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Election 2016: Candidate Strategies Diverge Dramatically Leading Up To November

The election 2016 cycle has been a campaign season unlike any other: on one hand, Hillary Clinton is the first woman ever to win the presidential nomination of a major party. On the other, Donald Trump is a reality star with no qualifications of any kind for the presidency. And with just over two months until election day, the candidates’ strategies have diverged dramatically, due largely to the tone each of their campaigns has struck with voters thus far.

Donald Trump’s efforts have been riddled with xenophobic, racist, bigoted, misogynistic and generally hateful comments towards anyone he disagrees with, and anyone that may dare criticize him. Trump has alienated and ridiculed reporters, political opponents, and even popular members of his own party.

Trump has made certain media persona non grata at his events and feuded with those covering his campaign every step of the way. Trump’s problem, however, has not been the media: it’s been his own uncontrollable mouth.

Although Trump has been on a downward spiral for some time, his poll numbers truly began to tank when he attacked the Gold Star family of a slain Muslim American soldier. Khizr Khan, father of Army captain Humayan Khan, gave an impassioned speech at the Democratic National Convention urging voters not to cast their ballot for Trump, and asking the GOP nominee nominee openly if he had ever read the Constitution of the United States, as it explicitly protects religious freedom and equal protection under the law.

Trump’s downfall continued after he hinted that “second amendment people” could “do something” about Hillary Clinton’s alleged assault on gun rights, and then called President Obama the “founder” of ISIS and initially refused to walk back his comments.

It seemed, for a while, that Trump may have actually been trying to destroy his own campaign. He was a presidential candidate who showed no consideration for anyone other than himself. Members of his own party wrote an open letter to the Republican National Committee asking them to cut off his funding. Still more Republican security officials participated in another open letter calling him a threat to national security.

Now, however, Trump may be trying to turn his campaign around, which is likely too little, too late. The Washington Post reports this week that Trump is desperately trying to shed the primary label that’s continued to drive voters away from his campaign: racist. According to the Post, the GOP nominee has begun reaching out to black and Latino voters, or at least making a show of doing so.

Trump’s new strategy is reported to include trips to primarily black and Latino communities — even though that would be standard for any other Republican candidate. Insiders also told The Washington Post that Trump may try to use Bill Clinton’s crime policy record against Hillary Clinton in an effort to win black voters. He may even undertake a tour with early rival Ben Carson through Detroit.

The goal, then, would be to snatch away some of huge lead Clinton has maintained against him in poll after poll among black voters, Hispanic voters, and women.

Unfortunately for Trump, his attempt to turn toward minority voters and the issues specifically important to them already appears to be flailing. No one is buying the “new” Trump. His first tone-deaf remark came in the form of a speech directed at black and Hispanic voters: “What have you got to lose?” he asked of a community that he usually either ignores or directly targets.

His immigration policies, too, have changed faster than any normal voter can follow. He first appeared to slightly open his stance, calling for a “humane and efficient” solution to undocumented immigrants living in the States, then dismissed a media report that stated he was doing the same, then reverted back to his original hard line stance of mass deportations, before finally publicly agreeing that he would be open to “softening” his position. Throughout each of these changes, however, he’s continued to call immigrants “bad people” and refer to them as criminals.

The Clinton’s camp, on the other hand, is poised to win with a dramatically different approach. Although Clinton has been plagued by questions over her use of a private email server, insiders tell Politico that her strategy may be to simply run down the clock.

Clinton’s most recent headache involves her meetings with Clinton Foundation donors at the State Department. Trump has called for a special prosecutor to look into what he calls a “pay-for-play” system, though evidence of that is scarce.

But Trump has been torpedoing his own run without any real help from his opponent. Allies of the Clinton campaign tell Politico the team plans to “ride out” the negativity.

Those close to Clinton report that she believes voters are tired of hearing about the email controversy, a belief that is bolstered a Monmouth University poll from last year which found that nearly two-thirds of voters were sick of hearing about the Clinton emails.

Photos via Flickr/Gage Skidmore; Composite via The National Memo

Why Calling Hillary Clinton ‘Grandmother’ Is Not A Smear

Did you know that Hillary Clinton is a grandmother?

You probably did. After all, the birth of daughter Chelsea’s own daughter, Charlotte, was covered with nearly as much fanfare as some other famous female offspring, like Kim Kardashian’s North West, or Beyoncé’s Blue Ivy.

Out of the other candidates running for president in 2016, do you know who else is a grandparent?

No?

Try Jeb Bush and Rick Perry.

Do you know the names of any of their grandkids?

Didn’t think so.

And why hide it? While there are some cries of “sexism” to Hillary positioning herself as a grandmother, it’s become part of her political strategy.

Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist and alum of President Bill Clinton’s White House, told Politico, “When she offers a theory of government and connects it to her biography, in particular being a mom and a grandma, and talking about intergenerational equity issues and the possibility to do right by your kids — the combination there is a really, really powerful way to communicate.”

Clinton has been dedicated to family issues since she was a lawyer in the ’70s, and has continued to push for legislation that protects women and children. Her résumé is filled with fights for policies that have benefited families, and her campaign has used her experience in both the political and personal arenas as assets.

“Grandmother” might be a term that other female politicians shy away from because it could conjure up thoughts of age. And no politician wants to be thought of as too old to run, especially Clinton, who will be 69 on Election Day 2016, just a few months shy of Ronald Reagan when he was elected to the White House in 1980. John McCain was dogged by criticism regarding his age when in ran in 2008; he was 72 at the time of the election.

Yet even though there are other grandmas in public office — Congresswoman and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, 75, is one of them — it’s not a term that’s readily used when referring to women running for office. Or ascending any sort of career ladder.

Grandfathers, by contrast, are almost never named as such. It’s an afterthought in their biography. See, again, Jeb Bush and Rick Perry — or Mitt Romney.

So why is it an advantage?

“Like most grandmothers I know…”

“When you have this little baby, you spend a lot of time just staring at her,” Clinton said in November. “You really resolve, as her parents and grandparents … [to] do whatever we can to make sure she has the opportunities she deserves to have.”

Connie Schultz, a three-time grandmother herself, laughs at all the chatter associated with “grandma“:

Like most grandmothers I know, I still get worked up about the same issues I’ve always cared about, from abortion rights to same-sex marriage. That’s the thing about seeing your children get on with their lives and have babies. It’s liberating, as if you’ve just been given permission to hone your focus with pinprick precision.

Following advice from former campaign strategist Mark Penn in 2008, Clinton shied away from being seen as a “mama in chief,” preferring to be seen as tough, in the vein of Margaret Thatcher.

Since that tactic failed to win her the nomination and, in the intervening years, matters of women’s health, equal pay, and reproductive rights became key issues in national politics, it makes sense for Clinton to highlight and truly own those parts of her identity and biography, rather than let opponents try to use them against her.

Her staff now is filled with women in many key roles, and 60 percent of her donors are female, too.

In fact, according to the Barbara Lee Foundation, which studies the role of women in politics, female candidates who play up personal experiences and emphasize their relationships can make them more relatable and therefore likeable, which is linked to electability — especially when they are perceived to be qualified.

And so it seems “grandmother” is less smear than imprimatur — why wouldn’t Hillary Clinton use it in her campaign strategy?

Photo: World leaders — and grandparents. Bill Clinton via Twitter

Inevitability Is Not A Campaign Strategy

Shortly after the cooling of the Earth — when I was still a young man — I worked around the country in political campaigns. One of the first rules of politics, my sainted precinct committeewoman had taught me, is that there was no such thing as a bandwagon effect in campaigns. She was right.

Still, self-anointed political sages, everywhere I traveled, would insist that “people around here like to be with the winner.” So, they argued, it was important that by leaking to the press polls favorable to their candidate and by publicizing the endorsements of their candidate by major public figures, the campaign would persuade voters that, long before the voting, the race was effectively over and they, the voters, had better hurry to get aboard the Victory Express. They were wrong.

Think about it. If the conventional wisdom proclaims that Smith is going to win the upcoming election and Brown is going to lose, which candidate’s workers will be motivated to work harder and to make more voter contacts, and which candidate’s supporters will be more inclined to think about what being on the winning side could mean for them personally?

Inevitability is not a winning campaign strategy. Take my word for it. In 1971, I was political director for the presidential campaign of an exceptional man, Sen. Edmund S. Muskie of Maine. Muskie was the strongest Democrat challenger, according to all the polls, when matched against the incumbent Republican in the White House, Richard M. Nixon. To demonstrate our candidate’s breadth of appeal and to discourage the other Democrats from seeking the nomination, we in the Muskie campaign rolled out as impressive an array of endorsements as anyone could remember.

There were distinguished figures from the FDR and Harry Truman administrations, Averell Harriman and Clark Clifford, along with a powerful array of Democratic governors (John Gilligan of Ohio, Milton Shapp of Pennsylvania, Wendell Ford of Kentucky, Cecil Andrus of Idaho, Calvin Rampton of Utah), as well as prominent U.S. senators, including Adlai Stevenson of Illinois, Phil Hart of Michigan, Tom Eagleton and Stuart Symington of Missouri, John Tunney of California and Harold Hughes of Iowa.

Just in case you might have forgotten 1972 history, long-shot underdog candidate Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota derailed the Muskie bandwagon and captured the Democratic nomination.

More recently, we had the inevitability of Hillary Clinton and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who, four years ago this month in the Gallup Poll, was leading the race for the GOP presidential nomination with 32 percent of the vote ahead of former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, who had 23 percent. In third place was a cash-strapped John McCain with 15 percent, ahead of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with 10 percent. Nearly out of sight with a paltry 6 percent was former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Less than three months later, Huckabee would win the Iowa presidential caucuses and McCain would win the New Hampshire primary.
Clinton in October 2007 led by the landslide margin of 44 percent to 19 percent over Barack Obama, some of whose supporters were openly questioning his strategy and style. Clinton’s nomination was a given.

Now we see the 2012 version of the Inevitability Strategy. After four polished, gaffe-free debate performances and after securing the ringing endorsement of his most charismatic potential challenger, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Romney secured the blessing of former House Speaker Denny Hastert and respected Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, along with a team of the GOP’s leading fundraisers.

This race is far from over, however. Romney, who was at 30 percent among Republican voters in the July Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll and at 23 percent in August, remains at 23 percent in October. He and his people would do well to remember the inevitability of “Presidents” Ed Muskie, Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton, and know that their opponents are right this minute scheming, dreaming, scrapping and sweating to prove there really is no bandwagon effect in American politics.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.

DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM COPYRIGHT 2011 MARK SHIELDS