The Two Trump-Killers his Opponents are Praying for

As Iowa, and then New Hampshire approach, the various opponents of Donald Trump are working their rosaries, bowing toward Mecca, sacrificing spotless lambs, lighting votive candles, chalking pentagrams in their basement floors, tossing coins in the fountain and virgins into volcanoes.  Basically, they are doing whatever is required to summon forth both Light and Dark Powers in a probably vain effort to push The Donald aside.

This close to the first elections, it looks like neither divine nor satanic intervention is likely to smite Donald Trump. However, there are two potential “Trump-Killers” out there, hiding in the weeds, waiting to jump up and transform this already chaotic election just one more time.

The odds don’t look good.  There is a long litany of failed efforts, taken by mere mortals, with but one goal: take down Trump:

  • Fang- and claw-less milquetoast attack ads put out there by everybody and his brother Jack
  • The National Review’s belly-flop, their “Gaggle of 22”
  • Pointless outrage over Muslims being banned
  • Ineffectual outrage over Mexicans being labeled criminals
  • “Your prayer is answered … and the answer is NO” outrage from purist evangelicals
  • Snide snipes from Democrats and the media

Not even Saturday Night Live has been able to blunt his appeal. 

I could go on, but unless you’ve been living in an igloo -- without cable or wi-fi -- for the past six months, you already know all about the other failed Trump-Killers as well.

In the face of all of those ineffectual efforts to stop -- or even slow down -- the increasingly inevitable-seeming Donald Trump, there remain just two possible ways that this man can be stopped.  Unfortunately for his opponents -- the candidates, the power brokers, and those who merely envy the truly successful -- there is nothing they can do to bring about either of these Trump-Killers. Perhaps divine (or satanic) intervention really is the only way to stop him. 

But what are those potential Trump Killers?

First, The Howard Dean Effect. 

In 2004, starting many long months before Iowa, the media had already anointed Vermont Governor Howard Dean as the Democrat candidate to go against Bush 43.  He had charisma.  He had drawing power.  His campaign events were flooded with people, including many younger Americans who’d never before been part of the electoral process. He was a governor and a doctor.  He had a record of being involved in his church -- something not many Democrats can claim.  He was hip and trendy. He even helped introduce the word “metro-sexual” into political discourse.  He also had a smart, attractive and professionally unassailable wife, and -- to go along with that -- Dean had an unblemished personal story. 

Beyond that, Howard Dean was the first national candidate to figure out (thanks to consultant Joe Trippi) how to mine the Internet for millions of dollars in campaign cash.

In short, he was inevitable.  Everybody said so.

Except … well, those metro-sexual hip young Americans -- the ones who checked out his rallies and whipped out their Visas every time Dean’s Svengali e-blasted them another Friday night pitch -- didn’t show up to vote.  Forget the scream.  By the time America heard it, the dream candidate was already toast. Howard Dean did everything right.  Except, he failed to attract the kind of supporters who’d turn out on an icy February Tuesday night in Iowa, then hang around for four hours, waiting until their votes were finally counted.

It was like the old advertising axiom: “it ain’t dog food if the dog won’t eat it.”

Right now, Trump -- like Dean -- has proven his ability to attract people to his events. Lots of people.  And the people he attracts are often new to the electoral process.  At least that’s what it looks like in the early caucus and primary states.  But twelve years ago, Howard Dean was unable to translate his on-the-stump popularity into voters who show up for primaries or caucuses.  And right now, nobody really knows if Trump can succeed where Dean failed.  The “smart money” folks are betting on Trump to succeed, but those same “smart money” folks bet on Howard Dean, too.

So those hopeful opponents and others who hate, fear or just don’t like Donald Trump are all praying that The Donald -- the man who can generate media with the wave of his hair, or attract crowds at the drop of a provocative Tweet -- will fail, just like Howard Dean failed.  When it comes to attracting voters in Icy Iowa to a four-hour gab-fest known as a caucus, they’re betting that Trump’s adoring fans will stay home and watch it all on Fox News. 

Until Iowa (and New Hampshire, and maybe South Carolina) actually happen, no-one can really know if Trump’s incredible on-the-stump popularity will translate into votes.

Since they can’t do it themselves, his legion of powerless opponents are counting on The Howard Dean Effect to take Trump down.

The second potential Trump-Killer is the “Donald Trump Open Mouth -- Insert Foot –Then Shoot Yourself in the Foot factor. 

It was Donald Trump’s bombastic, seemingly-unrestrained mouth that allowed this former reality show star and real estate mogul to rise from -- well, never obscurity, since he has been a legend for at least the past 30 years -- but from political obscurity, into the spotlight.  And it has been Trump’s continued willingness to say something else that’s even more outrageous than his last outrage that has allowed him to reclaim the media spotlight whenever he so chooses.

To date, nothing he has said -- no matter how anti-PC, no matter how potentially offensive, or even no matter how seemingly stupid -- has hurt him.  He’s singled out an entire religion -- Islam -- for harsh criticism. Although Islam seems to be a perennial media favorite, even their feigned shock at his comments didn’t turn the table on Trump.   Doubling down instead of backing off, Trump then proposed harsh action against Islamic refugees, and did so with few negative repercussions. 

In another classic example, Trump singled out an entire country -- Mexico -- by labeling some of its more geographically-mobile citizens as among the worst kinds of criminals.  Yet instead of the horror that engulfs other Republicans when they question Obama’s defacto open boarder policy, Trump skated away from the controversy, virtually unscathed.

So, will The Donald finally say something too over the top, something literally outrageous enough to scare off his die-hard supporters?  It could happen, but it seems unlikely.

Yet those two Trump-Killers are the only factors that seem to have any potential to derail the Trump Express.  That has to frustrate his opponents, because there is no way that they can, in any way, influence -- let alone trigger -- one of those two Trump-Killers.

Ned Barnett is a long-time political campaign consultant; however, his day job has him offering public relations, market research and marketing communications services to a select group of clients.  He is also an adjunct professor in PR and Marketing, and the author of a dozen published books on marketing communications.

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