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Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Will Old Political Formulas Finally Apply to Trump?
J. Robert Smith
"Trump's a goner," said friends of mine in Washington DC, in the aftermath of the surfacing of the old tape of him talking salty like a sailor, and before Sunday night's debate. Friends who are pretty good at politics and who've generally been fair in their estimations of Trump. But, hey, even these folk breathe the air Inside-the-Beltway, so they're susceptible to the oppressive groupthink and industry town-driven agendas that are DC.
Outside the Beltway is another matter. The old Trump tape is off-putting, but it making Trump a "goner" isn't what's on people's minds. Yeah, this is anecdotal. The polling has yet to capture public sentiment adequately. But the betting is Trump's potty mouth moment strikes him only temporarily. More tapes surfacing? You get shock value once -- unless what the anti-Trump cadre offers next can top the first significantly. Doubtful. But they can always lie (more on that anon).
Voters are given short shrift. To many DC pros, they're statistics and focus groups, but not real people with real lives weighing real candidates and real situations… considering how elections impact their lives and families.
Here I speak of undecided voters -- independents who are watching and weighing Trump and Hillary. In context, and with perspective, what did Trump say in that tape that undecided voters would believe is outside Trump's character? Hmm? A celebrity since the 80s, a reality TV star, a man with a taste for the flamboyant, a guy who's mutli-married and made the gossip columns about who's on his arm at this or that event.
If Mike Pence had let fly the locker-room language about a woman, then the Trump ticket would have a big problem. Pence, an evangelical Christian, who walks the straight and narrow and professes his faith. That's not who Trump is; that's not the public perception of Trump. The Trump tape is a "scandal" without legs, much to the dismay of scheming DC Republicans and perpetually power-lusting Democrats.
God acts in mysterious ways, goes the saying. Trump's enemies surfaced a tape for two key reasons. First, to distract from the WikiLeaks dump that outed Hillary as a Wall Street ally, a cynic and phony on her public bashing of New York's rich and powerful moneychangers. Second, to level the playing field. Trump's enemies see the internal numbers: Hillary and Bill are moral and legal disasters. Undecideds know it, are troubled by it, and are reluctant to screen-touch for Hillary.
What the Trump tape provides is an unexpectedly useful contrast for voters sitting on the fence. Wonder they: "Whose offenses are greater, Trump's mouth about women or Hillary's and Bill's decades-long actions concerning women?" With about four weeks of election campaigning remaining, the sink-in will not flatter or favor Hillary, who is chronically distrusted, even among rank and file Democrats.
With Bill, there's a credible allegation of rape (Juanita Broaddrick), sexual assault (Kathleen Willey), sexual exploits with a White House employee (Monica Lewinsky), and the president's ensuing perjury about said affair and impeachment. Then there's decades of affairs by Bubba.
The pièce de résistance is the long-surfaced role Hillary played managing the stifling of these "bimbo eruptions." Hillary, the champion of women and girls everywhere, touting the compassion and justice of The Village. Imagine that, bimbo eruption manager Hillary regarding rape and sexual assault no differently (though with more urgency and applied pressure) than Bill's too numerous to detail trailer park hookups.
The choice for voters is stark. The sink-in has already begun. Hillary is on the wrong side of the equation. But caution's in order. If the old Trump tape (and any others) fail to waylay him, expect a desperate Hillary and equally desperate Democrats to outright lie about Trump's dealings with women.
From the launch of Trump's presidential bid, the conventional wisdom had Trump marked as a sideshow attraction -- a little color and flare among the typically button-downed lineup of GOP presidential wannabes. Good for a few chuckles, that Trump, but let's get serious.
How wrong the experts have been about Trump, whose issues resonated powerfully, whose blunt messaging was like fresh air, and whose bare-knuckled fighting cleared a crowded GOP field. Trump made the GOP's practiced pols and high-priced experts look bad -- verybad -- and that doesn't sit well with men and women who've staked their existences on being right about politics. Careers, power, and paychecks are on the line, and those folk want no disruptions, no threats to their ways of life.
The Democrats want to retain the White House so badly they've willingly invested in two old, wheezing warhorses -- Bill and Hill -- who've alternately been advantages and deadweight to the Democrats. On average, though, Democrats see the Clintons as pluses. Hubris is at work among the Democrats this time.
Think Democrats: "Slick Willy and Hillary have slipped out of so many legal and ethical controversies that -- forget Teflon coating -- they're titanium-plated, nearly impervious to consequences for their unending moral lapses and criminality. The MSM has them covered, anyway. We're sharp operators, too. We're riding them one more go, because we can't afford to have Obama's advances lost. We're just inches away from taking the courts and controlling the nation for a generation or more."
Trump is no accident, as establishment Republicans hope. He didn't make the movement that's roiling the GOP and sending shockwaves through the nation's establishments now; he gave it a face and a voice. He's a great disrupter at a time when the nation's conventional politics are collapsing. Say voters, lopsidedly: the nation is on the wrong track. Politicians and Washington government can't be trusted. The future looks darker for us, our kids, and grandkids.
Shortly after the old tape emerged, Trump manned up, apologizing. Note the contrast with Bill Clinton, who made his apology about lying about the Monica Lewinsky affair. Hillary has never apologized for her role in strong-arming or trashing many, many of Bill's women who were potential liabilities.
Trump got off the canvass after the first debate and tape release to smartly best Hillary in Sunday night's debate. The prediction here is that debate will not only stop any bleeding that Trump had from the tape, but as undecided voters reflect in the coming days, convict Hillary with a powerful clarity in their minds. That will take time to reflect in the polling.
Expect the next four weeks of this most historical presidential contest to be hell on earth, politically. Is Trump elected president on the first Tuesday in November? I'll venture, "Yes," though expect it to be a close-run affair. Critical turns in history often hinge on a series of factors that only matter when taken in sum later.
But Donald Trump continues to upset the conventional wisdom. He's far outperformed the establishment's clichéd expectations. He may well do that again on November 8.