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Master Persuader Scorecard on the Trumpless Debate

Master Persuader Scorecard on the Trumpless Debate

    Last night the Republicans held their debate in Iowa without Trump. Let’s see how Trump fared.

    For starters, Trump’s “bimbo” tweets about Megyn Kelly caused her to get an anti-bimbo haircut shortly before the debate. In the 2D world, that haircut is a coincidence of timing. In the 3D world, Trump caused it.

    Trump raised $5-6 million for veterans by making some phone calls. Not bad.

    For about two hours BEFORE the debate, CNN went to full-time coverage of people standing in line for Trump’s event. The debaters across town had no visual imagery at all. Then CNN started showing video of Air Force Trump, the American flags on the stage, and more people in line. It was a full visual win for Trump.

    Only FOX had the broadcast rights to the debate, but several networks carried Trump’s event. CNN couldn’t get the grins off their collective faces as they stuck it to Fox News. 

    Both the debate and Trump’s event became about Trump.

    A debate with no Master Persuader left nothing for Fox News but a bunch of Master Debaters. They were arranged in a straight line, but your mind probably put them in a circle.

    Trump was on stage hugging his two social media stars, both African-American women. The affection looked real in both directions. Meanwhile, over at the Festival of Too Much Whiteness, Cruz awkwardly – and as a joke about Trump – called Ben Carson a bad surgeon. Fail.

    Trump won the public opinion war against Fox News, which gave him an enemy-of-my-enemy moment that Democrats had to notice. They hate Fox News too. And at the very least, it showed that Trump is not beholden to anyone.

    I tried switching back and forth between Trump’s event and the debate. It made the debate look extra-boring. (Literally low energy.). I gave the debate 10% of my viewing time because I didn’t expect any surprises. Trump got the rest.

    Viewers started to understand that Trump’s decision to skip Iowa was strategically perfect. He was already ahead in the polls and the debate could have gone bad in some unpredictable way. He removed that risk and moved to something he could control, along with the media.

    Trump often claims he can overcome his lack of government experience by hiring great people. Evidently Trump has good people on the campaign because they pulled off quite a show on limited time. It would be hard to think of anything Trump’s campaign has done wrong. 

    Trump addressed his empathy gap by focusing on vets. Sure, every viewer knew it was a political stunt, but it still focused on vets, and still raised real money. You will remember that Trump did something big for vets long after you stop caring that he is a political opportunist.

    Trump is running for Dealmaker in Chief. We saw him walk away from a bad deal at Fox and negotiate for millions of dollars in donations within one day. And we saw him make all of it work. It looked effortless (but obviously was not).

    Huckabee and Santorum shared the stage with Trump. Both are popular in Iowa. They improved their own images and Trump’s too.

    Rubio had a good debate night say the pundits as well as a Frank Luntz focus group after the debate. Rubio’s support will come out of Cruz’ supporters more than Trump’s. And that should be enough to give Trump a comfortable win in Iowa before he runs the table.

    Across town, Bill Clinton was campaigning for Hillary. But it looked as if someone else dressed him – and probably not a male person. It wasn’t helping.


    For new readers, I don’t align with Trump’s political views, and I’m not well-informed about the issues. I’m mostly interested in Trump’s powers of persuasion. 

    If you hate Bill Clinton’s sweater, you might like my book. In both cases you would be exhibiting good taste.

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