How to turn around a flailing campaign

By Chris Cillizza analysis

Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally at Windham High School. Photo / AP
Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally at Windham High School. Photo / AP

It's indisputable that Donald Trump's presidential campaign has reached its lowest ebb. He is trailing Hillary Clinton badly in both swing state and national polls and continues to do battle with Republican leaders.

What's less clear is whether - and how - Trump can bounce back.

Here are quick, painless steps to get him to single-digit competitiveness in most polls with Clinton:

Stop talking so much

Trump seems to have an unending willingness to talk to the media - despite his insistence that we are "the most dishonest people". It means he is always either stepping on his preferred message of the day or making some sort of other news entirely. Trump is his own worst enemy in this regard. He has repeatedly taken a good news day or news cycle and turned it into a bad one simply by talking - and talking. The more a political candidate talks, the worse they tend to do. While this isn't universally true - John McCain talked forever during the 2008 primary campaign and it helped him - it's definitely true for Trump.

Find a message. And stick to it.

Trump's approach during the Republican primary was to try a series of attacks (and nicknames) against his rivals until one stuck. And, one always wound up sticking - "Little" Marco, "low energy" Jeb and so on. A general election is a different animal; you can't just throw 100 messages out every day and hope one lands. You need to decide the two or three things you really want to emphasise on a given day, week or month and then talk about them every day, all day. For Trump, that should be: a) the need for real change in Washington and politics b) the need to elect him to ensure a conservative-minded Supreme Court and c) Clinton can't be trusted. That trio of issues/messages would resonate with a broad swath of the country. And, in most of his speeches and interviews, Trump mentions one, two or even all three of them. But he also mentions 200 or so other things, making it very hard for a would-be voter to cut through the clutter.

Stop picking dumb fights

There is no strategy in which Trump's almost-week-long back-and-forth with the Khan family was a good idea. You empathise with a family who have lost a son in combat, not try to demonise them. This fight was a political cul-de-sac from which Trump had no reasonable exit strategy. Trump's natural inclination is to attack when threatened. Always. He doesn't believe in taking the high road. Ever. But, any candidate (or adult) knows there are fights you want or need to have and those that you should avoid because they aren't ones you can win. Trump seems convinced the fight is enough - even if he loses, because, in his mind, he never loses. The Khan episode should be instructive to Trump. Rather than blaming the media for covering it unfairly, he should use it as a teachable moment. Pick fights you can win. Walk away from all the other ones.

- Washington Post

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 27 Oct 2016 18:13:38 Processing Time: 520ms