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Democratic strategist Joe Slade White on the Republican convention

To get a Democratic perspective on the Republican National Convention, The Buffalo News will check in periodically with Joe Slade White of East Aurora, a nationally known political consultant who has worked for Vice President Biden and Democratic candidates at all levels of government. In 2014, Joe Slade White was named National Democratic Strategist of the Year by the American Association of Political Consultants.

When the Democrats hold their national convention next week, The News will similarly interview Republican strategist Michael Caputo.


What do you think the Republicans have to accomplish in this convention? They need to show Donald Trump as the strong independent nonpolitician that he is, while simultaneously showing (especially Republican moderate voters) that they can like him and vote for him, and NOT stay home. What is more dangerous for the Republican Party than even for Donald Trump is that polling I’m seeing shows a large segment of Republican voters who right now aren’t sure they’ll even show up to vote. In the two times that has happened in my lifetime in presidential years (in 1964 and 1980), it has led to widespread slaughter of a party’s members of Congress and the Senate. If Republican voters stay home in droves, it will mean that the Republicans could lose control of the Senate (which they may anyway) and even the House (which they wouldn’t lose unless there were a 1964/1980 landslide.)


What does Donald Trump have to do to broaden his appeal both among Republicans and among the electorate in general? This is not about giving Donald Trump a complete “makeover.” He has to stay true to his message of strong change. He will always be a showman. But he has to come off as a leader – big cliche – but it’s true. He has to be strong but not the bully. And it would be a huge mistake (often made by convention speakers on both sides) to shout to the crowd in the hall, when the real audience is watching on a much more intimate medium on television where the camera is in a close-up. People yelling in a close-up shot always scare people.


Many of the most prominent Republicans in the nation – two presidents named Bush, and the last two GOP presidential nominees – will not speak at the convention. What difference will that make? No voter really cares. But the commentators on TV and in the papers will make a big deal about it. People like the two presidents named Bush but it’s not as if they love them as they did Reagan. And if the two previous nominees were so popular, one of them might be finishing his two terms and the other would be running for re-election. Believe me, voters really don’t care. They will be tuning in to see if there are riots in the street and to see if Trump can still light a fire without blowing up the building and the party.


(Monday’s) theme is national security, and at least three of the speakers will talk in depth about Benghazi. Is this a good idea for Republicans? Why or why not? I truly believe that Benghazi is a non-issue outside of the obsession that Republicans and Hillary haters have with it. How she handled the email server problem (not well) and basic issues of trust and style are the vulnerabilities that they should be exploiting.

Terrorism IS an important issue and most people believe what is happening in Europe will begin to happen more often here (as in the Pulse tragedy in Orlando and in California) and it is the unpredictability and inability to stop lone terrorists that scare the hell out of average voters, especially women voters, and most especially women voters with children.

Trump has to pivot from wall builder and Muslim banner to the Protector. It’s NOT about foreign policy, it’s about how foreign terrorism can endanger Americans.


The convention program was announced Sunday, and one of the speakers is Scott Baio. Are you excited? Celebrities who try to become political powers for their candidates are just sad. Even the great Clint Eastwood fell on his face at a Republican Convention, talking to an empty chair. I have a feeling that Scott Baio will be especially sad. We’ll see. Not excited.

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