Thursday, August 4, 2016

The state of the state of the race...

I read Sean Trende's take on the convention bounces and the state of the race this morning. Trende, in my humble opinion, is generally more analytical and objective than most other prognosticators, which is why I tend  to take in his opinions as sort of a "voice of reason" when everyone else generally is running off in one direction or the other.

I generally agree with his major points. Second convention bounces tend to be bigger, but they also tend to fade, as they did for Dukakis in 1988 and McCain in 2008 (who both went on to lose) . He states that a five point Clinton lead should make the Democrats nervous (based on historical trends). He cautions against getting too wrapped up in the moment, especially with a news cycle that is "moving very fast".

But he also points out that this is not a normal election and that there has to be "Trump-centric" take. To some degree, I both agree and disagree with his take on things.

He is absolutely correct when he states that "In a normal world, the news cycle would be stepping on Clinton's Bounce". Instead of talking about a weak GDP report, possible ransom payments to Iran, and Clinton's poor interview on Fox News Sunday... much of the main stream media is talking about a "fight" between Trump and Ghazala Khan. I also agree with his analogy about refusing to cross examine a sympathetic witness. Just get them off the stand and away from the jury.

Where I disagree with Sean is that I simply do not think that this was "avoidable". In fact, I would go so far as to say that the so called "fight" is not really much of a "fight" and I am not 100% sure that Trump could have found any way to really get away from it. The truth is that Trump never actually engaged Khan, but rather he was asked in a press conference about Khan. He was both complementary to the son who died (calling him a hero) and the family (who he said seemed like nice people). Where he broke down was defending his position on the constitution, and questioning why the wife did not say anything. This was, by all practical comparisons, and fairly tame response from Trump (considering how he generally goes after people). Since then, the "fight" has been a one sided media tour by the Khans, with almost no response from Trump.

Moreover, if you compare and contrast Trump's response to the Khans and Clinton's response to the Benghazi Parents, he arguably gave the less offensive answer. While Trump may have questioned Khans position on the constitution, Hillary questioned the cognitive fitness of the Benghazi parents by saying they may have been too "grief stricken" to really remember what was being said. I wonder how the press would have responded had Trump suggested that a grieving Parent was not cognitive enough to remember what was said at their own son's memorial?

In my mind, the reality that Trende misses here is that we are not living in a "normal world" and we are certainly not living in a world where all things are going to be equal. There is simply no way that the main stream media was going to allow the narrative to be about bad economic numbers, possible ransom being paid for hostages, or anything "other" than the latest coordinated talking point about Donald Trump. When there isn't a big Donald Trump did something stupid story to write about, they will create one.

For those of us that have followed the nomination race closely, this is old news. Trump gets attacked when he deserves it and he gets attacked when he doesn't deserve it. After some time, it becomes watered down and the Trump haters become the boy who cried wolf.

The issue today is that for much of America, this is not old news. They are paying attention for the first time. That being said, the media is so far over the top right now that I don't believe it will take that long for most to catch on. The reality is that the Khan controversy was a media con (pun intended) and eventually people are going to look behind the curtain.