Wednesday, July 26, 2023

BTRTN: Dear Nikki and Tim, Here’s the TV Ad You Can Use to Attack Trump.

With Ron DeSantis free falling faster and farther than a Tom Petty lyric, hope shifts that some other Republican can emerge to challenge Trump for the nomination. Desperate to keep Trump away from the White House, Steve offers Nikki, Tim, and the others a game plan for attacking Trump. 


Readers of BTRTN may have noticed that I have a periodic need to make suggestions to Republicans that could drastically improve their communications.  

Why, you ask, would this progressive blogger feed Republicans ideas for better communications strategies and sharper, more compelling messages? Two reasons.

First: as a career ad guy, critiquing mass communication is what I do. It is a reflex. When I see stupid marketing communications – like the one thousandth commercial to use Queen’s “We Will Rock You” as background music -- I don’t scream and squeeze the remote button. I scream and then think about how I might have approached the communications task differently.

But there is a bigger reason I’d like to help Republicans.

My dream is to come up with the idea that takes Donald Trump down, once and for all. Every day, Donald Trump grows as a mortal threat to our democracy, to our freedom, to our world. If he is indeed nominated in 2024, we must devote every ounce of our strength to defeating him. But it would be far better is to cut him off at the knees now, to weaken him in the Republican Primary so that he limps into the general election… or to deny him the nomination outright.

The right message could do it.

All that’s needed for my dream to come true is one viral moment in which one of my suggestions for attacking Trump gets traction on the internet, is seen by a Republican rival, who uses the idea to finally break the mystical hold that Donald Trump exerts over the MAGA base. That’s the dream.

But why do I have to help a Republican to achieve this? Easy: only a Republican can shatter that mystical grip. Democrats can beat Trump in ten straight general elections, but that will only make the MAGA base think every election is rigged. Nothing a Democrat could ever say or do would damage Trump. Usually such attacks only make Trump stronger.

Only someone with impeccable conservative credentials who is respected by the MAGA base has a prayer of taking on Trump, attacking him effectively, and perhaps even wresting the nomination from him.

For a while we thought Ron DeSantis had a chance of taking down Trump, and for that same while we thought that it would be better to have DeSantis as the nominee than face even the slightest chance of a second Trump administration. Now that Ron DeSantis has proven himself to be an unspeakably cruel, Machiavellian racist, it is hard to make the argument that it would be better to have him in the White House than Trump. Both are completely despicable and equally unacceptable.

Back before DeSantis announced his candidacy, I offered him some pretty good advice that he might have been wise to listen to.  I urged that he focus his marketing message on electability and governing competence.

DeSantis approached the race with a heckuva story to tell. He had just crushed his Democratic opponent for governor by a shocking twenty-point margin in a state very recently viewed as purple. DeSantis could brag about a strong Florida economy, and he had a formidable record of implementing a deeply conservative agenda. “A winner who gets things done” – heck, that would have been a pretty good campaign slogan to use against a loser who didn’t.

These were simple, credible messages. More important, they would not require DeSantis to diss Trump or disown Trump’s politics. All DeSantis had to say was that he agreed with Donald Trump’s political goals, but make the points that Trump had proven himself to be a consistent loser at the ballot box and point out that he never got anything done. No wall, not paid for by Mexico.

Instead, Ron DeSantis frittered away his momentum by fighting a holy war of intolerance against the Woke, LGBTQ, Blacks, Women, and independent education. He is flailing and failing, displaying an astonishing tone-deafness that seems consistent with a campaigning style that shows him to be utterly unable to connect with ordinary voters. Ron DeSantis, we have learned, is every bit as disgusting, divisive, vile, and morally bankrupt as Trump. The DeSantis death knell: he has destroyed his own “electability” argument by making himself every bit as toxic and “unelectable” for the Presidency as Trump.  Ron DeSantis is not the guy who is going to save the Republicans from Trump… nor would we want him to be.

So: no more helpful suggestions for DeSantis from me.

In a world where Trump leads most every poll by 30 points, it’s daunting to even entertain the notion that someone could defeat him for the nomination.

As DeSantis stumbles, we now see articles about Tim Scott’s fundraising prowess, and there are renewed flickers of interest in Nikki Haley as the non-MAGA Republicans desperately wish to unite behind an alternative to Trump. Vivek Ramaswamy is actually ahead of both in the polls, but the out-of-nowhere multi-millionaire has yet to endure any of the rigorous scrutiny aimed at the better-known candidates. Mike Pence is struggling to raise money and continues to suffer from Low-C, the clinical term for a alarming deficiency in charisma.

The problem is that neither Scott, Haley -- nor of the other Republican contenders -- have figured out how to run against Donald Trump. Most sit between a rock and hard place: they are afraid to hit him hard for fear of alienating Trump's voters, who they will need big time in a general election. But in failing to throw punches, they unable to articulate why they are any different or better. Chris Christie is trying to make a kamikaze run at Trump, but his blistering criticism is falling on a Grand Old Party of deaf ears.

So let’s go back to the basics.

There is an old rule in marketing: if you want to be the leader, find out what the most people want the most, and then deliver it better than anyone else.  It is a simple idea, repeated time and time again in countless product categories. Tide cleans best. Coke refreshes you best. Google searches are the best. Find the most important benefit in the category, deliver it better than anyone else, and you will be the leader until somebody comes up with an even more important benefit… or figures out how to deliver the most important benefit better than you do. It’s just common sense.

Well, there is also an old rule in politics: the most important thing to the party out of power is to find someone who can win. In 2020, the Democratic Party quickly coalesced around Joe Biden for one reason: everyone felt that he could beat Donald Trump, and everyone was terrified that Bernie Sanders couldn’t.  Electability was everything for the Dems in 2020… and it is every bit as critical to today’s Republican Party. Who can beat Biden? Who is most electable?

So far, no Republican candidate has mounted a serious effort to challenge Trump on the issue of electability. No one has thrown down the gauntlet on what should be most important issue in the primary.  No one has made electability the centerpiece of their campaign. Candidates are wasting their time on “woke,” on waging war on LGBTQ citizens, on whether the DoJ is biased, and on just about everything but the most important issue.

This, despite the fact that Trump is exceedingly vulnerable on the issue of electability. After Donald Trump won the election of 2016, he has been “the biggest loser,” having lost control of the House in midterms of 2018 (when Democrats picked up 41 House seats), losing the Presidency, the Senate, and the House in 2020, and severely underperforming relative to expectation and opportunity in the 2022 mid-terms. He was already a loser before being branded with what now appears will be a toxic array of ominous Federal and State indictments, with trials likely to be in various stages of forward motion right in the thick of the campaign season. Sure, the 2024 election will once again largely come down to who gets their base out to the polls… but the independents will once again find Trump’s chaos a bridge too far.

The obvious answer for Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, or any other Republican contender: make electability the central issue in the campaign.

Here’s a way to do it that might make MAGA Republicans stand up and actually freak out.

This thought occurred to me when I stumbled across one of those mind-blowing Instagram clips in which liberal comic/correspondents like Jordan Klepper of The Daily Show fame interview MAGA voters and entice them to express their unvarnished opinions on every topic under the sun. In one such clip, a MAGA Republican said that he would prefer to have Vladimir Putin as President of the United States to Joe Biden. When asked why, he replied, “At least Putin loves his country.”

The comment --  breathtaking, but somehow not surprising, or perhaps even all that unusual --  is an insight into the MAGA mentality. The MAGA base – or some significant portion of it -- is not motivated by conservative principles. Rather, they are fueled by hatred of liberals, and all things that liberals espouse.

It is the same logic that causes Republicans to condemn Critical Race Theory and “woke-ism.”  The majority of Republicans have a hard time accurately defining either, yet they are absolutely certain that they oppose them.

It is intriguing to read this data and speculate that the most visceral, animating emotion driving the far right is not a love of Donald Trump, so much as a raging hatred of liberals.

The secret, therefore, for Republicans trying to compete with Trump for the MAGA base may be to ignore Donald Trump, and tap into their geyser of poisonous rage against Democrats.

Which is why the following ad might work.

Here you go, Tim, Nikki, and whoever else is interested… this is the television commercial that could make Donald Trump’s base open to your candidacy:

“The Problem” :60 Television Commercial


Photograph of Nancy Pelosi

Voice over announcer:

“In her fondest dreams, there is one candidate that Nancy Pelosi desperately wants to win the Republican nomination for President.”

Visual: Dissolve to video of Donald Trump

Visual: Photograph of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Voice over announcer:

“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has a secret hope about who will win the Republican nomination for President.”

Visual: Dissolve to video of Donald Trump

Visual: Photograph of Bernie Sanders

Voice over announcer:

“Bernie Sanders tells his friends exactly who he hopes will be the Republican nomination for President.”

Visual: Dissolve to video of Donald Trump

Visual: Photo of Joe Biden

Voice over announcer:

“Yes, Republicans, in the White House right now, Joe Biden’s gang of progressives, Democrats, and liberals are hoping one man will become the Republican nominee for President.”

Visual: Fade to video of Donald Trump

Voice over announcer:

“Why do all of these disgusting, country-hating, woke liberals want Donald Trump to be the Republican nominee?

Because they all think that he would be the easiest Republican candidate to beat.

They feel that they beat him before. That they beat him in the mid-terms.That they can beat him again.

They see the polls. They know that he cannot win a majority of votes.

And now their liberal Department of Justice is flinging indictments at Donald Trump to make sure that undecided voters vote against him.

Visual: Split Screen of Pelosi, AOC, Sanders, and Biden

The problem, my fellow Republicans, is that the Democrats you hate most all want Donald Trump to be our party’s nominee. They are making certain he will lose… and we will have four more years of Joe Biden.

Visual: Split screen of video of Pelosi, AOC, Sanders, and Biden laughing

Voice over announcer:

And they will all laugh at us if we nominate him again.

Donald Trump was a good President, and we all are grateful for his policies, his actions, and his leadership.

But we can’t do what the Democrats are hoping and praying we will do. We cannot nominate Donald Trump for President again, and hand the election to Joe Biden.

My friends, it is time we understood the problem fully: if we nominate Donald Trump, we are nominating the candidate with the least chance of beating Joe Biden.

The fact is that a vote for Donald Trump is a vote for Joe Biden.

Nominating Donald Trump ensures that we will have four more years of Joe Biden, and that will be catastrophic for our freedom, our economy, and our country.

We need a new face to lead our party. A new generation leader who is focused on our future, not our past. A young, energized leader who can blow out the old, frail, weak Democrats who control Washington D.C. 

A new generation leader who can win the undecided voters that can put a Republican back in the White House. 

 A new leader who can win. A new leader who WILL win.

Vote for (Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, etc.) to be the Republican nominee for President.”

Of course such a campaign wouldn’t just be a single commercial. You’d have the version in which prominent members of the LGBTQ community are each identified as people who secretly want Trump to win the Republican nomination. Blacks. Immigrants. All are depicted as hoping that the Republicans nominate Trump, because they know he will lose.

Here’s the bet: MAGA Republicans actually hate Nancy Pelosi more than they like Donald Trump. So the news that Nancy Pelosi prefers Trump as the Republican candidate – and does so out of confidence that he will lose – could trigger uncertainty in a MAGA voter. What is more important? To nominate Trump, or to thwart Nancy Pelosi?

There you have it, Nikki, Tim or any other Republican… that is how you take on the “electability” issue. You don’t say that you think Trump isn’t electable… let the evil demon Democrats do it for you. And if you are terrified of running that ad, convince some fat Republican Super-Pac to do your dirty work for you.

Run that commercial and watch how it confuses the MAGA brain, which has been trained to hate everything Nancy Pelosi wants, to scorn every position AOC espouses, and to reject everything Joe Biden advocates. Tell the MAGA maniacs that Nancy Pelosi wants Trump to win, and watch the MAGA brain dissolve into a tapioca of flummoxed uncertainty.

Nikki, Tim, and all Republican wannabees… wake up! You have six months until the Iowa Caucuses. You have six months to eradicate Trump’s 30-point lead in the polls.

You are not going to do that by playing nerf ball.

Position yourself as the strongest candidate on what is most important to the voters.

And that starts by aggressively communicating that the current front runner is the weakest candidate on what is most important to the voters.

I gave you the tv commercial. No charge. You’re welcome.

Now go run it.


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  1. They will refuse to abandon Trump even in the face of this mental ju jitsu.

  2. Could do something similar with a commercial featuring various "independent" voters saying something like "I voted for Trump twice -- but now, he's got too much baggage." Add in the polling and positions of major Republican groups, and there could be a coherent message:
    "Several groups that oppose Trump’s candidacy have begun spending big money on efforts to undermine his support. Win It Back Pac, an independent Super Pac with ties to the conservative Club for Growth Action, recently spent $3.6m on an advert that features a purported Trump supporter who has grown tired of the former president’s antics. Americans for Prosperity Action, part of a network founded by the billionaire Koch brothers, has also sought to weaken Trump through door knocking and phone calls."


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