John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


How to Beat Donald Trump

Posted on February 12, 2016
By Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 3.0,

By Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The Club for Growth just announced that they are going to launch another round of ads against Donald Trump.

Here is what they said:
“Donald Trump is not a conservative,” said Club for Growth Action president David McIntosh. “He is a liberal on taxes, health care, eminent domain, and government bailouts. His record of bankruptcies and of donating to the Clintons and other big-government liberals needs to be exposed.

“CFG Action exposed the truth about Trump in Iowa and those ads worked. Track the polling averages from when the ads began in mid-September, and there was a clear and steady decline in Trump’s numbers through October that didn’t end until more than three weeks after the ads. That decline even caused Trump to lose his lead in Iowa, something that CFG Action showed in its own polling on October 6, 2015. The ads worked then and CFG Action is convinced that South Carolina Republicans will also reject Trump’s phony conservative claims.”

I hope they are successful in their approach, but I remain dubious.

It doesn’t seem like the average Trump voter really cares what the Club for Growth says about their favorite Presidential candidate. In fact, it seems to me that the more the average Trump voter hears negative things about Trump from conservative organizations and the main stream media, the more they like him.

The National Review, an iconic conservative magazine, dedicated an entire issue to bashing Trump and his bona-fides. This was well before the New Hampshire primary. You think that the average Trump voter cares about what the National Review thinks of the Donald? Most of them probably never even heard of the National Review.   And it didn’t stop Trump from doubling the rest of the field in the nation’s first primary.

I think the mistake that the Club for Growth and the National Review are making when attacking Trump is their ideological approach. Most Trump voters are not ideological. They might be idealistic, but they are not ideological. Whether Trump is conservative, liberal, moderate, libertarian or whatever doesn’t matter to these voters. Indeed, polls show that Trump does equally well among all ideological groups within the party.

Voters who characterize themselves as very conservative are more than willing to cut Trump slack, as are voters who see themselves as moderate, for basically the same reason: Trump is a celebrity who has a plan to make America Great Again.

No other candidate has a message as simple or as straightforward.

I wouldn’t attack Trump on his ideology because most of his voters don’t care about his ideology.

I would attack Trump using personal stories from average voters of how he harmed them or disrespected them or cost them their job or fired them. I would let the voters know about Trump as a person. I would tell stories about how he has broken up families, broken hearts and broken spirits with his philandering, his narcissism and his brutal ambition.

Democrats did that very effectively against Mitt Romney and his association with Bain Capitol. They didn’t call Romney a moderate or severely conservative or in any other way try to paint him as an ideologue. They painted him instead as an uncaring capitalist whose greedy thirst for money hurt regular Americans.

Democrats are much better at telling those stories than Republicans. They are much better at the narrative game.

If conservatives want to stop Donald Trump, they better learn the art of telling the sob story. And then they better spend a lot of money getting those sob stories in front of voters who might otherwise decide to vote Trump this Spring.

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