Donald Trump’s basic schtick comes down to this: “if you don’t like what’s going on in Washington, vote for me because I’m nothing like that crowd.” This is how he gets away with doing and saying outrageous things. He merely suggests that being conventional is what got us into a mess and he’s the guy to get us out of it because he’s the opposite of a conventional politician. In other words, political correctness (in words and deeds) is the problem.
Beyond saying unconventional things, this means that Trump is convinced that he can win by running an unconventional campaign. For example, as an entertainer, he thinks that crowds of adoring fans are a sign that he’s winning. Here’s what he told Mike Gallagher:
“Well, you know, I really feel it, Mike. I go to Ohio, we were there two days ago, and Pennsylvania and near Pittsburgh and we — I was in West Virginia, the crowds are massive. And you know, I walked out of one, and I said, ‘I don’t see how I’m not leading,’” Trump said, invoking the size of his crowds.
“We have thousands of people standing outside trying to get in, and they’re great people and they have such spirit for the country and love for the country, and I’m saying, you know, ‘Why am I not doing better in the polls?’ And I’ve noticed the polls are coming up,” Trump said.
Referring to what conventional wisdom says about how you win the New Hampshire primary, here’s what Trump said at an event last night:
Don’t forget that when I ran in the primaries, when I was in the primaries, everyone said you can’t do that in New Hampshire, you can’t do that. You have to go and meet little groups, you have to see – cause I did big rallies, 3-4-5K people would come…and they said, wait a minute, Trump can never make it, because that’s not the way you deal with New Hampshire, you have to go to people’s living rooms, have dinner, have tea, have a good time. I think if they ever saw me sitting in their living room they’d lose total respect for me. They’d say, I’ve got Trump in my living room, this is weird.
Do you feel the specialness?
This is why Trump thinks he doesn’t need a ground game – even in states like Pennsylvania – and why he thinks he doesn’t need to spend money on ads in swing states. It’s also why he thinks he can illegally spam government officials from other countries with desperate emails asking for money. Now that’s unconventional!
If Trump was doing this because he had studied how political campaigns work/don’t work and crafted a different strategy, it might make some modicum of sense. After all, on the Democratic side of presidential elections, we witnessed the campaigns of candidates like Howard Dean and Barack Obama break the mold of conventional thinking. And what Trump learned in the primary was that he didn’t need money because he got an endless amount of free media. But that worked when he only needed to appeal to the most rabid parts of the Republican base.
Things are different now. And what Trump is doing isn’t based on some well thought-out strategy. It is the campaign of a narcissist who thinks he’s special. We’ll see how that works out for him.