Friday, May 6, 2016
A Post-Mortem on the Republican Primary Season: The Provocateur Won
Sixteen men and one woman threw themselves into the Republican race for the Presidency: 4 current and 5 past governors, 4 current and one former Senators, and 3 outsiders. Two of the Republican scrum had previously won the Iowa caucuses (Huckabee and Santorum). The Governors were all proven fiscal conservatives with excellence performance in office. It was open season since neither party had a primary. Thus, they all jumped in. One of the 17 would distinguish and separate himself or herself from the scrum. Who would it be? The Governors had excellent potential as President. Early favorites a year ago were Governors Chris Christy and Scott Walker. Governor JEB Bush had the money and name. Dr. Ben Carson was the outsider with presence. He briefly led the polls. Former Governors Jim Gilmore of Virginia and George Pataki of New York had been out of office so long that they never got any traction. They had nothing to lose by throwing their hats into the ring. They must have thought that lightning could strike in a bottle. It did, but it was Donald Trump’s bottle, or taco bowl. Governor Perry could not recover from his poor performance four years earlier. Both Governor Huckabee and Senator Santorum lost out on their moments years earlier. Governor Jindal never got traction, not even with his announcement. He was overshadowed by the others. Governor Walker was reported to have organized the best ground game in Iowa, but he dropped out before the Iowa Caucus. Dr. Carson, the voice of reasoned discourse, was unprepared on security issues when terrorism blew up in Europe and San Bernardino. Carly Fiorina stood out in the undercard debates. She was well prepared and articulate. The commentators and pundits were impressed. She never connected. Senator Graham never emerged from the undercard, not even winning South Carolina, his home state. The New York Times kept trashing Senator Rubio in front page “exposes.” That didn’t hurt him with Republican voters, but Governor Bush and PAC supporters spent millions trying to take him down. Senator Cruz piled on and Governor Christy skewered Senator Rubio, who appeared “not quite ready for prime time.” Both Governors Bush and Christy lost the Florida Primary, and all three soon dropped out Senator Cruz hung on.. Governor Christy was riding high pre-season, but Bridgegate crippled his image. He also had the infamous hug with President Obama draped around his neck. Governor Bush based his campaign on being the voice of reason, hoping the conservatives would eviscerate each other, and he would be the sane voice standing at the end. The voters wanted red meat this election cycle. In addition, voters were tired of the “Bush name.” The Governor was the right person at the wrong time. Senator Cruz kept asking the other contestants to drop out so that he could go one-on-one (I would say mano a mano, but the Senator doesn’t speak Spanish). He got his wish, but Donald Trump won over 50% of the vote in the seven primaries since Senator Cruz’s large win in Wisconsin. Senator Cruz ran as an outsider, but he was relying on insider rules to win delegates on the second ballot. Governor Kasich was hoping to win on the third ballot. Those are not winning strategies, but it was all they had. I like Governor Kasich, but eating a New York Pizza with a fork in New York just won’t cut it. Senator Cruz called a basketball rim a "ring" in Indiana. That's not a winning shot! Senator Cruz’ strategy was to run as an outsider, emphasizing all the traditional conservative planks and marshaling the Evangelical vote in Iowa and the subsequent Southern primaries. The theory was sweep Iowa and the South, and gather such momentum as to unbeatable. Even Evangelicals vote for the economy. President Clinton was right: “It’s the economy, stupid!” Senator Cruz’ South Carolina jibe about Trump and his “New York values” killed his campaign in New York and the other northeast primaries. His acerbic personality also hurt his campaign. Trump’s strategy was simple: 1) Be a provocateur. Grab the media attention. His outrageous statements grabbed attention. They were Shocking! Shocking! Shocking! The media loved it. They gave him so much free air time that he sucked the oxygen out of the air. Most of the candidates could not get their message across. Even JEB Bush’s $100 million plus was wasted in misdirected ads. By the time his opponents caught on, it was too late. Donald Trump had distinguished and separated himself from the Republican scrum. He was crazy like a fox! Donald Trump understood better than any of the other candidates the angry mood of Republican and independent voters. His second strategy was to emphasize three compelling tenets: immigration, the economy, and security. Build the wall, bring jobs back, and restore faith in America. Over and over! His third stratagem was to show voters he was tough. No shibboleths! No political correctness! Fourth, hit back when attacked, and even before! Donald Trump has New York values – he’s a tough New York street fighter.