Another day, another packed out Trump rally. Set against the backdrop of Air Force One Trump delivered another, very odd, Trumpian stemwinder to the good people of Columbia, MO. There was not a lot new in this speech. Just the by now familiar hits on the media, firmness on borders and a fair bit of chest thumping about how well it has all gone to date. The fans never tire of this.
I don’t think for a second that Trump pays a lot of attention to the campaign strategies of the past; but he has inadvertently recovered the idea of a President, of a candidate, speaking directly to the electors. Neil Postman wrote about the Lincoln/Douglas debates which were all day affairs and reported verbatim in the popular press. 90 years later, Truman got aboard a train and made a speech – very likely much the same speech – at hundreds of stations across America.
Trump is not Truman and he certainly isn’t Lincoln, but he has a very keen sense of what works in the America he actually knows.
For a lot of American Presidents, the ascension to office marks the last time they really deal with Americans face to face. All of a sudden they have the access to TV and to journalists and, somehow, the stump speech gets lost in the green room.
Teddy Roosevelt essentially invented the whistlestop tour and he invented the White House press corps. He did both because he wanted to be able to speak directly to Americans, his Americans. His cousin, FDR, skipped past a largely hostile press with his Fireside Chats. Both men understood the necessity of speaking to Americans without filters and without spin. But, as television took over, that became something of a lost art.
Frankly, I think Trump’s rallies owe more to Professional Wrestling than to a careful analysis of his predecessors’ communications strategies. But here’s the thing, Professional Wrestling is a wildly popular entertainment in the US. The Sunday morning talks, not so much.
Trump is all about open access. He can’t climb on a helicopter without holding an impromptu press conference. He is unworried about the talking points. What he wants to do is connect.
I am very confident that the GOP will win the Senate next Tuesday. The Map, the polls and so on. I am also confident that the Trump Republicans have a very clear shot at winning the House. Yes, I have seen the polls and the Cook Report and all manner of Nate Silver stats; I don’t think they actually matter. I think Trump has connected at a visceral level with his American people.
The House races, in aggregate, are very much like the Popular Vote in a Presidential election. You can lose the popular vote, and I think the Republican will poll fewer votes than the Democrats for the House, but the distribution of the votes is what actually matters. A district here, a district there and super majorities for the Democrats in Districts they have won for forty years, and a Republican majority will emerge. It might be tight, or it might not. It is quite possible that the Republicans will increase their majority in the House. It will depend on specific districts, specific races, and Trump’s people know that.
Trump likes winning. He is doing 11 campaign rallies in five days because he thinks it might be enough to win.
I think he’s right.