The server was accessed using Tor.

This doesn’t exactly confirm Donald Trump’s frame, but it does refute that of Hillary and the mainstream media. Hillary Clinton’s unsecured server was accessed by an unknown party at least once.

It all makes her look like a crook with dementia that is a security risk, and that’s the thing Donald Trump most needs.

Result: Decisive Victory

Trump Goes Detroit

Over the weekend, Donald Trump took a trip to Detroit. The cognitive dissonance of the media was hilarious. First Donald Trump was criticized for “reaching out to blacks in front of white audiences.” Then when he decides to go to a black neighborhood and talk to people in a black church, the media finds excuses to criticize him anyway, like this:

The meet itself was great, which included his attempt to lay out “a new civil rights agenda.” It was also a strategy that I suggested he might use just last week – the charismatic meeting and seducing people in more personal settings rather than at the large rallies. Donald Trump certainly has a lot of work to do, but you can’t call him a racist lunatic from this. If this is the front he displays from now to election day, he’ll have a much better chance. But I’m not counting on it.

Result: Victory

Regardless, Donald Trump has once again retaken the persuasion initiative. I’m still predicting a Hillary win as of today, but if this kind of thing continues, Donald Trump will win. Hillary’s impressive post-convention bump is gone now. That means she’s vulnerable to the “hidden Trump vote,” which I believe does exist to some degree. It’s difficult to say that a hidden Trump vote can make up for a near-10 point gap in the polls. But a 5 point gap or less? Certainly.

Hillary Clinton has done nothing substantive since the Democratic National Convention aside from her flopped alt-right speech. Recall that after the Democratic National Convention, I thought that the Democrats were going to run on a frame of true patriotism against the dangerous, anti-republican (small r) demagogue in Donald Trump that threatened the existence of the American republic, and therefore defeating him was the patriotic thing to do. They haven’t done this, and Hillary seems to be attempting to learn from Thomas Dewey by disappearing and expecting the presidency based on an idea of simply not making any mistakes (which means the inevitable mistakes she does make are more focused because there’s less overall material to judge her on). In the meantime, Donald Trump is campaigning furiously across the country and even outside it. The shades of 1948 are indeed strong. Just as I predicted in May.

If you want to predict what might happen next and so surpass the pundits with your third eye, read Stumped, since it has a persuasion history of all of America’s presidential elections.

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