With the 2016 presidential election now appearing to be a match-up between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, many Democrats are breathing a deep sigh of relief, or better yet, laughing uncontrollably. After all, polling suggests Donald Trump is the most unpopular general election candidate in modern history.
However, to write off the election as a done deal for Clinton now would be foolish. Clinton has her own flaws as a candidate. Therein lies an opening for Trump to use his populist, outsider persona to do what many have called impossible, win the presidency. Here are the 4 keys to a Trump victory in November.
1. Contrast with Hillary: Donald Trump will have one big thing going for him as the Republican nominee. That is Hillary Clinton's undeniable, personal unpopularity and lack of trustworthiness among the American people.
Trump has his flaws, but he is a natural foil to Clinton in many ways on this issue. If Trump synthesizes his "tell it like it is" attitude into an all-out assault on political correctness and the progressive left, he will inspire those who came out for him in the primaries to bring their friends and family out in the general election.
The image of Trump jabbing Clinton as the epitome of a bought out career politician could turn one of his perceived flaws, a lack of poise and formal training as a candidate for public office, into an asset during televised debates.
Trump's own flip flopping on several issues along with his history of donating money to Democrats including Clinton would provide one possible counter-punch to this strategy for the former Secretary of State.
2. Continue to utilize fear of ISIS: Trump has already realized one thing he can do to garner support, stoke fear of terrorism. Trump's decision to publicly advocate ceasing all Muslim immigration to the United States was a carefully calculated and crafted move to win over a large swath of the Republican base.
Trump's challenge for the general election will be finding a way to continue displaying strength on the issue of terrorism having already gone so far to the right. What Trump ought to do is show why Clinton is weak on the issue and contrast himself as the alternative that will keep the country safe.
The 2012 Benghazi attacks and President Obama's heavily criticized counter-terror strategy give Trump some background for attacks on Clinton's record as Secretary of State. If Trump wants to win this election, he needs to make sure terrorism is the number one issue on the minds of voters as they head to polls in November
3. Outreach to Minorities with economic message (and some actual empathy): The death knell of Trump's campaign may very well be his tremendous unpopularity with minorities and women. There are two obvious ways for Trump to try and make up ground with these voters. Trump's background as a successful businessman could allow him to send a message of economic empowerment to black and Latino Americans.
Both of these minority groups are more economically disadvantaged than white Americans and may find Trump more credible on the economy than Clinton as someone who has run a large business in the private sector vs. someone who has made several paid speeches to Wall Street insiders and hasn't had a job outside of Washington in 25 years. If Trump can conjure up a coherent, populist plan to address income inequality, he can contrast himself with Clinton on yet another issue in a way that may appeal to minorities and women.
Throughout this process Trump would be required to do something he has failed to do up to this point. That is to show some genuine empathy for minorities and women that contrasts many his previous controversial remarks throughout the primary season.
If anything ever required a candidate to make the kind of dramatic apology that Paul Ryan made earlier this year about his past rhetoric on economic issues, it would be Trump's highly incendiary remarks about Latino's, Muslims and women.
4. Keep Bernie voters home: Bernie Sanders voters are not Trump voters. That is an undeniable fact. Yes, both of these groups are disenfranchised, anti-establishment members of their respective party's bases, but that's where the similarities end. Trump will not be able to absorb much of the socialist septuagenarian's support, but he can keep them from coming out to support Hillary Clinton, whom they are already skeptical of.
Trump would do well to speak highly of Bernie for his honesty and integrity, once again contrasting himself with Clinton via the spirit of the Vermont Senator's own populist campaign.
There are several factors from Clinton's past that would allow Trump to do this, including the aforementioned Wall-Street speeches. If Trump can convince the economically frustrated whites that made up so much of Sander's support that Clinton is merely pandering to them, they may very well stay home or vote third party.
It's almost impossible to imagine Trump winning the votes of Sanders voters after his lurch to the right on social issues during the Republican primaries, but every vote he can keep from Clinton will bring him one step closer to the Whitehouse.
If Trump does all four of these things, Democrats may not be laughing at him come November.