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Presidential Horse Race 2016: Voter feedback proves Trump is salvageable but Hillary is hopeless

Much has been written this election cycle about the two candidates and how unpopular they are. Much less time has been spent dedicated to the views of real voters on why they don’t like the candidates specifically.

I’ve often thought that Hillary Clinton can’t really do much at this point to change peoples’ impressions of her main personal bugaboo, namely the fact nearly everyone considers her untrustworthy and a liar. How can she possibly fix that?

Donald TrumpFor Trump on the other hand, there’s some room for him to improve. One recent focus group reinforces the notion.

Ian Schwartz of Real Clear Politics reports, “A CBS News focus group conducted by Frank Luntz reacts to Trump throwing out insults and Hillary Clinton saying she has always ‘tried’ to tell the truth. Trump supporters and former Trump supporters from Pennsylvania talked to Luntz about what Trump did to gain their support, what he did to lose their support, and how he can get it back.”

The Real Clear Politics article contains the video. It is fascinating -- highly recommended if you have time to watch the whole thing.

The first half of the video features Luntz talking with wavering Pennsylvania voters who originally liked Trump. A few continue to support the GOP nominee and about half of the group are on the fence – still considering Trump but are caught in no man’s land wondering what to do in November.

Their responses to Luntz’s questions were priceless – and potentially valuable to the Trump campaign.

One woman said she originally supported Trump because he “said the things everyone else was afraid to say”, but then declared he lost her because he has “gone insane.”

One man said Trump “acts like a 12-year old and changes his positions every news cycle.”

Another said, “He’s got to stop worrying about soundbites.”

Then, the kicker; “If he can get himself under control, he’s in good position. He just hasn’t been able to do it consistently” said one respondent, with approving nods from the rest of the group.

The second half of the video features media interviews with both candidates on topics where they’re weakest – and includes Luntz’s analysis of voter reaction to their statements. Hillary was asked about telling the truth whereby she said she always “tried” to tell the truth. Then Luntz analyzed reaction to Hillary’s famous lie over her landing in Bosnia under “sniper fire.”

For his part, Trump was asked about Khizr Khan and the sacrifices he’s personally made (in response to Khan’s taunt) and then about the candidate’s claim that Obama and Hillary “founded” ISIS.

Needless to say, voters panned both candidates’ answers.

Luntz concluded by arguing if Hillary loses it will be because of questions on her personal integrity; and if Trump loses it’s because of his tendency to dish out personal insults.

For Trump, it’s all about behavior and consistency on issues. For Crooked Hillary, it’s all about the lies. One is fixable; one is not.

It’s like an old saying that goes kind of like this... “I may be fat, but you’re ugly and I can diet.”

Trump can tone it down, hopefully with more coaching from Kellyanne Conway. Nothing is going to fix Hillary’s problems, however and it’s one reason why, at the end of the day on November 8, I believe Trump will win.

If Trump is able to “get it under control”, that is. He’s got two months to show people he can do it.

#NeverTrumpers’ biggest mistake was not leaving room for them to change their minds on Trump

Close followers of the 2016 presidential race know there’s been a tremendous amount of animosity expressed during the campaign and it hasn’t just been confined to candidate vs. candidate or party vs. party. This year’s deeply divisive election has forced everyone to look within themselves to determine what’s really important about the country, its government and the type of society we want to have as Americans.

For many, that soul searching and the subsequent conversations/shouting matches it generated has led to an end to lifelong party affiliations or professional friendships. Families have been divided. Feelings have been hurt.

Nowhere is this struggle more evident than the battle between supporters of Donald Trump and those Republicans in the anti-Trump group, these days known as #NeverTrump. The antipathy that’s gone back and forth between the two factions has often been personal and beyond mere criticism. For that reason, some of the more fanatical members of each group have gone overboard into actual harassment.

The most prominent #NeverTrumpers claim Trump supporters have crossed the line in verbally and physically threatening them and their families. But a few of them also admit their side isn’t perfect either.

In perhaps his most thoughtful post to date on the subject (titled, “The Unhealthy Anger of #NeverTrump’ers”), Erick Erickson wrote at The Resurgent, “Those who felt an obligation to go along with Trump because he was the nominee are doing what they think is best for the party. Those who were willing to give the Republican candidates all a fair shake did what in a normal year would be acceptable to everyone, even if they later decided Trump was unacceptable. Those who’d purge everyone except the small number they believe are sufficiently pure and anti-Trump are really no different from the Trump supporters who demand we all bow before Trump and kiss his ring.

“It is an anger unbecoming those who are going to have to work with a lot of others to grow again a party in turmoil. The people who once preached a big tent who would now shrink it to just their small gathering unless sufficient public repentance and public recanting of past sins are performed in ways this small group deems appropriate, will find they’re doing as much harm to a shared and common cause as the alt-right is doing.”

This is astonishing contrition coming from a man who called Trump “Cheeto Jesus”. Other Resurgent writers have labeled Trump an “Orange hued clown” and various other epithets. In doing so, they’re basically insulting Trump’s supporters in a similar fashion.

In yesterday’s post, Erickson recounted the history of his intense opposition to Trump, tracing its beginnings back to mid-January and then cementing it with his “I will not vote for Donald Trump ever” declaration in February. This was at the height of the early primary season when Trump was just starting to establish that he was for real and his supporters weren’t about to go away.

Thinking back on those days, I remember feeling a lot like Erickson towards Trump and his possibilities to win the nomination, his fitness as a candidate and his sometimes outlandish antics being far out of bounds in the political realm. When he coined the nickname “Lyin’ Ted” in the South Carolina debate on February 13, it was almost enough for me to join the #NeverTrump group as well.

But I didn’t. A few months later when considering the choices remaining after Trump secured enough delegates to win the Republican nomination it became clear that Trump was a much better alternative than the other gal. Subsequent events have only proven me right, though Trump’s tendency to stray far from his message at times hasn’t helped any.

Lately it’s become clear that Trump is not only evolving as a presidential candidate, he seems to be turning into a better, more humble person, the type of man I can see as occupying the office of the president.

After viewing his recent organized and content-rich speeches he’s delivered with the aid of a teleprompter, I can honestly see Trump standing before Congress every January to deliver the State of the Union address or speaking at a meeting of foreign leaders. In his own unique style, every one of his presidential speeches would probably be “interesting,” but in the world of politics, that’s not necessarily a negative.

In other words, my respect for Trump has grown over the months as it’s become evident he’s no longer just a reality TV star running for president. At the Republican convention, Trump’s children all talked about Donald Trump the father and founder of the Trump brand. They humanized him before a national audience (the ones who were paying attention at least).

Now we’re seeing Donald Trump the presidential candidate. It’s a good thing. Americans now have a choice between policies and directions, not just voting against whichever candidate you like the least.

The problem with #NeverTrumpers is they haven’t left themselves any room to make that same journey to redemption. By declaring “never,” they can’t allow for a new perspective. If you tell someone “I’ll never forgive you,” you’re in essence saying to that person they no longer exist in your world.

Religiously speaking, Jesus wouldn’t utter those words. But I don’t want to make it a matter of faith here.

In addressing Erickson’s point, it’s not really about what happens after the election that’s going to matter the most. The #NeverTrump people are already certain Trump is going to lose. What if he doesn’t? And if he does lose, how much “forgiveness” is going to be required by both sides?

And what of the #NeverTrumpers’ assertion that Trump supporters are all a collection of nationalists, race baiters and rednecks despite most people just favoring him because he offers a solution to the political log jam in the country? Is there room to forgive?

Or maybe the #NeverTrumpers have no status to judge.

F.H. Buckley writes at The American Spectator, “If lower class Americans have been excluded from jobs by senseless immigration policies, if we’ve seen wages stagnate for the lower half because of all the barriers to mobility we’ve erected, then the nationalist should properly seek to address their concerns. And that means taking seriously the issues that Trump has brought into the mainstream, about immigration and trade, issues a Republican elite had suppressed.

“I’m delighted if the NeverTrumpers are asking whether something good might be said for American nationalism. Before they accuse anyone of false nationalism, however, they might ask themselves whether they have standing to do so.”

All in all, it’s a good thing that Erickson and some other #NeverTrumpers seem inclined to tone down their rhetoric. But if Erick is censuring members of his kind for their excessive anger, he’d better start with some of his own writers at The Resurgent.

And then maybe allow himself a little room to “forgive” and grow at the same time.

Republicans hope Trump supporters dominate early voting

Whatever Erick Erickson and the #NeverTrumpers might feel about Donald Trump’s supporters, there’s one thing that’s undeniable: they’re enthusiastic and they’re loyal.

And I’d add they’re motivated, too.

In the lead-up to the first primaries earlier this year, analysts spent months trying to determine whether the polls showing Trump with a deep and enduring lead were truly accurate – and assuming they were – whether those Trump backers would actually get themselves to the polls without the aid of a traditional ground game to make sure they got there.

The results speak for themselves. Starting with the New Hampshire primary, Trump’s voters came out in droves to register their candidate preference, many of them taking advantage of early voting (where available) to provide Trump with such a margin that it couldn’t be overcome on Primary Day.

Republicans hope the same early voting pro-Trump phenomenon holds in the general election in November.

Ben Kamisar of The Hill reports, “The Republican National Committee...faces a new challenge in this cycle, as GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s lack of organizational investment is forcing the RNC to serve as his A-team on the ground.

“RNC officials believe they are ready for the challenge, arguing massive improvements have been made over the past four years.”

According to Kamisar, Republicans claim they learned a lesson after the 2012 election when the Democrats’ massive data operation led the party to victory. The GOP data effort then went into full swing and was apparently ready for the 2014 mid-term elections. It is given credit for helping Republicans win control of the Senate and increase their margins in the House.

But now, because the Trump campaign doesn’t have a nationwide data venture of its own (unlike the Clinton machine), the RNC is stepping in to fill the gap.

I can’t help but think many of the reports suggesting Trump will not do well in the data realm are overstated. I think if Trump suspected that the RNC couldn’t handle the technological end he would’ve put in the money to ramp it up himself. In meetings with Reince Priebus, I’m guessing Trump was satisfied the national party has taken the necessary steps to maximize get-out-the-vote.

To suggest otherwise just doesn’t make sense. It appears to be true Trump prefers a lean operation that relies on a lot of earned media, but I highly doubt he would risk losing at this point because he didn’t invest enough of his own fortune.

And, as I’ve argued a number of times before, Hillary Clinton is not Barack Obama. Obama had his own followers who didn’t need much inspiration to vote for him. Crooked Hillary inspires no one and I believe Democrat turnout will be down from four years ago – perhaps significantly.

Some of Trump’s success will depend on whether he’s able to stay on message (see above) and therefore keep a portion of the now anti-Trump vote from showing up at the polls. The low-information voter is probably the least likely to vote. Don’t give them a reason to want to show up.

Much of the media looks for any excuse to claim Crooked Hillary will beat Trump. I for one am confident that when the time comes, Trump and the RNC will have all the bases covered in terms of data and analytics. The party is concerned about more than just Trump as well. The same data operation will be in effect for down ballot races.

The GOP may be the “stupid party” but Republicans aren’t stupid. They realize how important data is…and they’ll be ready.

Are there really “undercover” Trump voters out there?

Finally today, one of the missions of the Republican Party’s get-out-the-vote effort is to identify people who would be inclined to vote GOP but either have not done so in the past or are potentially afraid to express support for Trump in polls because they feel they’ll be ostracized because of it.

Perhaps for that reason, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway believes there is stealth Trump support out there.

Nikita Vladimirov of The Hill reports, “Donald Trump's campaign manager says ‘undercover’ voters will give the Republican presidential nominee the edge in November's election.

“’The hidden Trump vote in this country is a very significant proposition,’ Kellyanne Conway told Channel 4 in London earlier this week.

“’Donald Trump performs consistently better in online polling, where a human being is not talking to another human being about what he or she may do in elections.’”

This is one of those “Twilight Zone” theories where there supposedly are pools of voters hiding out in caves and won’t reveal themselves because of fear of backlash from the politically correct though police.

Normally I’d argue that polls generally aren’t skewed, but Conway has a point this time. Trump does do better in online polls and people do seem generally afraid to publicly support Trump because the media makes it sound like they’re backwards or freakish if they do so.

So if these people do exist the key will be to get them to vote. They did in the primaries and I’m guessing they will in the general election as well.

For the country’s sake, I hope Conway is right. If Trump ends up winning, no one will feel the need to be “undercover” anymore.

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