To: Donald J. Trump
Re: The 2016 Election
From: Bill Scher, liberal pundit
SUBJECT: How to beat Hillary Clinton in November
Congratulations, Mr. Trump. You are well on your way to winning the Republican nomination. Time to start thinking about how to take on Hillary Clinton.
This won’t be easy, but you can do it. Unlike the GOP primary, in which you led from almost the moment you entered the race, this race you begin behind. I know you like polls, and you are behind in nine of the 11 polls taken this year gauging a Clinton-Trump matchup. In the most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, you lose by 13.
You also start from behind in terms of the 2012 electoral map. Assuming you don’t lose any of the Mitt Romney states, you need to pick up, at the absolute least, three additional states from Barack Obama’s column.
You could go for a sweep of the “big three”: Florida (one of your “home” states), Ohio and Pennsylvania. If you can get only Florida and Ohio—the two tightest states of 2012—you’d need to add two or three of these Northern states: Michigan, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. If you can get only one of the big three, you need four or five of the smaller Northern states. If you can’t get any of the big three, you’ll need all five of the smaller set plus some of the less white swing states: Virginia, Colorado and Nevada.
Contrary to much speculation, the magical unicorn of new voters will not be your savior. Voter turnout has already been relatively high the past few elections. The 61.6 percent registered voter turnout of the 2008 election was the highest since 1968. In 2012, turnout slipped slightly to 58.2 percent, a loss of 2.2 million voters. Romney lost by 4 percentage points and 5 million voters. You need to make up far more ground than that.
The hard reality is that you need to win over some swing-state voters who went with Obama in both of the past two elections: the blue-collar workers saved by the auto bailout, the unmarried women who want equal pay and reproductive freedom, the Catholic moderates and other irregular churchgoers who swung from George W. Bush to Obama and, yes, the Latinos who made the same jump.
Stitching together such a Republican rainbow coalition would be a steep challenge for a typical Republican politician. But you, Mr. Trump, are no typical Republican politician!
It’s time to use your unmatched media skills to take you where no Republican has been able to go in recent years. But that means abandoning much of what has carried you to the brink of the Republican nomination and resisting a political consultant paint-by-numbers approach to attacking Hillary Clinton.
Scorching the earth? Tempting, but wrong.
The path to victory may seem obvious. Hammer her on trust: Benghazi, emails, Goldman Sachs speeches and Wall Street donations. Twist the knife by dredging up charges of Bill Clinton’s sexual harassment and abuse, and accuse Hillary of enabling. Pick up disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporters and white working-class voters by rejecting big corporate donors, highlighting your opposition to unfair trade deals and assuring you know how to bring back jobs.
But that’s not so simple. You, your supporters and others have been doing that hammering for months. Yet her lead over you in the RealClearPolitics poll average has been fairly steady since September.
Furthermore, your insult game on Hillary lacks the panache you have for your Republican rivals. Correction: your male Republican rivals.
You have a knack for crystallizing the character flaw of your enemies—“low energy” Jeb, “Little Rubio” the “choke artist”—but your mockery powers fell flat when it came to Carly Fiorina. After you said of her, “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?” Fiorina faced you down in the next debate. You were forced to grovel on stage, “she’s got a beautiful face and she’s a beautiful woman.”
With Hillary, you also miss the mark. “Clinton does not have the strength or the stamina to be president,” you keep repeating. There are a lot of things you can call Hillary that will make voters nod their heads, but questioning her endurance isn’t one of them. You don’t seem to know how to cleverly insult a woman. If you can’t do it, don’t do it.
Never forget that Clinton’s best moment in all of 2015 was her 11-hour marathon congressional testimony on Benghazi, an event concocted by unwitting Republicans. Her performance was akin to Obama’s table-turning race speech in the 2008 campaign responding to the controversial sermons of his Chicago pastor—reassuring Democrats that the candidates could handle whatever the Republicans threw at them.
You are unlikely to bag your bounty by drowning yourself in the right-wing fever swamps of Clinton scandal theories. Always tempting. Often backfires.
What you need to fix, now
So if you can’t easily tear down Hillary, what can you do to build up yourself between now and the convention? How can you re-introduce yourself to the constituencies you need?
You already know your biggest hurdle in this race is race. A whites-only strategy is mathematically daunting, and your pursuit of Republican white voters has severely damaged your reputation with nonwhites and socially liberal whites. Blithely asserting you are going to win with “the blacks” and “the Hispanics” will be far from sufficient in the general.
Look at the failures of the Sanders campaign. Just showing up for a few events in black neighborhoods, with a few surrogates and a lot of promises, does not impress when you haven’t been present in their communities for most of your professional life.
Consider spending your spring on a Hillary-esque “listening tour” of small roundtable discussions with African-Americans, Latinos and Muslims—not for the cameras, but for actual listening. Allow some unvarnished talk on bigotry in America to seep into your brain and change how you think and speak. Show understanding and personal growth, and you’ll at least get a hearing.
Although people-of-color voters are an obvious challenge for you, most assume you have an easy path to win over working-class whites. They see themselves in your politically incorrect persona and eat up your broadsides against the pending trade deals and “hedge fund guys … getting away with murder.”
But you’re about to go six months tangling with a candidate who is both one of the biggest wonks and one of the most surgical attackers in the country. She can match your populist rhetoric and expose yours as lacking substance if you don’t beef it up.
You are generally allergic to policy specifics, but that didn’t matter because so were most of your Republican rivals. (Even the ones with position papers didn’t dwell on them much.) Clinton is on another level.
Yes, yes, voters don’t read position papers or sweat details. But some of Sanders’ weakest moments were when Clinton’s policy fluidity made him seem out of his depth. When she shows off her plan to rein in Wall Street and reduce income inequality, your “I’m just gonna do it” bit isn’t going to fly.
And Clinton is going to take that back-of-the-envelope tax plan of yours, one of the few policy papers you grudgingly agreed to develop, and put it in the shredder. The Republicans won’t hit you for an $11 trillion tax cut that mostly favors the rich and nearly doubles the nation’s debt-to-GDP ratio. But the Democrats have been running that play for years to win working-class and middle-class votes.
You need a real policy team, and you need it now.
In the general: Pivot like nobody has pivoted before
Fortunately, you have a “psych profile” akin to that of Martin Blank of the film Grosse Pointe Blank: “moral flexibility would be the only way to describe it.” You can run a general election campaign that is completely different from your primary campaign, without a care about past contradictions. And you won’t lose your die-hard supporters because, as you have practically proved, you could “shoot somebody” without losing voters.
But what you have also said, back in November 2012, was that incendiary comments made in the primary can sink a candidate in the general: “[Romney] had a crazy policy of self-deportation which was maniacal. It sounded as bad as it was, and he lost all of the Latino vote. He lost the Asian vote. He lost everybody who is inspired to come into this country.”
To save yourself from Romney’s fate, you need to pivot like nobody has pivoted before.
You had elements of such a pivot in your Super Tuesday news conference. But it lacked a certain…coherence. “Planned Parenthood has done very good work for many, many—for millions of women,” you said, with a clear eye on moderate female swing voters. However, these pro-choice suburbanites are not impressed when you follow that statement with “we’re not going to fund as long as you have the abortion going on.” You will need to pivot much harder.
And you planted the seeds for a Latino pivot back in August when you said your “great wall” would have a “big beautiful door.” Shelve your rhetoric about deporting everyone. Talk more about how you will ensure healthy flows of legal immigration, protect immigrant worker rights once they are here, and keep families united. Maybe you can avoid Romney’s disastrous results and have a shot in Colorado, Nevada and Florida.
Attack Hillary with finesse
Of course, your campaign can’t be all positive. Hers won’t. But ask failed New York Senate candidate Rick Lazio about trying to humiliate her on the debate stage. Or ask President Obama how smart it was to call her “likable enough.” You can turn Hillary into a sympathetic character real fast. Besides, plenty of other independent entities will be throwing their own mud at her.
So give up the weirdly insecure “tweetstorm” rants and snarky Instagram video swipes. That feeds the long-time Hillary haters, but those folks are already with you, and they are not enough. You don’t have to be as noble as Sanders was and renounce any discussion of her “damn emails.” But you can play against type, and win plaudits for taking the high road.
Pray for an indictment
You could get lucky. Clinton is being dogged by six investigations and inquiries into her use of private email as secretary of state, most significantly by the FBI. If the political gods are with you, she’ll get hit with an indictment in October. More realistic would be a finger-wagging report from the State Department inspector general’s office (which the Clinton campaign suggests is being pushed by a high-level Republican staffer).
Of course, the Clintons are a family that survived a presidential impeachment. So nothing can be assumed to be automatically fatal. And the political benefit from a Clinton indictment could be negated with a loss for you in one of the three fraud causes against Trump University.
Obviously, you’d have to hit Clinton hard if she actually were indicted. But recall how Bill Clinton won the political debate over impeachment: by constantly assuring the public he was fighting for them while Republicans were obsessed with personal destruction. Surely, she would try to downplay any negative development as small beer or politically motivated, while staying focused on “the issues that matter to the American people.” No matter what happens on the legal front, to either of you, you will need to do the same.
You face an uphill battle. You won’t have a united Republican army at your back. Meanwhile, Obama’s approval ratings roughly match his 2012 vote, making it easier for Hillary Clinton to replicate his winning coalition. I make no guarantees that the above strategy is foolproof. But your path to victory lies in burying your current persona as a crude vessel of white rage, and repackaging yourself to a totally different audience.
And if anyone knows how to play to an audience, it’s you.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/03/donald-trump-hillary-clinton-2016-how-donald-trump-beats-hillary-clinton-213712#ixzz43Qzum7XU
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