Hillary Clinton effectively sealed her nomination last night. And Donald Trump almost certainly did the same, winning five states by larger margins than the polls and the pundits expected.
Why did Trump exceed expectations?
Probably lots of small reasons added together. But I’ll call out a few from the field of persuasion.
1. Trump’s “lyin’ Ted” linguistic kill shot is working its magic.
2. The so-called “rigged” nomination process has energized voters against the establishment. (Calling the primary system “rigged” was one of Trump’s best persuasion moves of all time.)
3. Trump’s dominant win in New York state made him seem inevitable for the first time. Voters like to be on the winning side.
4. Trump’s “crooked Hillary” and “stamina” linguistic kill shots tell Republican voters that Trump already has a harpoon in Clinton. She’ll bleed out before November. Republicans are warming to the matchup, despite polling that says Clinton beats Trump in a general election.
5. The “Tale of Two Trumps” story has convinced nearly everyone that Trump modifies his approach to the situation. Trump at a Trump rally is mostly stand-up comedy. Trump in a serious interview is a different character. Trump is completely transparent about his different personas, and people are starting to see it as strategy, not insanity.
6. Cruz’ approach to winning delegates without winning the popular vote looks smart and effective. But it also makes him look like the lawyer that he is. That’s not a good look.
7. The weather was agreeable (I think?), and big turnouts are good for Trump.
8. The hiring of Paul Manafort gives Trump top-shelf credibility as a serious contender. The number of people who believe Trump secretly does not want to win has now dropped to zero. (He wants to win.)
9. The invulnerability of Trump to every type of civilized attack is hard to ignore. He’s a winner in the process of winning. People like that.
10. Trump rolled out the “woman card” attack on Clinton. Expect lots of backlash and hollering about sexism. Also expect that 100% of the voting public knows that the “woman card” accusation is a persuasion death blow to Clinton’s campaign. And Trump is the only candidate alive who would dare say it out loud.
Trump’s “woman card” strategy is weapons-grade persuasion. It is a “high ground” maneuver with an “identity” angle. Either one of those approaches can be a kill shot. But together?
I’ve not seen anything like it. The engineering is superb.
Trump will probably win with men for all the obvious reasons. But winning with women has until lately seemed impossible. So the “woman card” kill shot is aimed at women voters, not men. And what it does is flip the framing, as Trump likes to do.
Clinton framing: It is time for a woman president.
Trump framing: Gender is not a job qualification
I remind you that this is the year 2016. Trump’s message recognizes that gender should not be a hiring criteria. That’s the high ground. You can’t get higher.
And it gives women an identity choice. Do they pick the leader who says the “woman card” is a qualification for a good job? Or do they pick the leader who has a long record of promoting and mentoring women because he thinks gender should not be a qualification?
If you think the election will be interesting this year, you should read my book because it has nothing to do with the first part of this sentence.