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Trump 21: Worst presidential campaign ever


The job of a presidential does not overlap exactly with that of a candidate for the office. If it did, we’d be electing nothing but wonderfully well-suited presidents. The needed skills for each are a little different.

There is some similarity, though, enough that by watching how a candidate runs, you can get some sense of how that candidate will handle many key parts of their presidency. Barack Obama ran what was one of the most brilliant campaigns for the top office, ever; that much usually is admitted even by many of those who opposed him, Republicans included. His display of many of the skills involved, from finding excellent help, demonstrating conversance with a large and wide-range collection of issues, inspiring large numbers of people, an understanding of new communications tools and how to use them, raising funds and spending them well (a little-noted part of the Obama campaign’s success), honing a message and delivering it effectively enough to win support of a large number of Americans, gave many Americans confidence that Obama would also do a capable job once in office. (Obviously, not everyone agrees, but as his second term winds down, polls consistently show that a majority of Americans do.)

It can be said of Donald Trump and has been – maybe most often by himself – that his ability to vanquish 16 competitors in his own party for the Republican nomination for president is a demonstration of some political skill. But it’s a demonstration that went only so far. He had a few genuine insights (most notably, the real nature and thinking of a large part of the under-served Republican core base), and a great deal of luck (his opponent’s hapless efforts to cope with his unexpected presence, which ran outside their calculations). For a specific audience, he has been an electrifying presence.

None of those skills, or perceptions, much translate into the running of a presidency. And if you look at the other campaign activities and demonstrations of skill shown by Obama, and many of his successful predecessors of both parties, you find hardly any of those traits replicated by Donald Trump.

Finding excellent help? Not really, and he runs through top campaign staff like a kleenex box and a man with a bad cold: He’s on his third campaign manager in six months, and apparently disregarding her (relatively sound) advice already. Demonstrating conversance with a large and wide-range collection of issues? Sorry, not in his litany. Inspiring large numbers of people? Only those in his hard-core base; few others can stand him. Understanding of new communications tools and how to use them? Aside from Twitter, which he over- and mis-uses, he seems to be a technical Luddite. Raising funds and spending them well? Somewhat surprisingly, he’s shown little ability in either area. Honing a message and delivering it effectively enough to win support of a large number of Americans? Not close; he’s far more comfortable riffing like a stand-up comic, the closest model available for his rally performances.

Donald Trump flukishly tapped into a vein of real concerns and grievances on the part of millions of Americans, but he has neither the understanding nor the skills to do anything useful with or about them. His campaign is a prime demonstration of that. – rs

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