Mark Gundy reviews the path Donald Trump has deliberately taken, examines why this strategy is resonating with voters, and foresees that Trump will win the White House by a landslide.
The unthinkable is happening right before our eyes. Roll the clock back just six short months and the likely face-off was between the presumptive Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and the Republican establishment, dare I say succession candidate, Jeb Bush. There was some discussion of Rubio, Cruz, and Christie, but no one seriously thought they had a chance against the Bush machine and its money. Pundits almost universally acknowledged it was Jeb’s to lose against Hillary in a rematch barroom fight straight from the eighties.
Donald Trump had just announced he was running, but this was viewed as a publicity stunt rather than a serious entry. After all, as a former real estate mogul turned television celebrity, what right did Trump have to enter the race for President along with professional candidates? Many remembered that Trump had briefly flirted with the idea of running seven years before but then quickly retired leaving pundits to assume this was more of the same, a playful billionaire’s vanity that would gain him notoriety without any real commitment.
Then suddenly and as if out of nowhere, there was Donald Trump making the most politically outrageous and career-ending comments imaginable about Mexico and immigrants. Politicians instinctively know you cannot say politically incorrect things and expect to wake up the next morning with a campaign intact. Step out of bounds for even a moment, a single sentence or phrase, and a 30-year career is ended. The modern-day version of the Inquisition, the press, descending upon you like a swarm of locusts bent on destruction, making you irrelevant forever unless you grovel before them with the usual retractions and/or excuses. The familiar rhetoric by now goes something like this, “I didn’t mean what I said, it was out of context, I’m sorry if anyone was offended,” etc.
Donald Trump, a formerly invisible candidate, was thrust into front page news everywhere as the media swept in to denounce this self-made barbarian who had just committed political suicide. While these comments regarding immigration shocked the political establishment on either side of the aisle, both moved quickly to distance themselves from them. Trump’s comments served to reinforce the view of both parties that Donald Trump was not a serious candidate and would soon blow away.
Only, he didn’t.
The 24-hour news cycle was nonstop Trump. You could not turn to a single channel, besides Turner Classic Movies, that someone somewhere wasn’t denouncing the “racist” Donald Trump for his unspeakable comments about Mexicans. All was well in the world and political correctness was in charge for all to see and fear. The message delivered was as usual, “Step out of line and we will crush you.”
The next day, the media approached Donald to record the expected ritualistic falling on the sword and “sincere” apology for speaking about Mexicans invading our country. As if the original comments themselves were not shock enough, the press was greeted not with abject apologies but instead a belligerent Trump who not only refused to retract his statements but doubled down on them to the horror of the press now faced with an unrepentant sinner. The press was nearly apoplectic over this, and this story again dominated the next 24-hour news cycle with Trump’s name the scorn of every reporter with a pulse.
Then, the tragic death of Kate Steinle occurred as if to highlight what Trump had been saying all along and in a rare moment made all of the collective media to look like fools to the American people. Donald Trump was suddenly a household name and the press was responsible for it. Suddenly, Trump seemed a lot closer to reality than the fantasy world the elites in media seemed to live in. As the saying goes, sometimes events make the candidate, but you have to give Trump credit for speaking about a subject the Republican base was clearly concerned with. Establishment Republican candidates had for several decades talked tough on immigration as a winning issue with voters. Time after time, voters were promised swift action. Time after time, they were let down.
Trump may be many things, but dumb isn’t one of them. As incongruous as it might seem, billionaire Donald Trump was now being seen by voters as voicing the concerns of average Americans concerned over the complete abdication of controlling our borders by our government. Politicians said the wall was too difficult to build or too expensive. Donald Trump, a world-famous developer, promised to not only build it, but get Mexico to pay for it. Again, the outrageous comments by Trump dominated the news cycle and the elites laughed and joked about him and his hair.
Then the polls hit, vaulting Donald Trump into first place and not by some narrow margin. Suddenly, every Republican candidate was on the immigration bandwagon despite having denounced Trump a nanosecond earlier. None of this was lost on Americans because the press had made it such a mainstay of the news cycle, it was virtually impossible not to now be aware of both Trump and his comments. The polls proved the average voter brighter than the average pundits or politicians as voters were demanding the borders be sealed if only for the sake of common sense.
Republican candidates now appeared like whores willing to say anything to please voters while Trump’s brand now appeared by many to resonate with truth even if delivered with less humility and more crudely than desired. In fact, many gave Trump points for simply standing up to the press and for championing an immigration position they mostly agreed with. In short, in a head-to-head confrontation with the powerful media, Trump had weathered everything they could do to topple him. Despite this, Trump now stood victorious as poll after poll reflected many people now ignoring the pundits and instead listening to Trump. His campaign speeches attracted tens of thousands to listen to him while his competitors were lucky to get a handful.
The media turned to a different attack to marginalize Trump. Over and over the pundits characterized Trump’s poll numbers as a flash in the pan and not to worry would soon fade. Again and again, the pundits on the various news channels assured us that The Donald would “fade.” Voters were told how “early” it is in the election cycle and the polls, showing Trump as far ahead as The Force Awakens is over other films, really meant very little as it was “too soon” to matter.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Trump continued to dominate. While Jeb Bush continued to reinvent himself more often than Katy Perry, Trump took one controversial position after another to the delight of professional pundits who declared him dead more times than Bones did on Star Trek. The Trump phenomenon was really a brilliant campaign strategy designed to keep The Donald on the TV and in front of viewers and voters, and all for free. Trump correctly figured out he could reach more voters by being on television 24/7 than by running boring ads as popular as infomercials and all he needed to do was take a position bound to infuriate the media to turn them into unwitting accomplices.
The debates, normally snoozefests almost no one not bedridden with a television turned to that channel watches, suddenly became the ultimate reality TV show with ratings through the ceiling. Overnight, Donald was a star and the media loves ratings more than truth or even its own principles. Donald was everywhere. Flick the channel and there was Donald talking, or reruns of Donald talking, or someone else talking about Donald talking. Like Godzilla, the press who had created Donald found they couldn’t control or destroy the Trump. Every dirty trick the press had mastered at reducing candidates to Jell-O seemed to fail on Donald Trump.
If you have noticed, Donald has had both Liberals and Conservatives trying to trip him up on stage and off. Donald’s debating style so far has been to take a question and then answer it the way he wants to, often basically ignoring most of it and using the opportunity to alter the subject to make the point he wants to.
If you’ve been paying attention, Donald is slowly backing away from the “look at me I’m so great” rhetoric and sounding more and more reasonable and, dare I say it, humble. Now, it’s always been my belief that the original Donald we’ve seen is an act calculated to get him attention he would not have otherwise enjoyed. Now that he’s accomplished his goal of basically winning the Republican nomination, he’s backing off of that persona and sounding far more reasonable and presidential. If you doubt that Trump has sewn up the nomination, then ask yourself this: If any other candidate had Trump’s poll numbers right now, would not the media be saying it’s a done deal, over, finished, “mission completed”?
If you compare The Donald of six months ago to the one on stage now, just a completely different presentation, which also shows you he’s a quick study. Perhaps both personas are affected, or perhaps the current one is, but if so that’s true for all politicians. Many have objected to the earlier bellicose persona, however, even then when I would see him with friendly interviewers he always sounded much more like the current iteration of Trump we see now. So perhaps the new Trump is not an act at all. Certainly watching Donald interact with his considerably talented family during the Barbara Walters interviews supports that contention.
Bill O’Reilly last week rightly called Trump’s campaign brilliant and he’s known Donald a long, long time. O’Reilly clearly does not believe that earlier Trump was The Donald he knows but instead a campaign act to hog the stage and grab attention that otherwise would have fallen on the “establishment” candidates. Six months ago, not a single person took Trump seriously or imagined even for a moment that he might be the Republican candidate. No one now imagines Trump is simply going to “fade away.”
In the last week, you can see another profound change in the Trump campaign as his rhetoric is now being aimed at Hillary. The Trump camp clearly believes they have the nomination sewn up and, with his poll numbers, who’s to argue. So now the real contest begins with Hillary being the new target and suddenly there is a nonstop commentary about her coming from The Donald where before he rarely mentioned her. Every interview now, every tweet, every public opportunity is being used to diminish her.
The early narrative is that she’s tired, perhaps not in good health, and not able to stand the rigors of the campaign, let alone the Presidency. A powerful argument set against a vibrant, endlessly energetic Trump who coincidentally released his own health records last week to back up that argument. Trump is also tying her to Obama’s obvious failures knowing she cannot distance herself or risk losing the Obama camp and, even more devastatingly, Donald is branding Hillary as a “liar.” The latest evidence provided by Hillary herself was Hillary’s fabricated claim that ISIS is using Donald Trump videos to recruit Muslims to their ranks. Previous embellishments by Hillary are also well-known and documented.
The media has been played like a Junior Varsity team rookie by the Trump team. Consistently underestimating Trump is the only thing the media has gotten right. For months, voters were told of Hillary’s foreign experience and Trump’s inexperience despite his negotiating deals all over the world and working with foreign governments. The pundits have claimed Donald Trump could not negotiate with Putin. Then the news this week is that Putin recognizes Trump as a leader and someone he could negotiate with should he become President.
This last debate found many Republican candidates definitively calling for no-fly zones in Syria and shooting down Russian planes violating it. Republicans, except for a few like Rand Paul and Trump, seemed hellbent on rushing to war. For someone with “no experience,” Trump’s position of not risking WWIII by shooting down Russian planes seems by contrast to be remarkably sensible and mature. No wonder then that poll after poll shows American voters trusting Trump as Commander in Chief by wide margins over his Republican rivals.
The single most important trait of a leader is trustworthiness as it speaks directly to character. American voters are still old-fashioned enough to prefer someone they trust. Donald Trump is intent on seeing that Hillary’s seemingly endless litany of lies comes back to haunt her and it’s a winning strategy. Hillary has become an unwitting ally, even providing new material for Trump’s attacks. Voters may not care for The Donald’s brash talk and often lowbrow insults, but insofar as they are aware he has not yet lied to them and that, to excuse a poor pun, trumps a record of lies and deceit every time. This has always been Hillary’s Achilles’ heel and renders her a much less formidable candidate than the media and the Left assume.
The liberal media elite, of course, believes this race will come down to a policy wonk showdown where Hillary’s vastly greater experience will shine through and Trump will be shown up as a bumbling, bellicose buffoon. But television is more about visual resonance than policy specifics or else Nixon would have defeated Kennedy. Indeed, people who HEARD the Nixon-Kennedy debate on the radio said that Nixon easily won, while those who SAW the debate said that Kennedy did. Likewise, Jeb is better briefed on nearly every topic than Trump but has come off sounding weak and irrelevant next to Trump. Hillary will be no different.
Donald Trump is going to make Hillary Clinton look like the criminally-corrupt, bitter old woman she really is and that’s not a visual that’s going to play well with American voters, especially standing next to a vibrant Donald Trump promising, with few details, to “Make America Great Again.”
What was supposed to be the coronation of Hillary Rodham Clinton, first female President, will instead become one of the worst landslide losses in history.