How Not To Win A General Election
by Tom Donelson on July 28, 2015 at 9:30 AM
In primary season, sometimes a political party or candidates take their eyes off the prize and forget their ultimate goal: to win the general election. In the case of dealing with Donald Trump, this is becoming rapidly obvious that some candidates in their haste to attack the Donald, forget that what they do now will cost them in the future.
I made my points that Donald Trump is not the right man for the job, but while his statement on John McCain's war record went beyond the pale, it should be pointed out that McCain’s attack on Trump supporters was equally dumb politics. One rule in political primary season in attacking your opponent is to be aware that you will be seeking your opponent’s supporters for a general election. Attacking your opponent based on their record or their ideas is fair game, but personal ad hoc attacks on an opponent or his supporters can be counterproductive.
Lindsey Graham calling Donald Trump a jackass was rather stupid (even though his response to Trump’s giving out his private phone number was rather an amusing response). My point is that maybe Republican candidates might want to re-examine how they approach the primary season since we have some 17 candidates, give or take, and some folks need to garner some attention, in particular since the GOP will only invite the top ten, including Donald Trump, to the first debate with the rest going to the loser bracket. (Unless of course the GOP and Fox changes course on this, which would be a wise step.) So there are candidates going for broke, but the problem remains, how do you attack your opponent without irritating the base of your party and the candidate’s supporters?
In a recent PPP poll, one out of every three voters supported a non-politician (Trump, Fiornia and Carson). Trump attracted from all wings of the Republican Party, and he is as popular with moderates as with conservatives, so there is more to Trump than just immigration. There is a complete distrust among many Republican voters when it comes to their own party, and this won’t be helped when candidates call each other jackasses. Trump’s appeal is that he is playing a role of being his own man who tells it like it is. Many voters appreciate that, but as I have detailed in the past, being mad as hell has a limited appeal even within the Republicans, and eventually you have to give reason to vote for someone as opposed to voting against everyone else. Trump is not running a campaign for the general election, and as many polls are showing, Trump's negative ratings outshine his positive.
The Democrats are vulnerable, and a recent Pew Study poll, which saw the GOP dropping as a party also showed that voters view the GOP the best on budget deficits, dealing with terrorism, gun rights and taxes, and they are close to tied on issues like immigration, the economy and foreign affairs. So the GOP has advantages that are being overshadowed by the primary.
So how does one make their case? Carly Fiorina summed it up best when asked about the Trump bump, “It would be nice if occasionally Donald Trump would throw a punch at his good friend Hillary Clinton instead of all the other people in the Republican race.” Fiorina's point is well-taken, and when one considers the recent Quinnipiac poll, many of the leading GOP contenders are now taking the lead over Hillary in the key battleground states of Iowa, Colorado and Virginia with Donald Trump performing the worse in favorable and unfavorable ratings. So many GOP candidates can remind folks of Trump’s own weaknesses and past stances and let voters decide: do they want Trump to be their leader? They can also attack Hillary and the Democratic Party since much of the Democratic policy has led to a decline among the majority of the middle class income since 2007! And it is not like we are safer today after seven years of Democratic foreign policy.
As a Republican candidate, don’t attack Trump supporters since he is drawing from all segments of the GOP, but make the case to those voters why you are the best person to lead the GOP. Understand that many of these folks are looking to win but also to change America from the lawless leftist policies, and they don’t want to have four more years of it. They understand what is at stake and one out of three voters are even saying, "We don’t want people from the present political class and Republican establishment, we don’t want politicians. Period!” Keep the eye on the prize, and that prize is keeping the Senate, expanding the lead in the House, and winning the White House.