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Donald Trump 'jumped the shark' with his latest campaign moves

Great White Shark near Guadalupe Island, Mexico.
Dave Fleetham | Getty Images
Great White Shark near Guadalupe Island, Mexico.

A TV show "jumps the shark" when it creates a stunt that is so ridiculous and unbelievable that viewers naturally tune out. It is usually the beginning of the end as ratings plummet with the desperate move. The saying was coined after "Happy Days"' character 'the Fonz' literally jumped over a shark on water skis as ratings for the 70s hit TV show sagged in its fifth season.

Looks like Donald Trump just jumped the shark with his latest effort to save his flailing campaign by bringing in advisors who are notorious for creating spectacle.

Let's start with Stephen Bannon who becomes Trump's new campaign chief executive. Bannon has reportedly been telling Trump to return to his combative ways that made him so popular during the primaries. Campaign sources have told reporters that Bannon has been pushing Trump for a while to run as a proud nationalist who is a bona fide outsider.

This advice contradicts every political strategy that suggests candidates should move to the center during the general election fight. Yes – combative Trump worked in the primary, but that was a race that involved the party base – those who are usually the most fiery and passionate voters.

Now is the time to go after suburban Moms, independents and moderate Democrats - people who typically don't participate in the GOP primary. Pollsters all agree soccer Moms matter in this election and they are described as risk averse. They don't want a president who is going to threaten their children's security.

The general election is not a time to alienate, but to (dare I say it) unite voters. Yes, it's a cliché, but it's true.


"Manafort isn't exactly a Jesuit, what with his campaign experience in Ukraine, but he's actually beginning to sound like the grown-up in the room."

But Bannon is a master at creating narratives that divide. Bannon's previous employer, Breitbart News, is notorious for pushing stories that could be described as propaganda promoting white supremacy. The opinionated news site has also published hate-inspired conspiracies against the gay community, immigrants and even social movement #blacklivesmatter.

Sure, conservatives can say that Trump doesn't need to win over voters in those groups. Still, that cliché about bringing our country together should be worth something.

As chief executive of the Trump campaign, Bannon, it's fair to assume, will have free reign to shape the message that the Trump campaign projects. And if it's anything like the editorial coverage Bannon led at Breitbart News, you can assume the theatrics will become more intense as we get closer to November.

Now for the other campaign move: Reducing Paul Manafort's role. Manafort isn't exactly a Jesuit, what with his campaign experience in Ukraine, but he's actually beginning to sound like the grown-up in the room.

Manafort has reportedly been urging Trump to move to the center, tone down the rhetoric, read the prompter, stick to the message, stop ad-libbing, and quit being such a strong presence on the Sunday morning political shows. As a media strategist, I would say Manafort gave solid advice to Trump.

But apparently Trump wasn't keen on that advice. Manafort maintains his title of campaign chairman, but his influence will likely wane now that Bannon is on board.

And what about Roger Ailes, who is reportedly consulting on the Trump campaign? He changed the narrative in George H.W. Bush's initial presidential campaign so much that Bush was able to come from behind to defeat Michael Dukakis. Of course, Bush always stuck to the script, unlike Trump.

I don't think Ailes will have as much success with Trump as he did with Bush, but the fall drama will be worth the wait.

Commentary by Mark Macias, head of Macias PR, a global public-relations firm, that has run media and branding campaigns for politicians, tech start-ups, financial firms, nonprofits and companies. He's also author of the book, "Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media." Follow him on Twitter @markmacias.

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