The Unfavorability Illusion
The Unfavorability Illusion
April 26, 2016
Regular readers remember I blogged that Megyn Kelly got her new haircut because of Trump’s influence. This article seems to confirm it.
You also know I predicted that Megyn Kelly would do an interview with Trump that would mark Trump’s third-act solution. That interview is scheduled for May 17.
It is worth noting that while you were watching Trump do his thing, Megyn Kelly came out of it stronger, with a higher profile, a better job, and a sure-fire ratings bonanza with the upcoming Trump interview. Kelly turned me into a fan along the way. Nicely done.
If you support Trump, this would be a good time to let go of any animosity you have toward Kelly. She is winning because she went full-Trump and turned publicity into something bigger. On May 17th Kelly will be a key player in deciding the fate of the country, if not the world.
Apparently Kelly can handle herself. And she can handle Trump too. If you thought Trump was being too hard on her, you might be a sexist.
Now let’s talk about Trump’s sky-high unfavorability rating that hovers around 70%. Trump haters use that figure as their last hope. No one can get elected with such high negatives, they say.
That is cognitive dissonance. And it is one of the cleanest examples you will ever see. I’ll tell you why.
Literally everything about Trump’s campaign has violated form. He has no government experience, he isn’t polite, he hasn’t mastered the policy details, he isn’t taking money from big donors, and on and on. Yet he is poised to take the Republican nomination.
So none of the old rules apply to Trump. He has approached the election as a persuader, not a traditional politician.
No traditional politician could overcome a 70% unfavorability rating at this stage of the election cycle. But Trump isn’t a traditional politician. He’s a persuader.
Keep in mind that Clinton’s unfavorability is also high, at around 56%. That’s a 14 point difference from Trump. Can a Master Persuader close a 14-point gap before November?
I would rate that task as “easy.”
No one else in politics could close that kind of gap. But Trump has special tools and a willingness to use them. This challenge is almost exactly what Trump does well – change minds.
Let me list a few ways Trump could win despite high unfavorables.
1. Trump could make Clinton’s unfavorable ratings worse, which will be easy once Trump concentrates on her in the general election.
2. Trump could improve his own favorability by being more “presidential” for a few months so he doesn’t look so crazy.
3. Trump can sell the “two Trumps” story (while simultaneously denying it) until you start recognizing his campaign behavior as strategy, not insanity. That sale is underway now.
4. Clinton’s health could be such an issue by November that she no longer looks like a viable option. That’s at least a 50% likelihood in my opinion. (Part of a hypnotist’s skill set involves detecting “tells” for health issues. Clinton looks deeply unhealthy to me.)
5. Trump could name a VP that makes Trump seem less scary. That seems like a near certainty.
6. Clinton’s server scandal could turn into an indictment. Or worse, it could appear as if the indictment is being delayed for political reasons. That plays into Trump’s “rigged system” narrative. He wins either way (in typical Trump fashion.)
7. Trump could win Sanders supporters (young people) by coming out in favor of legal weed and inexpensive or free college. Add some support for universal healthcare (better than Obamacare), some job promises, and you’re almost there.
8. Trump has already improved his haircut. The color is no longer orange and the cut is much better. Humans are visual creatures, and that old haircut probably accounted for about 10 points of his 70% unfavorable rating. The new look is probably already having a small effect.
9. Trump can move to the middle on his most aggressive policies. Expect to hear more about how the deported illegal immigrants can easily get back into the country via legal means. And remember my prediction that we will temporarily call U.S. Post Offices Mexican Embassies so the illegals can “deport” themselves just by going to the Post Office and filling out some forms. That is technical deportation (because an Embassy is foreign territory) but no one is worse off for it.
10. The Syrian refugee crisis could spawn more terror attacks in Europe, or more rape stories. That seems likely. A few days ago, Germany’s chancellor, Merkel, came out in favor of refugee “safe zones” in Syria. That was Trump’s idea months ago. Everyone scoffed. Watch as Trump’s “crazy talk” from months ago turns into policy before your eyes.
11. Trump can prove he’s not a racist. That’s easy. All he needs to do is hug a bunch of non-white folks on camera. Real racists don’t hug the ones they dislike. They just don’t.
12. Trump can push “love” over hate. As I predicted some time ago, he is already saying love, love, love. This persuasion will take lots of time and repetition to have an impact, but Trump has time, and he controls the rate of repetition.
13. As long as Cruz and Kasich are in the race, our minds allow us to imagine an alternative to Trump that is some sort of magical unicorn of goodness. Our brains are conflating all the non-Trump Republicans (including Romney and Ryan) into some sort of imaginary “other” that has qualities we like. Likewise, on the Democrat side, your brain is combining Clinton and Sanders as one conflated Democrat option. And Bernie brings some good qualities to that imaginary creature (such as the appearance of honesty).
Your brain has not yet compared Trump (alone) to Clinton (alone). You have only compared conflated concepts of a Clinton/Sanders creature to a Trump/Cruz/Kasich/Romney/Ryan creature. You think that isn’t happening in YOUR head, but it is. That’s how all of us are wired. We don’t compartmentalize as well as we think.
When the race gets down to a clean Trump versus Clinton contest, and people realize there are no other options, the comparison changes. Trump wins the matchup against “crooked Hillary” with ease, based on skill, not policies. You haven’t even imagined that contest yet. Your brain won’t let you.
Trump does NOT win against your imaginary unicorn candidate that is a conflation of good qualities from other people. But that unicorn won’t be running against him.
You’re already hearing the word “landslide” applied to the upcoming Republican primaries. By October you will hear that Trump is “running unopposed” for all practical purposes.
If you think my haircut predictions are spooky, you should see my book.