You can always spot the pro-Trump candidate from a precinct away. He or she is typically the politician who wants to throw fireballs at the local rally held at the gas station. These types of candidates don’t weigh the ramifications of their decisions or words until after the fact.
Back in 2015 – when Donald Trump announced his candidacy – I predicted in a CNBC editorial that he would be a dangerous candidate and even more volatile politician. Today, we have seen how Trump is unpredictable, volatile and arguably unstable as President. No one disputes that.
As a 2018 candidate, you need to remind voters of that personality, and associate your opponent with his values. Don’t assume voters will read through your opponent’s extremist views. As a candidate, it is your job to communicate the message that is spread through the media.
Here are three ways you can play the Trump card to your advantage and box your opponent into defending Trump’s behavior.
1) Appeal to the Highest Common Denominator
Trump is notorious for appealing to the lowest common denominator. If you listen to his speeches, he lacks a basic desire to bring people together for a greater good.
Take the high ground when combatting your opponent in the press. Don’t lower yourself to your opponent’s level by trashing an organization or group. If Trump doesn’t agree with his opponent’s policy or views, he is quick to make it personal. We saw him do that with political opponents, like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York to journalists like Megan Kelly.
Voters are tired of partisan politics – and they can read through low-level attacks. Give your potential constituents credit that they will be able to read and see when your opponent is taking the low ground by attacking groups or individuals.
2) Brand your Opponent as Unstable
The economy will likely continue to be strong leading up to the Midterm election. Despite the solid economic growth, a recent Quinnipiac poll shows close to 60 percent of Americans don’t approve of Trump. That means you have a lot of latitude to associate your competitor as unstable, fringe and not in line with the values of most Americans.
Of course, all political candidates are different, so you shouldn’t lump all Democrats or Republicans into one box. However, the overall common thread among pro-Trump candidates is they are quick to speak. Make sure your platform communicates why you are stable and your opponent is unstable. But don’t just say it. Demonstrate it in your speeches based on your opponent’s recent speeches and actions.
3) Associate your Opponent with Trump
The GOP discovered in the 1994 Midterm elections that anything associated with President Bill Clinton was toxic. They leveraged that branding campaign to perfection, retaking Congress and dealing President Clinton a humiliating defeat that forced him to publicly say he was now listening to Americans.
President Trump will be toxic in 2018 and it is your job to communicate that to voters. Don’t expect your opponent to associate himself with Trump. He or she will hide from the White House when it’s appropriate. As the leader of your own campaign, it is your job to continuously communicate why voters need to remember that your opponent is a follower of Trump. If you brand your opponent quickly to Trump, it will stick with the 60 percent of Americans who say they don’t trust him.
About the Author
Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with NBC, Senior Producer with CBS in New York, and author of the book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. He’s also a current contributor with CNBC and the Daily Caller. Macias runs his own PR agency – Macias PR - that focuses on messaging, branding and media in the political realm.