In the phony hullabaloo about Melania Trump's speechwriters apparently plagiarizing parts of speech Michelle Obama's speechwriters (who, by the way, were already cribbing from every bride's wedding toast since 1978), you might have missed the most important moment in the most important speech of the first night of the Republican National Convention.
It happened during former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's speech about fighting terror, supporting law enforcement, and "making America safe again." The title of the speech and most of its content were not groundbreaking for Giuliani and certainly not for the Trump campaign. That's because for the most part, just about every voter who really considers safety and the war on Islamic terror to be top issues is either voting for Donald Trump or simply not voting for Hillary Clinton. Giuliani's speech certainly did not turn off those voters and it did clarify some of the talking/attack points on the safety issue, but that wasn't the real workable gem.
The gem was the brief part of the speech where Giuliani talked about Trump as a person. He didn't give too many details, but "America's Mayor" said that Trump was often very generous with his time and money when NYPD cops or city firefighters were injured. And then Giuliani started to refer to Trump as "this good man." That was the same line Trump running mate Mike Pence started using on several occasions Saturday and on "60 Minutes" on Sunday night.
Donald Trump as a "good man" is clearly going to become a theme in this campaign as the Trump team seems to be realizing that Trump's brash personality and egotism is still a turnoff to a significant number of still-persuadable voters in this election.
But why is Trump's personal "goodness" that important in an election that's supposed to be about "the issues?" The simple and accurate answer is that the "issues" don't really matter that much and haven't played the role the news media and other pundits think they have in an election in a very long time.
American politics have become an exercise in iconography on one hand and demonization on the other. That's why Clinton supporters truly don't care whether she broke the law with her email server, dropped the ball on the Benghazi attack, or most anything else. She is their hero, and you root for and support your hero no matter what. Same goes for so many of Trump's supporters, who don't care whether a man who calls for more protectionism wears ties and shirts made overseas or whether he swindled people signing up for Trump University.
Conversely, most of the efforts against Trump by the Clinton campaign have doubled down on their portrayals of Trump as a racist villain and most of the efforts against Clinton have doubled down on portrayals of her as a liar and a crook. The issues and actual policy proposals can't get much attention in this environment.
As he hinted at lots of personal experience with Trump "the good man" last night, Giuliani baited the hook for voters looking for a personal political hero and he probably hooked more than a few of them in the process.
In the coming days and weeks, look for the Republicans to float more stories about Trump's generosity, kindness, and humanity. And look for the Clinton campaign and most of the news media to go on the wild goose chase of trying to confirm and refute those stories that will all most likely be presented with just enough key details omitted. Giuliani's insistence in his speech Monday night that Trump wanted his aid and generosity to New York City to be kept a secret is impossible to confirm or refute, but that's perfect for an electorate that's been uninterested in facts for almost a decade. Of course, there will be truly verifiable stories about "good Donald Trump" out there, everybody has some — and they will help build the new legend.
Of course, the Clinton campaign will move swiftly to debunk the "good man" Trump stories but her team should hit the "pause" button for a second. Clinton is basically just as personally unpopular for undecided voters as Trump is. Instead of working hard to continue to tear him down, Clinton's staffers should take a page from Giuliani's book and get some surrogates to talk her up personally. Senator Bernie Sanders would have been a great choice to do that considering his personal popularity for young and otherwise new voters. However, his personal dislike for Clinton is generally hard to cover up even as he clearly dislikes Trump more. But Clinton's well-funded and coordinated campaign can certainly come up with its own version of Rudy Giuliani to sing Hillary's personal praises by next week. That is, unless it falls for the head fake and just keeps bashing Trump 24/7.
In the end, most American voters make their choices based on emotional responses to the candidates personalities and images. Last night , Giuliani — much more effectively than Melania Trump — presented them with a personality and image of Donald Trump those voters can like.