Tags: Trump Administration | Donald Trump | GOP2016 | swing | vote

Can Trump Win the Swing Vote?

By Friday, 26 August 2016 02:48 PM Current | Bio | Archive

The second major shake-up in the Trump for president campaign came last week, less than 85 days before the election and amid plummeting poll numbers for the Republican nominee. This was even bigger than when campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was told, "you're fired" back in June.

When major shifts are made this late in the game it's an open admission that the candidate and the campaign think they are losing.

This week, the Manhattan billionaire announced he'd hired veteran Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway as his campaign manager and tapped Steve Bannon, of the controversial conservative news site, Breitbart.com., as his campaign CEO.

Out went Paul Manafort, the veteran strategist who'd been dogged by stories about his business dealings in Ukraine.

Changing teams now allows the campaign to reset and make a new run at the fall campaign.

The toughest part of doing that may be to get Trump to acknowledge that he himself is responsible for the unhappy circumstances that now surround his campaign.

For weeks he insisted upon extemporaneous riffs instead of a disciplined campaign message. In the process he managed to offend virtually every voter group, including many Republican leaders and rank-and-file voters.

Meanwhile, without focusing on Hillary Clinton's personal failings and policy disasters, she was given running room to move up steadily in the polls.

Whether the new Team Trump can focus on two words — message discipline — over the course of the next few weeks will determine whether his campaign gets back on track or continues to careen off course, heading for the electoral precipice.

Trump must grasp the fact that there's a gigantic difference between dominating the news cycle and winning it.

He must focus on the audience watching at home with increasing interest instead of the adoring throngs in his rallies.

He needs to convince the remaining undecided voters and those swing voters who are not yet lost to the other side that he is a competent, capable leader with plans to change Washington, get our economy going again and keep us safer by defeating ISIS.

The new leadership needs to determine the messages of the day, week and month that connect with the American people, especially those voters who haven't yet solidified their views.

They must then determine the specific language, leaving nothing open to spontaneous vituperations, and find the best staging for delivering their message.

Providing memorable and repeatable phrases not involving jabs at others will help reinforce the message and give the foot soldiers of the campaign something to carry each day.

Conway, the new campaign manager, is an old friend with whom I've sat in board meetings and at church. She is a skilled strategist and somebody who well understands message development and message discipline.

The new leadership plan calls for her to travel with the candidate. Having her's as the last voice he will hear before heading to the podium should help a lot. There are already hints at the "new" Donald Trump.

In Charlotte, N.C., he actually went so far as to say he "regretted" some of the things he's said. It wasn't exactly an apology, but it got a lot closer than anything before.

Internal changes in a campaign don't mean much to most voters. Few of my neighbors were discussing the Trump campaign inner-workings at breakfast this morning. What they represent, however, means a lot. Will these changes in personnel result in a more disciplined, focused and likable candidate?

If so, is it too late? Have too many voters already reached negative conclusions about Trump? Or will swing voters be willing to take another look?

The period between now and the first debate is vital to the Trump campaign. Once the first debate is held, attention will shift to what he and she said and the impressions they left with voters. Until then, the focus will be on Donald J. Trump and how he comports himself.

There are still some who are clamoring to "Let Donald be Donald." That's what got us to where we are today. Are the latest leadership changes merely reshuffling the deck chairs on the "Trumptanic" or a major course correction? The next four weeks will tell.

Charlie Gerow is a political analyst for Harrisburg's CBS affiliate, appearing weekly on its Sunday morning show, "Face the State," which is syndicated statewide. He serves as the first vice chair on the board of directors of the American Conservative Union. He is the CEO of Quantum Communications, a strategic communications and issue advocacy firm. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.


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The period between now and the first debate is vital to the Trump campaign. Once the first debate is held, attention will shift to what he and she said and the impressions they left with voters. Until then, the focus will be on Donald J. Trump and how he comports himself.
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Friday, 26 August 2016 02:48 PM
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