A companion piece to Ed’s post this morning about Trump emphasizing big rallies over data analytics for the fight ahead. Obama crony Dan Pfeiffer, who knows better than most people what smart microtargeting can do for a campaign, floated this analogy:
Trump saying he isn't going to use data to target voters is like an airline saying they aren't going to use radar to land their planes
— Dan Pfeiffer (@danpfeiffer) May 11, 2016
Yep, or landing a plane without using any cockpit instruments. It’s not impossible, but why the hell would you want to try? If you misjudge, you’re dead.
Mr. Trump’s choices reflect an unusual conviction: He said he had a “mandate” from his supporters to run as a fiery populist outsider and to rely on his raucous rallies to build support through “word of mouth,” rather than to embrace a traditional, mellower and more inclusive approach that congressional Republicans will advocate in meetings with him on Thursday…
“You win the pennant and now you’re in the World Series — you gonna change?” Mr. Trump said. “People like the way I’m doing.”…
“I think I have a mandate from the people,” Mr. Trump continued, referring to his victories in 29 states, including Nebraska and West Virginia on Tuesday night. “The people are tired of incompetent leadership at the highest level. They’re tired of trade deals that are ripping our jobs apart and taking their wages.”
Mandates are usually claimed after a presidential candidate wins a general election, not a party nomination, but part of Mr. Trump’s style and strategy is to project a supreme confidence in himself and his popularity with voters. Several Republicans said they put little stock in his claim, arguing that he had won support from only a fraction of the electorate and that he had yet to prove he was worthy of leading the entire Republican Party, rather than just his fractious and highly visible wing.
It was less than three weeks ago, believe it or not, that Paul Manafort told a roomful of Republican officials that Trump was playing a “part” onstage and that you’d soon see a more presidential, statesmanlike figure step forward for the general. How young and innocent we were then.
But look: I’ve said before and I’ll say again now that I think Trump’s doing the right thing here. Not by downplaying the importance of data — that’s nuts, but the RNC will try to pick up the slack for him on that. I mean he’s doing the right thing in choosing to be the loud, boorish, charismatic demagogue that he truly is. Read this post for my reasoning. A “more presidential” Trump wouldn’t be presidential, no matter how hard he tries, which would leave him looking ridiculous and his fans annoyed, like a punk band coming out to do an acoustic set. Trump’s strength is ridicule. He has a gift for it and Rush Limbaugh was entirely right in claiming that many Americans, not all of them Republican, will enjoy seeing the Clintons humiliated regularly for six months. I also think his popularity is as low as it can realistically go, and that he may be seeing temporarily poor numbers right now among the general electorate because there are so many low-information voters who haven’t paid attention to the campaign at all yet. They know him as the loudmouth with the weird hair from “The Apprentice.” Once they listen to him on the stump, they may brighten up to him just as Republican voters did. And of course some of the voters who are giving him thumbs down right now are grumpy Cruzers and GOP establishmentarians who’ll grudgingly reconcile themselves to him come fall. If all of that’s true, what does Trump have to lose by letting it rip? Experts predict he’ll lose handily anyway. There’s nowhere to go but up.
Note, though, that he’s not just talking about a “mandate” on tone. He says in the Times excerpt that people are “tired of trade deals that are ripping our jobs apart and taking their wages.” He’s talking about staying true to his primary message on policy too, starting with protectionism. Hard to read that as anything other than a message to Paul Ryan that if he’s waiting for a more Randian Trump to emerge before endorsing, he’ll be waiting a long time.
In case you don’t think he’s serious about all of this, here’s new audio via BuzzFeed of Trump marveling that his polling actually went up after his obnoxious shot at McCain last summer for being taken prisoner in war. He does call him a “hero” here, though. Is that because he’s changed his mind about what he said or because, per the First Rule of Trump, praise is due to those — and only to those — who do Trump’s bidding?