Smart vicious versus stupid vicious. Such is the new strategic vision of the Trump campaign. Don’t write it off too soon.
Smart vicious is attacking Jeb Bush as low energy and doubling down on Little Marco Rubio’s “small hands” crack. Smart vicious is attacking John McCain’s military record.
Stupid vicious is attacking a Gold Star Mother. Stupid vicious is attacking an American judge because he’s Mexican. Stupid vicious is attacking Megyn Kelly on physiological grounds.
So early Trump pulled away from the Republican pack with offensive, but politically shrewd, attacks. Recent Trump is in collapse because his crude and offensive comments have angered non-Republican swing voters.
Part of this is that the audience changed, and what roused the Republican base disgusts the general election voter. That mistake falls squarely on Trump, the master marketer. He misread his customers. Part of it is stupid choices and bad words. His remedy is to collect two of the smartest, meanest men on earth. Stephen Bannon has been the piss and vinegar that has kept post-Breitbart Breitbart the keeper of the nasty flame. Roger Ailes, well, Roger Ailes.
These guys know the difference between stupid offensive and smart offensive. They know what voters will accept and what they won’t. They know what will rouse and energize the base. And what might persuade the swing voters of Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio to backtrack from their recent Hillary tendencies.
It’s very high risk. Trump has no margin for error. Voters have decided that he’s temperamentally unfit and a danger to the nation. It will be hard to reverse that conclusion by more frothing at the mouth.
But he has no choice. Trump knows, as do we all, that teleprompter speeches and issue papers won’t change the dynamic that has him stuck in the mid-30s. In pure pragmatic terms he has to savage Hillary or he’s finished.
It will be very tough stuff. Clinton Foundation, emails, money, etc. are obvious. Watch for a coordinated campaign focused on Bill and Hillary as enabler. Bannon and Ailes will help him pick the issues and the words and the tone.
The individual attacks will coalesce into a chorus and it will peak at the first debate. Hillary will be prepared. She better be. No presidential candidate since Jefferson has faced anything like this. There’s no track record as to what could work, how to parry, or how voters will react to a campaign of character assassination.
In conventional terms the Presidential race is over, Trump is irredeemably behind. In 2016, Trump is rewriting conventional thinking. So maybe, it’s not over. And it sure is interesting.