Pundit of the Week: Rich Danker

I read hundreds of articles and posts every week in an effort to distill for you those that I think are the most informative. This week, there is only one clear choice, the memo Rich Danker (Lone Star Committee Founder) wrote and which William Kristol republished in edited form in the Weekly Standard:

It explains better than anyone else has the reason for Donald Trump’s front-runner status, dissecting what has been a strategically brilliant campaign. It’s worth your time to read if you seek to understand this year’s Republican primary. As well it should be considered a template for future candidates for national office and a pink slip to the remoras who have proven subpar in recent Republican presidential contests.

In sum, Danker notes that Trump eschewed the formula Republican candidates have been using for years.

He tried to win every state, instead of just cherry picking those he thought he could win.

He “basically took every legitimate media interview request that landed in his inbox. He held numerous press conferences and took lots of reporters' questions. He became such a staple of the television talk shows that he was afforded the rare privilege of phoning in his appearances rather than appearing on camera.”

He aimed for mass appeal using interviews, public appearances, and twitter to reach out to voters, eschewing ads until the very end of each state’s campaign.

He did no polling or micro targeting of voters.

He had no repetitive well-rehearsed stump speech. Instead he “gave exclusively extemporaneous remarks at each rally. This gave him the ability to comment at each stop on what was happening that day in the news, which led to more earned media”.

In sum, he recognized that:

1) Republican voters not only wanted an outsider candidate for president, they wanted that candidate to campaign like an outsider

2) The conventional strategies and tactics on running in the presidential primary had become so stale that an outsider with disdain for professional politics found a new way to win using common sense

Trump's simple, straightforward strategy of trying to win in every state, take as much free media as possible, have an inclusion attitude toward getting voters, and appear in front of as many people as possible proved to be sledgehammer against the old way. And unlike just about every other past self-funder, Trump did not let his campaign take him for a ride.”

This campaign, like none we’ve seen, should be troublesome to the professional consultants who have relied on stage managing their candidates -- in effect controlling them and their message -- a technique which empowers them while weakening their candidate. Nowhere to my mind was this more evident than in Scott Walker’s campaign where his strengths were buried in a sea of pabulum. He was, to refer to Danker’s analysis of standard campaigns -- reduced to a “commodity” being sold to voters by those who profit mightily by creating and placing ads to which few voters pay any attention.

Relying on data is pointless, Danker argues because it can only measure the past views of voters and works only when there is low turnout, “Picking a president is about the candidate's vision of where to take America. "Make America Great Again" may be facile but it meets this objective. Cruz did not have a campaign theme like this of his own, never mind a slogan for it.”

Trump never departed from his central themes -- America is good, sovereignty is good and national interest compels that  we end open borders; security is important and we should halt Middle Eastern  immigration until we can better vet applicants from Moslem nations; workers need jobs and bad trade policies hurt them and we need to stop that; excessive taxation and regulation hurt us all and the federal government must be trimmed.

As we approach the remaining primaries, it seems clear that the Trump strategy will win him the nomination. CNN says he already has 1002 of the 1297 delegates he needs to win the nomination.

There are 502 more delegates to be chosen. And of these Trump has a good chance of gaining many of them,

Except for one dubious poll which the pollster who performed it, warned should not be relied upon ("the race still could be in flux"), Trump is leading Cruz in all those of taken of Indiana, an open primary state where any voter can vote for any candidate. 

He remains comfortably ahead in every poll taken of California voters, and in New Jersey, and West Virginia.


Of course, no one’s crystal ball is perfect, but the Soros-financed rent-a-mobs in California with thugs beating up his supporters, trying to block his appearances, waving Mexican flags, and holding up posters saying things like “Make American Mexico Again” seem only likely to increase his support and the Republican turnout. 

The desperate move to forge a Cruz-Kasich alliance to stop him, fell apart almost as quickly as it was announced. Naming Carly Fiorina as his vice presidential running mate might have been effective earlier, but also seems desperate and unlikely to carry Cruz far.

In the meantime, the effort of conservative Big Thinkers trying to stop him seems utterly mad. Take George Will promoting Hillary Clinton instead: 

If Trump is nominated, Republicans working to purge him and his manner from public life will reap the considerable satisfaction of preserving the identity of their 162-year-old party while working to see that they forgo only four years of the enjoyment of executive power. Six times since 1945 a party has tried, and five times failed, to secure a third consecutive presidential term. The one success -- the Republicans’ 1988 election of George H.W. Bush -- produced a one-term president. If Clinton gives her party its first 12 consecutive White House years since 1945, Republicans can help Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, or someone else who has honorably recoiled from Trump, confine her to a single term. 

This is the same man who in August of last year wrote: "The Republican National Committee should immediately stipulate that subsequent Republican debates will be open to any and all — but only — candidates who pledge to support the party’s nominee." (emphasis added)

One of my favorite online posters notes the irony of the diehard Never Trump Big Thinkers: "The interesting thing is the GOPe [GOP establishment] and the moderately conservative doofuses like Kristol, Will, et al, always advocated the lesser of two evils doctrine until now. Now that the greater of two evils is The Lord of the Flies with lipstick they think we should abandon the lesser of two evils strategy now that it is Beelzebub, The Princess of Darkness, The Mother of Lies in the flesh as the beneficiary of finally not voting for the lesser of two evils. Posted by: Ignatz Ratzkywatzky ".

In the meantime, the RNC seems to be accepting the inevitable and talk of picking a candidate in the convention wanes.

The stop Trump campaign seems to be fizzling

The Stop-Trump fever that gripped the Republican establishment for months has broken.

The walls are closing in around a shrinking band of hard-core opponents of the New York billionaire, who is tightening his grip on the Republican presidential nomination with big wins in state after state, congressional endorsements, and the acknowledgment from pillars of the GOP elite that Donald Trump will be the party’s standard-bearer.

There was grizzled RNC committeeman Ron Kaufman likening Trump to Reagan. There was Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s half-hearted endorsement of Ted Cruz. There was former House Speaker John Boehner’s confession that he and Trump are texting buddies and golfing partners. There’s the slew of endorsements (and a prediction by Trump campaign officials that another wave is coming after Indiana votes next week). It’s adding up to a slow but steady coalescing around the man once considered so vile to the GOP base that he’d rip the party to shreds.

“We've had enough intraparty fighting. Now's the time to stitch together a winning coalition,” said Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah. “And it's been clear almost from the beginning that Donald Trump has the ability to assemble a nontraditional bloc of supporters… The ability to cut across traditional party boundaries -- like '80, '92 and 2008 -- will be key, and Trump is much better positioned to achieve that.”

Huntsman isn’t alone. He’s the latest in a long list of party stalwarts and defenders of the GOP establishment that have accepted Trump as the best remaining option in the field -- and are encouraging Trump's opponents to wind down. 

As for the assertion that Hillary would beat him in the general election, last week, one poll had the two neck and neck: and  Rasmussen  reports that now, months away from November, the two are tied:

Hidden in the poll’s survey of likely voters is that an astonishing 18% of black voters say they will vote for Trump. 

If this holds it’s a remarkable record:

In 2012, 93 percent of blacks cast ballots for President Obama, with 6 percent voting for Romney. In the 2010 midterm, the split was 91-9.
In 2014, Republicans saw a very slight bump nationally among African-American voters, who were 12 percent of the electorate. Ten percent of African Americans voted Republican, with 89 percent voting Democratic.
The 89-10 split on African Americans is the best for the GOP since 2006, when it was 89-11.

The GOP hasn't received more than 11 percent of the black vote since 1996.

In the meantime, the primaries show Republican participation is up, and Democratic participation is down. Trump will get more primary votes than anyone in history, and Hillary is getting far fewer votes than she got in 2008. Democratic turnout is way down, reflecting an enthusiasm gap

I suppose the lesson here is Trump might lose George Will’s vote, but he’s likely to win the White House. As coarse as he seems to coastal pundits and as frightening a prospect as he is to the professional political consultant class, he is striking a chord with the voters. And he did it his way.