Joe Slade White of East Aurora, a nationally known political consultant who has worked for Democratic candidates at all levels of government, is providing a Democratic perspective on the Republican National Convention in response to questions from Jerry Zremski, the News Washington Bureau chief. When the Democrats hold their national convention next week, The News will similarly interview Republican strategist Michael Caputo.
There was drama on the convention floor Monday, with two state delegations walking out because the “Never Trump” forces didn’t get a roll call vote on the convention rules. The headlines and the news reports were all about how divided the GOP is as the general election campaign moves forward. How much could this continuing division hurt Donald Trump?
The deadliest consequence of actually showing a demonstration of “Never Trump” on television is not so much that it gives comfort to the enemy, but that it gives reinforcement to Republican voters and conservative independents that they’re not alone. It confirms for them that it’s OK to feel that way. And that can lead to Republican voters staying home (most of them won’t be willing to vote for Clinton, though some will) and if large enough numbers of Republican voters sit out the election, it could have disastrous consequences, not just making it impossible for Trump to win, but possibly switching the majority of both houses of Congress.
Melania Trump gave a compelling speech on behalf of her husband – but then it turns out that the speech appears to have been copied from Michelle Obama’s 2008 convention speech. How damaging do you think this plagiarism accusation will turn out to be?
A wise man in my business once said to me: “If imitation is the highest form of flattery, stealing is the lowest.” I used to call this (borrowing from David Letterman) Stupid Campaign Pet Tricks. But it’s much, much worse than that. Plagiarism is something that reporters get fired for and authors get sued for. It’s not something people should take lightly. Likely it was some speechwriter trying to be “cute.” When staffers try to be cute, it usually ends up by shooting themselves in the foot, or in this case, a more vital part of the anatomy. This undermines the best argument polls showed Trump had against Clinton – trust. And the convention was the best time to amplify it. Campaigns that waste too much time explaining mistakes usually don’t win the kind of upset victory Trump’s would be.
Donald Trump took the stage briefly to introduce his wife. That’s an unprecedented break with tradition; after all, presidential nominees typically appear at the convention once, when they accept the nomination. Was it a good idea for Trump to do this? Why or why not?
I apologize for the play on words, but convention has no place at a nominating convention. While the fog machine and backlighting was more than a little over the top, it’s always good, and never bad, for the public to see any candidate praise his or her spouse. People admire that, and they should. People identify with that; who wouldn’t? And if it makes Trump more personal (OK, Trump is always personal, but often not in a very good way) then that’s good for him.
The bottom-line message of the Monday convention session seemed to be: Be afraid. Be very afraid – of crime and terrorism, especially – if Democrat Hillary Clinton is elected president. How effective a message do you think this will be with swing voters?
One doesn’t need a good poll to know and to sense that people are feeling fear. It has ebbed and flowed ever since 9/11. Every time there is a mass shooting, every time there is a terrorist-caused tragedy, whether domestic or foreign, every time a suspect gets killed in an arrest or cops are assassinated, it makes people feel that the world is coming unraveled. To exploit that is dangerous. To not acknowledge it or minimize it is equally dangerous.