2016 Democrats, 2016 Republicans, Strategy, Uncategorized

The Best Line of Attack

March 25, 2016

Donald Trump is a clear front runner. Hillary Clinton has a mathematical hammerlock on the Democratic nomination. But neither have clinched just yet. Trump is in a real fight to get to 1237 before the convention. Hillary would love to make Bernie go away, or at least remove as much oxygen as possible.

Nobody wants to lose states by 50 or 60 points on the way to their coronation. Both favorites had that happen in Utah the other day. So it’s worth taking a look at what line of attack works best against the four candidates who posted a win on Tuesday.

As curious as I am about the best way to hit John Kasich, Bloomberg didn’t include him in their recent query. He still isn’t worthy of scorn, perhaps the worst insult you can level at a politician hoping to compete. If he pulls an upset in Wisconsin, we’ll analyze him soon enough.

While we think some respondents lied about who they’ve already voted for, that’s different from weighing in on what slam works best. We can trust them on this.

The numbers are percentages of respondents who have voted or plan to vote in GOP contests commenting on Republican candidates, those who did or will play on the Democratic side weighing in on theirs.

Let’s begin with Lyin’ Ted:

Ted Cruz

Works Best: Doesn’t play well with others (46%)

Forget It: Oh Canada (20%)

Interestingly: GOP voters trust Cruz (46%) more than Trump (35%)

You’ll notice Trump doesn’t talk much about Cruz being Made in Canada anymore. It’s probably because it doesn’t work. Keep in mind at least 30% of GOP voters are hard core Trumpists at this point.

If something registers under 30 or 35 percent, it means even those who strongly prefer Trump don’t care. Another effective zero is mentioning Cruz is a first term senator like Barack Obama was. That pulls 30%.

You’d think an argument like this might work, and I think it did with Rubio. To get real general about this, Marco is more of a JFK-style young politician, Ted is more like Nixon. When you look and act serious all the time, voters don’t worry about youth.

Nixon was thrown on the ticket with Eisenhower at the age of 39 with two terms in Congress and a few minutes in the Senate. Cruz comes across as the type who began plotting his presidential run in kindergarten, if not sooner.

GOP voters also don’t care (33%) about his role in shutting down the government to protest Obamacare in 2013. Maybe a general election issue, but nothing to focus on now. Should Kasich morph into a factor, perhaps it’s something he can capitalize on, but his team shouldn’t count on it.

Lack of support from his fellow senators and inability to work with them is the one issue that works. It’s not a concern among a majority of voters, the way Sanders on foreign policy or Hillary on Wall Street is for Democrats.

Cruz has the ability to blunt this by rallying some of his senatorial peers. However, they’re currently making it very clear they are against Trump more than for Cruz. It’s a crucial difference. If he wants to win Wisconsin, he needs to balance this out a bit more.

Despite Trump’s best efforts to cast aspersions on Cruz’s honesty. Lyin’ Ted is trusted by more Republicans than The Donald. The percentage trusting Trump is about equal to his core support. If he’s registering at all, it’s in keeping the 19% who are undecided away from thinking Cruz is the more trusTED.


Donald Trump

Works Best: Trump University (48%)

Forget It: Chinese-made Trump ties (33%)

Interestingly: All non-Trump University talking points are the same effectiveness

About a third of the GOP primary electorate is militantly opposed to Trump. These are the voters who will say they won’t vote for him in a general election. They are the voters who would prefer a third party candidate if he gets the nomination, even if it results in a Clinton win.

For them, it doesn’t matter what attack you use. They think it’s hypocritical he talks about bringing jobs back to America but makes his ties in Asia. They’re concerned he didn’t disavow David Duke and the KKK quicker/more clearly. They aren’t happy he thinks Planned Parenthood is good except for the abortions.

If Cruz wants to make real progress among voters who are still undecided, or are leaning Trump but not locked down yet, Trump University is the answer. Because Rubio attacked on this and wound up failing as a candidate, we’ve heard less about this one.

That’s not why Marco blew a tire. He probably went too far on the personal stuff, and stupidly pulled completely back when he got criticized and continued to struggle at the polls. Among voters at least somewhat open to Trump, it’s possible for The Donald to justify almost anything else.

Taking a home from an old lady to build a casino parking lot sounds bad, but Trump can say she was offered top dollar, and that she never lost her house. It’s also not something that happened a thousand times.

Trump always says as a businessman he takes advantage of every loophole, every way to turn a profit, that the Trump Organization comes first. When he’s president, he’ll do the same for America. If you’re a #NeverTrump, this doesn’t work, but for anyone buying in at all, it’s totally reasonable.

Having thousands of motivated Americans go deeply in to debt in an attempt to learn the real estate investment secrets of Donald Trump, only to have little to show for it is different. It’s a large class-action suit. This didn’t happen to one person, it didn’t happen to 10.

There are multiple sides to every story. Many Americans are very familiar with the idea of a frivolous lawsuit. Putting Trump University on the front burner doesn’t guarantee a Cruz victory. But it does keep The Donald on the defensive, especially since he’ll never admit he did anything wrong.

He has a low overall trust rating, and is asking voters to buy in to a range of undefined policies. Again, he has an explanation for the lack of detail. Trump doesn’t want to give away his moves or negotiating position. That’s both plausible and not unlike what Nixon did with Vietnam in the 1968 election.

But if Cruz keeps Trump University front and center, it builds doubt in the minds of wavering voters. It’s the only attack that’s shown signs of working.


Bernie Sanders

Works Best: Lack of foreign policy chops (60%)

Forget It: He’s a socialist! (24%)

Interestingly: Only the biggest Hillary loyalists care about anything except the foreign policy gap

We’ve heard several different arguments from the Clinton camp. For a long time, they focused on Bernie’s single-mindedness. Everything comes back to Wall Street, the rigged economy and the influence of big money in politics. It does. Democratic voters don’t care (32%).

They definitely don’t care he’s a democratic socialist. Another topic was the age of voters supporting him. Only 20% seemed concerned Bernie’s support was concentrated among young voters.

The big issue is foreign policy. A full 60% of Democratic voters are buying in to the idea Bernie is not ready to handle this on day one. He’s getting more than 40% of the vote, so even people who are voting for Sanders are worrying about this.

Only committed Berners are comfortable he’s ready. Between trying to make Trump look unserious and leveraging the gap with Sanders, it made perfect sense for Hillary to give a weighty speech on terrorism at Stanford the other day.

Let’s assume Bernie runs rampant in the next few contests heading into New York. Expect a ton of focus on foreign policy and ISIS/terrorism in particular. Sanders is not as comfortable on this. He would rather talk about his issues.

When talking about it, he defaults to a list of failed/questionable/controversial U.S. interventions over the past several decades. Among committed progressives, this works well, but he needs to win a key primary in the place where two 100+ story towers were destroyed by terrorists with airplanes.

It’s a fundamental weakness Clinton should not hesitate and will not hesitate to exploit.


Hillary Clinton

Works Best: Release those Goldman Sachs transcripts (54%)

Forget It: Those damn emails (35%)

Interestingly: Hillary is the one candidate susceptible to two attacks–flipping on TPP is 46% effective.

Bloomberg also asked about Hillary’s support being strongest among older voters. Nobody cares (20%). The emails aren’t a huge issue. They’re there, 35% isn’t a complete zero, but given the existing establishment/institutional pressure on Bernie to get out of the way, and his huge deficit among TV pundits, his decision to avoid this was wise.

A majority of Democrats are bothered Hillary took money from Goldman and won’t release the transcripts. She is not the only famous person to get a ton of money for a quick speech. She argues Candidate and President Obama took all kinds of contributions from Wall Street and went forward with additional regulation anyway.

All well and good, but voters in her own party aren’t buying it. If Bernie wants to seem like a loyal Democrat, he can argue Trump is sure to bring this up as an issue in the fall if she were to get nominated. Hillary says she’ll do so as soon as the GOP candidates do.

Bernie can say Democrats are better than that. He’s definitely highlighted this over the past several weeks, but should go further, particularly in Wisconsin as he aims to maximize the size of his victory and make sure Hillary can’t pull an upset.

Though he may not emphasize it as much in Pacific-facing states, TPP registers pretty well too. The majority of Democrats, along with plenty of Republicans, are now trade skeptics. The Clinton brand was partially constructed on free trade. NAFTA was a major part of Bill’s legacy.

Hillary Clinton is not a credible trade opponent. Younger voters who don’t remember the 90s are already with Bernie. Going here can help him with the voters between 40 and 60 who tend to remember the first Clinton era fondly and are more receptive to Sanders than seniors are.

It allows him to say policies that seemed good at the time are hurting them now. Bernie was opposed, the rest of the world was for, everyone should have listened to Bernie. Something like that.

We’ll see how closely the candidates stick to the more effective attack points over the next couple of weeks. Bloomberg didn’t ask about every possible hit, but their selection was very representative. I can’t think of any important areas of interest that weren’t mentioned.









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