Donald Trump’s appeal is not hard to understand.
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Americans are tired of endless wars, and paying the price of being the world’s policeman. Trade deals have profited many but ruined the American dream for an entire class of working Americans. There is legitimate anger about 13 million newcomers on our soil who broke the rules when they walked across the border. His anti-establishment rhetoric has struck a responsive chord.
That Trump is the front runner tells you all you need to know about the lure of his message, parts of which are echoed by both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
Why then are Trump’s negatives approaching 70%? And why do so many who otherwise agree with his issue positions have deep misgivings about him?
Mr. Trump has character and personality traits that many find wanting. The insults he hurls at women. His brutality toward those who disagree with him. His derogatory tweets slandering people he doesn’t like. His encouragement of brutish behavior at his rallies.
There is a lesson here for all candidates who are running for office:
The first is this. It isn’t enough to be right on the issues. Voters also expect your personality and character to be well put together. As a candidate, you are asking people to endow you with the power to make decisions on their behalf, and to trust your judgment. When you give voters reasons to believe they can’t, you will encounter fierce resistance, even among those who find merit in your issue positions.
The second lesson. It is OK to be colorful. It is OK to be flamboyant, provocative, even brash. But there is a line you cannot cross. When the means you use to secure attention gets in the way of your message, or makes it impossible for people to hear your message, you do a disservice to your cause, a disservice to your campaign, and repel people who might otherwise support you.
Mr. Trump seems to have recognized his problem. He has sidelined his old staff; hired a new cadre of seasoned and professional operatives. And during the last couple weeks, he has been a much more disciplined candidate. His advisors say we are now seeing his other personality.
Mr. Trump now becomes a test case on whether a candidate can do a personality transplant mid way through a campaign, hoping that voters forget the old one.
If you are running for office, your route to power will be easier if you don’t create that hurdle for yourself.
Political consultant Jay Townsend works with smart, passionate candidates who want to run for office, win elections and make a difference. He has successfully helped candidates learn how to run for the U.S. Senate, how to run for Congress, how to run for Mayor and develop a winning campaign marketing strategy.
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Running for office and knowing how to win an election is a challenge, especially for first time political candidates just learning how to run for office. Discerning the fine points of how to campaign, raise political contributions, and execute a political campaign strategy often requires the help of someone who has served as a political strategist or who has experience as a political consultant.