Painful Truth: Harper has lesson for Clinton

You might think that Trump is certain to go down to crushing defeat this November in the U.S. presidential election.

Maybe so. That’s what the polls suggest. It’s what common sense would suggest, when you run a spray-tanned racist baboon as your leader.

But I still worry. Anything could happen. A terrorist attack, a sudden economic downturn, a more serious Clinton scandal than the private email server thing.

So Hillary Clinton needs to run like she’s 10 points behind. She needs to hammer Trump (at least on the days when he’s not busily shooting himself in the foot).

And she needs to take tips from one of Canada’s canniest living politicians – Stephen Harper.

Seriously. Harper never had a high level of personal popularity. Unlike Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney, or Jean Chretien, who each had their own flavour of charisma, Harper was just kind of… there. He was clearly a smart guy, but he wasn’t going to whip up crowds into a frenzy.

So he went on the attack.

Stéphane Dion was the Liberal leader in 2008. He was hit by political drive-bys that painted him as a ditherer, as someone incapable of making tough decisions. “Not a leader” was the tagline.

Michael Ignatieff was “just visiting.” The Tories beat him up as an outsider who hadn’t lived in Canada in 30 years.

They tried something similar with Justin Trudeau, painting him as young, naive, and not ready to govern.

It obviously didn’t work too well. But two out of three ain’t bad, in politics.

Clinton’s people have been showing a glimmer of this strategy in recent weeks, dubbing Trump “temperamentally unfit” to be president.

It’s not bad, but doesn’t have the punch of “not a leader” or “just visiting.”

The most difficult thing with Trump is picking a message that tries to cover several of his multiple issues. Do you attack his failed businesses, his ignorance of policy, or his abusive personal style?

The most famous example of framing in U.S. political history didn’t even use the candidate’s name. Lyndon Johnson’s infamous “Daisy” ad juxtaposed a small child with a nuclear blast. “The stakes are too high for you to stay at home,” it ended, implying that Barry Goldwater was a dangerous nut.

Actually, maybe Clinton should just run those ads unchanged.

 

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