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Friday, August 19, 2016
We saw a new and improved Donald Trump yesterday in Charlotte, where he did something he previously said he wouldn't do: apologize. Yes, it was slightly hedged, but also unmistakably an apology:
"Sometimes in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues you don't choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that. And believe it or not, I regret it. Thank you. And I do regret it. Particularly where it may have caused personal pain. Too much is at stake for us to be consumed with these issues, but one thing I can promise you this, I will always tell you the truth."
Most observers, including me, attribute this to Kellyanne Conway's influence. She is reportedly accompanying him and offering communications advice. Softening the edges as it were.
But can he pick up enough support to overcome the commanding lead that Hillary Clinton currently enjoys? Or has he been defined in the eyes of the public so thoroughly that, like Mitt Romney, he is defined as someone who does not care for voters?
I think the chances are that if he continues to follow the advice of Kellyanne, enough members of the public will change their opinion that he has a real chance. There are two reasons for this:
He is defined as a celebrity in the public's mind, having many years in the public eye. But as a politician, he is still raw and somewhat unformed. The clumsiness that he apologized for is evidence that he is a work in progress. Having spent years on a TV show title The Apprentice, he is now an apprentice himself, learning as he goes. And, especially compared to Hillary, he has shown him able to adapt and learn in his new role. His personality is far more animated than Mitt Romney's. While I am not among those who were turned off by Romney's apparent aloofness and elitism, a lot of people were. No doubt due to his upbringing, Mitt gave off a "cool" vibe as opposed to Trump's "warm" – as in animated, not necessarily friendly – personality, which is much more in sync with ordinary people, despite Trump's ostentatious wealth.
There is a decent chance to convince Americans that once they get to know Trump better, they will appreciate that he gives all, and is learning, unlike Hillary, who doesn't change, is more imperious than Romney ever was, and who is taking 3 days off right now.
It all depends on his consistent execution. The signs, so far, are good.