A Few Observations on Clinton-Trump Persuasion
A Few Observations on Clinton-Trump Persuasion
May 6, 2016
In no particular order…
The Paul Ryan Exchange
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said yesterday, “I’m just not ready to back Donald Trump.” That was an example of good negotiating. “Not ready” means he hopes to be able to back Trump someday, but only if Trump changes in some unspecified ways that Ryan wants. It gives Ryan leverage. It was a strong move.
But Trump responded with "I am not ready to support Speaker Ryan’s agenda.”
Checkmate, in one move. On this chessboard, a future President beats a Speaker of the House. And Trump makes you think past the sale again, to his presidency.
The Taco Bowl Photo
By now you have seen the image of Trump eating a Taco Bowl on Cinco De Mayo and saying, “I love Hispanics!” It was funny, provocative, playful, and viral as all get-out.
But more importantly, every time it got retweeted and shared, more people saw a smiling Trump proclaim his love for Hispanics. Repetition is truth. Trump’s truth had a good day. That was a clean win.
Hugging and Kissing
I recently blogged that Trump’s best strategy against charges of racism would be to hug a lot of non-white people in public. Racists can’t do that. Racists can lie, but no one is convinced by words in this sort of situation. Actions, on the other hand, are usually unambiguous. If Trump had any trouble kissing non-white babies, it would be obvious to all. (See any video of Ted Cruz showing affection to his wife.)
You can’t fake physical affection when the cameras are rolling. Expect more hugging and kissing. That’s your truth.
Opponents of Trump have started making the case that he is “dangerous” and “risky.”
You know who likes dangerous men? Answer: Everyone.
Seal Team Six is dangerous. George Washington was dangerous. Abraham Lincoln was dangerous. Women like dangerous men. Men want to be dangerous men.
"Dangerous” borders on being a compliment. When you need to thwart some enemies – such as a useless Congress, or ISIS – you want to send in your most dangerous fighter.
“Risky” is a slightly different vibe. I already blogged about “risky” being a bad choice when life is going well, and a good choice when you need to shake up a broken system. We’re in a broken system situation. Intelligent risk is what you want, not what you avoid.
Clinton’s Attack Ad 1 – Imagine President Trump
One of Clinton’s new attack ads features an image of the White House with “Trump” on the front. We are already over the shock of the anti-Trump content in the ad, so all that is new is that we spend more time imagining Trump as president. That is a hard fail for persuasion.
Clinton Attack Ad 2 – Republicans say Bad Things About Trump
Another Clinton attack ad features Republican foes of Trump saying bad things about him. The unintentional effect is to lump Clinton with the GOP establishment. It makes them look like they are on the same side against Trump. That plays perfectly into his outsider narrative, and it is another huge failure of persuasion.
Will a More "Presidential” Trump Still be Persuasive?
We expect Trump to move to the middle and act more “presidential” now that he has the Republican nomination in hand. You might wonder if that will make him less persuasive, given that the wild stuff he has done so far has worked well. Why change?
My best guess is that the public is primed for Trump to act presidential because it fits the “bad boy turns good” movie we all have in our heads. Everyone likes Han Solo, the tough talker with the heart of gold. Trump is making that movie-like transition now, but don’t expect him to go easy on Clinton. The Clinton attacks will be vicious, but Trump’s overall vibe will still trend (spottily) toward presidential. That will give both sides plenty to talk about.
Trump is acting presidential! Wait, what did he just say? No, he’s presidential again. Hold on, what did he just say???
It serves Trump well to have it both ways at the same time. So he’ll keep you guessing until Clinton is toast. Then he’ll go full-presidential. (Well, mostly.)
What Should Clinton Do to Defeat Trump?
People keep asking me what Clinton could do to thwart Trump. The simple answer is that she could get an advisor who understands persuasion, then try some different approaches (A-B testing) until she finds the winning message. That’s what Trump does, and apparently it works.
By all indications, Clinton does not have a trained persuader on her staff. I’ve publicly offered to help for $1.8 billion, which is a bargain, since according to many pundits, defeating Trump would save the entire world. And I have a no-payment guarantee if Trump is elected despite my efforts. What do the anti-Trump folks have to lose?
Clinton’s Campaign Logo
Clinton’s logo is a big “H” with an arrow pointing forward. Someone on Twitter mentioned that it looks like a sign telling you where the hospital is. Once you see it, you can’t see it any other way.
Clinton’s New Haircut
Fashion-wise, I like Clinton’s new hairdo. I think it is her best look. The only problem is that It reminds me of Trump’s haircut.
You think that is a coincidence. It isn’t. (See Megyn Kelly.)
I like that Clinton has her own fashion look that isn’t like anyone else’s look. That’s good branding, even if you don’t care for it personally. Being distinct counts for a lot.
Or at least I thought that way until some wag on Twitter noticed that North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-un, has the same style. Someone else on Twitter described Clinton’s fashion choices as “sci-fi emperor.”
But overall, her fashion choices are helping her on the dimension of persuasion. It gives her a look that is all her own and it conveys power.
If you think this blog post has grammar and punctuation, you should see my book. It’s full of that stuff.
Disclosure: My political views to not align with Trump or any of the other candidates. Here are more details on my opinions.
Update: My CNN appearance will be rescheduled to next week.