When you find a winning horse, you just ride it all the way to victory… right?
Someone should tell that to Donald Trump, who looks like he might be making a key error and choosing the wrong curtain in this latest round of "Presidential Election Let's Make a Deal!"
Behind curtain #1 we have Hillary Clinton's brutal "basketfull of deplorables" comment caught on tape during a fundraiser Friday night where Clinton literally said half of Trump's supporters were racists, sexists,homophobes, etc. The comment seemed eerily reminiscent of the video catching Mitt Romney's "47 percent" comments in 2012 that were deemed so harmful to his ultimately unsuccessful campaign.
Behind curtain #2 we have Clinton and her campaign's deceptive and cagey conduct during and after Clinton's medical episode on Sunday afternoon. Note that the key issue here is not just Clinton's health, but her honesty and transparency, or lack thereof.
Based on Trump's comments during his interview Monday with CNBC's Squawk Box and his big rally in Asheville, North Carolina that night, Trump is going with curtain #1 and looking to make as much as he can out of the "deplorables" comment. First on Squawk Box he took a very circumspect and reserved stance on Clinton's health, and didn't even mention her campaign's many-revised statements and clarifications about their candidate's condition. Then at the Asheville rally, Trump brought on the stage a diverse group of his supporters who all mockingly asked Clinton if they were what she meant by "deplorable."
Simply put, Trump is choosing the wrong curtain. And there are two big reasons why.
It's not that pushing back on Clinton's smearing of his supporters doesn't have some political advantages. But mostly it just fires up Trump's existing base of support, some of whom are now making and selling out t-shirts that proudly say things like "I'm Deplorable!" on them.
But conversely, it also fires up Clinton's supporters.
From New York Times editorial writers to her fans on social media, there are dozens of examples of Clinton backers who clearly agree with the characterization of Trump voters as dangerous hate mongers. And Trump's decision to focus on this basically asks undecided voters to consider just how many of his supporters are bigots, not if there are any bigots at all. Trump should simply drop this push back effort as a main focus of his campaign as soon as possible before it potentially backfires.
Before it's too late, Trump needs to shift to curtain #2 and focus not on Clinton's health, but how her medical episode Sunday provided yet another example of what even prominent liberals consider to be her problems with the truth. When Clinton's trustworthiness and honesty are the focus, things go much better for Trump. That's been true all year.
Trump's initial surge in the polls after he clinched the GOP nomination came when FBI Director James Comey reminded the entire country about Clinton's fuzziness with the truth connected to her private email server scandal. Even though Comey decided not to indict her, his much-watched announcement and detailing of Clinton's questionable behavior put the entire issue and her history of debunked denials connected to the scandal in the spotlight.