Now that the Democrats have injected some much-needed warmth into Hillary Clinton’s aloof image with inspiring oratory at the Democratic convention, can Republican strategists do the same for Donald Trump in the election home stretch?
Yes, if he would shut his mouth long enough to listen.
Trump has secured his base of loyal followers. It’s the undecided and swing voters he must speak to — and these groups want more than outrageous fear messages. They want reassurance that he will govern with a strong, steady and sane hand.
The Donald considers the Oval Office a stepping-stone to expand a well-established business brand, so he has little need for the traditional marketing methods that promoted successful presidential candidates in the past.
Armed with an avid desire to tweet and the sheer size of his ego, Trump has shunned political marketing conventions, like big ad spends and early Super PACs. Such a pugnacious candidate appeals to raging middle-class Americans in the Rust Belt and coal country; those who feel victimized by the loss of their jobs.
He stokes the wrath of uneducated white Americans who can’t accept the fact that the country’s demographics have changed — and white privilege is no longer a guarantee. These people sent Trump rocketing from having a 1% chance of winning the GOP nomination in August 2015, per a CNN poll, to closing the deal in Cleveland.
Nonstop media coverage also helped.
The normally skeptical media establishment is so transfixed by Trump that the resulting coverage amounted to nearly $2 billion in ad dollars through March 15, according to a report by mediaQuant, a company that tracks presidential campaign spending and computes the equivalent dollar amount in paid advertising.
Trump is betting on his celebrity status — and continuing free media — to overcome the growing fund-raising gap between his campaign and his opponent.
The Clinton campaign is outspending Trump on ads by a 15-to-1 margin, per NBC News. Clinton’s campaign and her allies have spent $57 million on ads in the general election as of July 12, compared with $3.6 million from Trump and his backers.
“Do ads work anymore?” Trump asked supporters at a recent rally. Trump doesn’t need ads, but he does need an image makeover.
Playing the unconventional outsider who eschews establishment marketing methods and political correctness has worked so far, but his hate-filled rhetoric leaves many voters uneasy.
Any American with a relative who fled the spread of Communism will not welcome Trump’s calls for Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s email. And the media wants to know if any undisclosed business connections between Trump and Putin are buried in the tax returns the Republican nominee won’t release.
Given his post-convention bounce – one CNN poll has him topping Clinton 44% to 39% – Trump has an opportunity to reach the undecided and swing voters who often decide elections. (The numbers will be recalculated after the DNC.)
The Rust Belt and coal country don’t represent all of America, and not every voter is full of rage against the establishment. Someone on Trump’s team needs to do the math.
If he can quell his barbaric impulses, Trump can build on the glimmer of sanity projected in his Republican convention biography video.
There, Trump is the hero whose construction expertise saved New York City from the brink of bankruptcy in the 1970s. Of course, truth has nothing to do with what happens in a political convention video. It’s all about image building, and this feel-good video made Trump appear downright normal in Cleveland — until he opened his mouth and delivered that grim law-and-order speech.
Team Trump should be worried.
The themes at the Democratic convention have focused on children, hope and the future. If you want to understand what true public service is, listen to First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech.
If you want to know what true equality means, remember the reaction when Hillary Clinton appeared to step through shattering glass that depicted photos of 44 white male presidents, save one.
The momentum of her campaign was palpable.
Things can’t be good for the Republicans when their presidential nominee’s behavior resembles the revolting Ramsay Bolton character in the HBO series “Game of Thrones.”
If Trump and the Republican Party believe the image of a raging, rabid dog is a winning strategy, the Clintons will move back into the White House.