It’s not that Trump is a political genius, but that his form of PR intersects with our current cultural zeitgeist of reality TV and gleeful watching of train wrecks (metaphorically speaking) on social media. The litany of political faux pas he’s made along the line, whether about Mexicans, McCain, or Muslims would have derailed a campaign in the past. But not here. Not now.
This week, the Republican National Convention was transformed into the Trump National Convention. Instead of speeches by the leaders of the party, the convention featured Scott Baio, a Duck Dynasty Star, a legion of Trump kids and employees and yes, some Republican politicians.
Day one was derailed after Melania’s speech when, to quote the New York Times, “Her quiet plan to wrest the speech away and make it her own set in motion the most embarrassing moment of the convention: word-for-word repetition of phrases and borrowed themes from Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic convention eight years ago. The ridicule from both Democrats and Republicans was instant and relentless, disrupting what was meant to be a high point of the convention.”
Then on day three came Ted Cruz’s non-endorsement speck. Allowing Cruz to upstage Pence is a PR blunder that a high schooler could have foreseen. After the third night of the Republican Convention, the post-event chatter on the cable news and social media networks was not about Pence’s (effective) acceptance speech, but on how Cruz snubbed Trump, how Cruz was booed… in essence the coverage was all about Cruz, not Pence or Trump. This was a scenario that could have been easily avoided. The Trump forces had ample time to review the speech. They were fully aware that no endorsement was coming. They would have been fully in their rights to refuse Cruz that time. Most campaigns rightfully would have. But it seems as though Trump courts discord and confrontation. He not only allowed Cruz to speak, Trump timed it so that he would enter just as Cruz hit the point in his speech where it was apparent that no endorsement was coming. Yes, Trump upstaged Cruz, which appeared to be the plan, but in doing so, he upstaged his candidate for Vice President. Pence gave an effective speech, which was completely lost in the furor over Cruz. PR-wise Pence was thrown under the bus. His time to shine was dulled before he took the stage.
Trump did stay on message and on teleprompter on the final night of the convention Two conspicuous omissions from his acceptance speech were the fact that he would be banning Muslims from coming into the country and that Mexico would be building that oh so famous wall. On the up side, the convention did go off without the violence that many were fearing.
There’s a strange irony to the fact that the day Trump took over the mantle as the leader and the voice of the Republican Party, Roger Ailes the architect of Fox News resigned (under pressure) as the head of the network Seismic changes are reshaping the party of Lincoln. Where it will be in November is anybody’s guess.
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