How will Trump fight in the general election?

When Trump entered the race in June, I just assumed he would monkey around in front of the cameras for a few days, get his hit of publicity, and then leave. I was wrong. I can take some solace from the fact that everybody else was wrong too. I’m not aware of anyone who accurately predicted what would happen, which is that Trump would boot a dozen losers–including all the supposedly strongest candidates–out of the Republican primary without breaking a sweat and now appear to be on the glide path to victory.

So, much as I and most of the rest of the human race may dislike it, a Trump vs. Hillary matchup looks more and more likely. Those writing about it fall into two camps, the ‘Of course Hillary would win automatically’ camp and the ‘Maybe we shouldn’t be so sure about that’ camp. Hillary leads in the most polls, but not by a huge margin. So with that said, I think it’s time to consider what tactics Trump will employ in the general election race.

  1. Trump is post-spectrum. Everyone in politics believes there’s a political spectrum stretching from right to left, with individual politicians all at some point of being either conservative or liberal. But Trump doesn’t talk about conservative or liberal, right or left. (He may mention it a little, I don’t know, but it’s certainly not his main thing.) He’s assembled a farrago of positions from all over, some that could be characterized as conservative and some liberal, but Trump doesn’t insist on being seen as conservative. If anything he wants to avoid that. Primary opponents kept attacking him for not being conservative and the attacks bounced off without impact, since Trump wasn’t trying to be conservative.

Hillary whole campaign is based on setting up positions close enough to the center to win 51% of the vote, while not making the left-wing base angry. She’s ready and prepared for attacks from the right. But attacks from the left she’s not well-prepared for, and Bernie Sanders has already hit some of them. Trump could assail her for the Goldman Sachs payments, the ties to Henry Kissinger and other unpleasant characters, the Wall Street-funded SuperPAC, the vote for war in Iraq, the friendly relationship with Saudi Arabia, and so forth. Trump is not limited to taking conservative positions. He could take up Bernie-like issues such as raising Social Security taxes on the rich, minimum wage, or student loan debt, and use those to hit Hillary from the left.

  1. Trump uses surprise and ambiguity well. As I was trying to get at in this thread, Trump has been astonishingly good at keeping his opponents off-balance by doing things that no one ever expected. Ever part of his behavior and demeanor violates the rules that politics is supposedly played by. He makes deliberately offensive statements and won’t apologize for them, he threatens to boycott a debate and then doesn’t do it, he threatens to boycott a debate and then does do it, he refers to Megyn Kelly’s menstrual cycle, he does a hundred other things that every highly paid political consultant would tell a candidate not to do. Nobody can make plans for how to battle against Trump cause they don’t have any idea what he’ll be doing tomorrow.

Trump has already tussled with the Hillary camp once and used the element of surprise. Back in January, Hillary accused Trump of sexism. Rather than defend himself, Trump seized the moment to remind people of Bill Clinton’s “record of woman abuse”, i.e. the list of proven sexual harassment claims and unproven rape claims that’s trailed Bill for decades. That attack seems to have taken the Hillary camp by surprise, as they didn’t have a fast or strong response to it.

No one knows what surprises Trump will use in the next eight months–they wouldn’t be surprises if we knew. But we could imagine some possibilities:
[li]Hillary and the liberal media rant against the horrible, horrible border fence that Trump says he will build between the US and Mexico. Then Trump reminds everyone that as Senator, Hillary voted for a border fence.[/li][li]Hillary rants against the influence of big money in politics. Then Trump reminds everyone that Hillary has taken campaign money from Trump.[/li][li]Who knows that else?[/li][/ul]

  1. Trump will continue to play the anti-establishment angle, and court the working class and uneducated. The most central part of his success thus far is that rather than framing his campaign as conservative vs. liberal, he’s framed it as everyone versus the establishment. Thus, no matter who attacks him–Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, the New York Times, Fox News, National Review, John Oliver–it’s further proof that the establishment is quaking in its boots, fearing the coming of Trump. This will continue. More people and organizations will attack him in the coming months, and when he responds at all, he’ll continue to play it as us vs. the rich and powerful.

  2. Trump will continue acting quickly and will force Hillary to react quickly. Trump has deployed this tactic perfectly against his Republican opponents. In old-fashioned politics, everyone has time to think and plan. Armies of consultants, lawyers, advisers, pollsters, focus groups and so forth shape everything that a candidate does, everything they say, and every position they take. When there’s a change in circumstances, the consultants reconvene, the focus groups are polled, and the campaign’s position is slowly agreed upon.

Trump blows this up by acting quickly. After the San Bernadino terrorist attack, Trump waited just long enough for the news to sink in that the terrorists were linked to ISIS, then went public with his plan to ban Muslims from entering the country. It took everyone by surprise and none of his rivals were able to respond quickly. People expect meaningless boilerplate and vague promises from politicians. Trump’s clear, unexpected pronouncement made him the center of attention and left his Republican opponents looking lame. (Or perhaps I should say, more lame than usual.)

Whatever surprise events occur between now and November, Trump will try to pull a similar trick. He’ll announce a plan that’s outrageous enough to get all over cable news and draw condemnation from liberals, but stops short of going too far towards outright totalitarianism, and then Hillary will have to respond. If she offers meaningless cliches while waiting for her consultants to run the focus groups and take polls and find the response that 51% of the people want, she’ll risk looking lame.

Trump understands how the media environment has changed. In the past, people got news once a day. Now news is delivered within minutes. When he tweets something outrageous, it’s rocketing around the world immediately. People expect his rivals to respond quickly. They aren’t used to responding quickly.

He’ll chase Hillary around the stage with a cootie catcher.

Sure that Hillary is ahead in the matching polls but not by a huge margin, the point here IMHO is that just like the polls that predicted how strong Trump was going to be among Republicans the matching polls show also a very persistent trend with Hillary ahead** for months **already among American voters.

A trend that BTW has already passed through all the Trump reminders that gave no “fast or strong response” about Bill’s improprieties and many of the recent manufactured scandals against Hillary (many thanks to Representative McCarty for spilling the beans about why the Republicans are still investigating even after previous investigations from congress found nothing about Benghazi)

The point here is that most Americans so far, with the exception of about 38% of the Republicans, are not impressed with the Ultimate Blighting coming from Trump.

What the OP said plus:

He won’t be a good target for the ammunition the left has rehearsed over the last half century to use against our traditional common varieties of xenophobes. In response to being attacked as a bigot, he will present a multi-racial nativism, Pat Buchanan and Obama all at once, and tell you he loves you very much, and will be your president and bring more jobs than anyone God created, no matter what race or religion you are, as long as you are an American, or are here legally. He will respond to accusations of racism with his own accusations that his opponent makes promises to minorities in order to get elected, but never keeps her word like she does to her Wall Street donors. He will claim that what minorities really need are jobs and a secure border, and he will promise to deliver just that. This will work to a degree, maybe well enough to win, but the effect will be limited, even as it’s introduction of strong multi-racial nativism into mainstream use changes the game. Someone will come along later and do it way better than Trump.

He will quickly evolve into the most pro-choice friendly candidate that can plausibly still get votes from pro-life motivated voters. Clinton’s hard principled stance on abortion rights gives him lots of room. He will continue to say that he is personally against abortions but will hint that he won’t do anything to further restrict it, and keep saying nice things about Planned Parenthood. Pro-lifers will vote for him because they know Hillary won’t compromise on this, and so they will vote for Trump as the worst of two bad options. And he will gain some moderate pro-choice voters in the process.

With his fists. He’s still unclear on some of the basic concepts here.

I’d still bet money on Ms. Clinton.

Not likely, as pointed before Trump is a rich target environment.

And what you are saying ignores also that the target has been found already, you are still thinking that minorities have not noticed the results already, and they are one big part of why Hillary is ahead of the polls against Trump.

But the ammo on hand, in the form of well-rehearsed charges of racism/Nazi/Klansman, is tired and ill-suited. Trump isn’t using racialist language, he is pandering to xenophobic Americans of all races. He is promising black and Hispanic citizens that he will protect their children and their jobs from illegal immigrants, and bring more jobs than ever, better jobs than ever, so they can take better care of their families, rather than listening to yet another promise that the government will take care of them from a politician who was saying the same thing from the White House two decades ago.

The Bernie crowd that thinks borders shouldn’t exist anyway will never buy into this, of course. They won’t accept an explicit willingness to fight for the benefit of Americans at the expense of Mexicans or another Other, but most people don’t think like they do. Trump’s position is a position that a lot of blacks and Hispanics do agree with. It’s not going to give him a majority, but I see him getting 15-25% of the black vote, which will be an historic loss for the Democrats.

That poll is from August. Trump just won the Hispanic vote in Nevada. So he at least is more popular there among GOP voters than their other choices in the primary.

Most blacks, Hispanic, and white Americans live and work together, and are culturally very very similar, all with voting patterns that diverge due to habit and outdated political tribalism more than principle. There is reason to expect that some significant portion of them will be attracted to the same nativist outsider message that their white neighbors are, and break from their regular partisan loyalties. Some will write off the charges of racism as the media/establishment’s desperate attempt to stop the outsider unbeholden to them.

[Rocky the flying squirrel] That trick again? [/RtfS] It did not work in 2008 or 2012. And even less now as the polls show.

Don’t think Bernie will make it anyhow.

You did fall for that bullshit? :rolleyes:

The Hispanic vote Trump crowed about was referring to the 8% of the Hispanics in Nevada that voted for the Republicans, a newspaper from Nevada looked at the numbers and that 45% or so that he claimed of the Hispanics translates to less than 3000 Hispanics that did vote for Trump.

And again, you are only talking about the GOP voters, not what is happening at large.

What polls?

No, my point is that the kinds of voters turned off by racially inclusive nativism are far more rare than the ones turned off by actual overt racism. A Bernhead lefty who thinks national borders are war-crimes will never go for any of it, but there is a low ceiling to their electoral influence.

Not if by that you mean do I think Trump is highly popular among Hispanics generally. But it shows the limits of the charges of racism when he can beat two Hispanic candidates among Hispanics while every media source in the country is saying his name in a sentence with “KKK” every cycle. The antibiotic is losing it’s effectiveness.

But he has only started to turn the ship for the general. I listened to two of his rallies in the last week, and I bet he said “I love you” more times than all of the other candidates put together the whole campaign. I was like, who is this hippy?

The ones that count, the very elections of those years.

The others got in combination the other half of the Hispanic vote. In any case the point stands, it was just a small fraction of a fraction of the Hispanics what you are talking about here, and I do know that there is a number of Hispanics that do fall for that. Still a minority of a minority.

One that expects very naive minorities to fall for the ruse.

Not going to work for most of the minorities or women.

I think he will pick Ben Carson for vp.

This assumes that a Hispanic person will vote for someone just because they are of the same race. It just doesn’t happen that way. IMHO, for example, Clinton would likely get 90% or more of the African-American vote even in a race against Carson. She would likely get the majority of the Hispanic vote against Cruz or Rubio, probably with numbers similar to what Obama got against Romney. It isn’t a matter of the race of the candidate, it’s what they stand for.

I also think that once Clinton starts attacking Trump in earnest, he’s going to fold like a wet noodle. The only reason the Democrats haven’t started to attack him strongly yet is because Trump would be a weak opponent in the general election, and it wouldn’t make sense to start attacking him before he has the nomination.

Sarah Palin, redux.

Today, the 2012 GOP nominee is set to denounce the 2016 GOP nominee in terms that would have seemed over-the-top if coming from his opponent in earlier elections. He won’t just say he’s untrustworthy or has bad policy ideas. This fellow business leader with no history in elected office will come out and call Trump a fraud.

Trump lacks the support of any organized base in the party–not just the so-called “establishment” but also talk radio, foreign policy elite, and other similar sources of power. His unpopularity within his own party is nigh unprecedented for a major party nominee.

Oh, and he is also the most unpopular politician in America by favorability, despite the vast majority of Americans not knowing about things like Trump University or his waffling on disavowing David Duke.

None of that means he cannot win. Obviously, his nativist populism is very potent in this election, and strengthened in some ways by his lack of organized support. But let’s not lose perspective here. His winning would still be truly astonishing.

He was Governor of Massachusetts.

More like Sarah Palin squared. Not gonna happen anyway. Trumps base spent the last seven years freaking out that a black guy was in the White House. They aren’t about to put one a heartbeat away.

Trump is stuck in primary mode. Think he’s going to say “you know that whole wall thing? That was a starting point for negotiations”? No way. He’s going to double down on every thing he said, no matter how dumb. He doesn’t back down, he doubles down.

How quickly I forget.

Funny you should mention that: Trump:Everythings negotiable

IMO this is 100% spot-on.

The 64 billion dollar question is whether that tactic turns him into a laughingstock or a President.

I almost think HRC might be well-advised to do all she can to push Trump into a foaming over-the-top performance at every turn. Rather than her customary tactic of saying “Now Donald, there you go again. Let’s be realistic and serious here.”

My hope is that the farther into double-double-double-double-double-double-down territory Trump gets the harder it is for any but the most crazed voters to follow along.

Either that or enough of the American public really is ready for somebody to make a Berlusconi / Mussolini star turn.

I’m starting to think I’d rather they get it out of their system with a businessman buffoon like Trump than some gun-crazed crypto-totalitarian who I’m sure is hiding out there somewhere in ReactionaryLand. Can you say President Clive Bundy?