For someone who’s often been reputed to be such a campaign klutz, Donald Trump had a pretty good week.
Yes, he wastefully campaigned in Washington and Connecticut, which he has no chance of winning, and in Mississippi, which he has no chance of losing.
But when the president of Mexico invited Trump and what’s-her-name down for a visit, the real estate billionaire pounced on the opportunity like it was a prime midtown corner lot.
That’s the sort of unpredictability that’s worried the risk-adverse Clinton crowd all along. Trump is like a scrambling quarterback. You set up all the usual defensive schemes to handle the most likely plays. But then your opponent does something totally unexpected, eludes defenders and pulls off a big play.
That’s what Trump did with his Mexico City junket. He left the much-traveled Clinton team explaining, well, there’d be plenty of time to work with neighbors later. They dismissed it as a photo op, as if 94% of Clinton campaign stops aren’t. Critics wondered how many U.S. voters Trump would find south of the border. Ha-ha.
It was, indeed, a real risk for the internationally-inexperienced Trump. And no one knows yet if such plays will prove decisive. But the TV showman pulled this one off, doing what his children at the GOP convention boasted Dad always does, think BIG.
The Mexico trip was worth it just for that photo alone. Talk about an op-portunity!
There was a towering Trump on the international stage confidently shaking hands with another (shorter) president, talking polite, but candid diplo-speak and even taking control of the ensuing news conference.
No funny faces, hand gestures, awkward jokes, snide comments. No stupid baseball cap hiding the eyes that every audience wants to see and judge.
For that afternoon at least, Trump appeared a plausible president. That’s a crucial impression for him to make indelible in voters’ minds. And it speaks directly to Clinton’s attack on him as an unstable commander-in-chief. You’ll see much more of that photo in these next 67 days.
Then, Trump flew back to Phoenix for his much-anticipated immigration policy speech. Allahpundit covered that thoroughly yesterday.
“Wow! Thank you. That’s a lot of people, Phoenix, that’s a lot of people,” said the man who claims to be no politician. “Thank you very much. Thank you, Phoenix. I am so glad to be back in Arizona.”
Anyone who’s watched Trump mature on the campaign trail these past almost 15 months can easily remember his endless, rambling mid-winter rants when the candidate rarely completed a single sentence before jumping over to something totally different.
As a novel experience, crowds ate it up, at least for the first hour. But as persuasive political communications, those remarks were in essence incoherent messages flying uselessly off into space.
Anyone who watched Trump’s immigration speech (full C-SPAN video here) Wednesday evening saw a completely different and disciplined speaker, one with organization, numbered policy points, entertaining asides and personal anecdotes. Imagine. Trump still sounded like Trump. But the candidate talked as if he wanted the audience to hear his message, instead of just to hear himself.
The candidate’s growth curve may or may not be enough to win ultimately. There’s a whole lot more to political victory than swell speech-giving. Labor Day used to be the unofficial start of a general election campaign. Now, it’s getting late. Remember, early voting starts in just three weeks.
But the evolving Trump (combined with Clinton’s seeping scandals) will make the presidential race more competitive, a fact now appearing in newer polls.