Donald Trump has been saying lots of bad things about Hillary Clinton for months, but the one that will stick is “stamina.” I’ll tell you why.
The best Trump kill shots have the following qualities.
1. Fresh word that is not generally used in politics
2. Relates to the physicality of the subject (so you are always reminded)
Clinton has already experienced some coughing fits on the campaign trail. And her voice often sounds hoarse, which is to be expected when you give speeches every day. Neither of those things mean much. But add the Internet rumors that Clinton has some lingering brain issues from a concussion, plus her long bathroom break during that one debate, and some rumors that she has trouble with balance, and there you go. That’s enough circumstantial “evidence” to convict her of being unhealthy.
The so-called evidence in this case is probably a mix of true facts that might not matter too much plus rumors and speculation. If you looked at any one piece of “evidence” on its own, it would mean nothing. But put it all together and you have…confirmation bias.
Confirmation bias is what makes you see any kind of evidence as supporting your point of view. Once Trump puts in our heads the idea that Clinton might have some stamina (health) issues, that’s all we will see in the evidence, even if it doesn’t exist.
And that is why “stamina” is such a well-engineered kill shot. Between now and November, the odds of Clinton having another coughing fit, losing her balance, forgetting something, or having some other health issue is nearly 100%. Trump has primed his “stamina” kill shot to get stronger as time goes by. Confirmation bias will keep adding “evidence” to his suggestion even if that evidence is imaginary.
Some folks reminded me that Trump has been using the stamina kill shot for months with no real effect. But stamina is a sleeper word. It gets reactivated every time the real world triggers it in your brain. And the real world is certain to deliver.
What happens the next time you see Hillary Clinton looking tired? Under normal circumstances you might tell yourself that all candidates look tired. And they should, given the workload. But Trump primed you to see any bit of fatigue in Clinton as a health issue. So you will.
Keep in mind that Trump always goes where he has an advantage against an opponent. Trump’s big advantage (I think) is that he appears to be managing his physical energy better. I’ll bet he spends fewer hours campaigning but uses those hours better because he draws big crowds.
In my book, I talk about using “energy” as the primary metric for you own life. When you do things that keep your energy high, the rest of your life works out better. You are more fun to be around, better looking, more productive, and more credible. Trump seems to be managing his energy whereas his opponents are trying to maximize voter contact. They probably spend more time prepping for debates than Trump does, trying to memorize important facts that Trump doesn’t care about. If I’m right, Trump will keep his energy high and Clinton will fade over the months from exhaustion. Voters will see it.
You won’t remember that Clinton worked harder on the campaign trail, or that she did more studying to command the facts. You stopped caring about that stuff a thousand campaign lies ago. But you will remember any health or energy issues that Clinton might experience in the coming months.
What if Clinton copies Trump and reduces her schedule to keep her energy high? That would look to the public and the pundits as if Clinton doesn’t have the stamina. Trump wins either way. And that’s another tell for a Trump strategy. He creates two ways to win and no way to lose.
Another advantage of “stamina” as a kill shot is that it reminds you of sex without being a sexual word. It makes you think Trump has this stamina thing (sexual power) and Clinton does not. And when Trump shows up with his model wife, the message is reinforced. Add a shaky and unhealthy Bill Clinton to the mix and the contrast is even bigger. Stamina works in Trump’s favor on every level.
On a related topic, many of you asked my opinion on Trump’s anti-Clinton ad that shows Hillary Clinton barking like a dog and Putin laughing. I give the ad an A+ for persuasion. It was funny and doesn’t take itself too seriously, but at the same time it appealed to our irrational minds just as Trump intends. Your rational mind knows that Clinton’s “barking” has nothing to do with anything. But your irrational mind sees Putin and ISIS looking powerful on the video while Clinton barks like a chihuahua.
The humor in the ad is what makes it work. Without the humor it would look like a lame comparison. And people equate a good sense of humor with high intelligence, whether or not that is true. The ad leaves us feeling that Trump is funny-smart and Clinton is ridiculous.
You know who wasn’t funny? Hitler, that’s who. Every time Trump makes us laugh he chips away at the Hitler meme that has been dogging him. So it works on a branding level too.
Don’t listen to the 2D pundits who say the ad looked like it was created by a college student. Ignore anyone who says it lacks content. That video is a masterpiece of viral persuasion.