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Super Tuesday (Master Persuader Series) - Dilbert Blog

Super Tuesday (Master Persuader Series)

Donald Trump did well in the Super Tuesday primary states, surprising no one who reads this blog. Here are my thoughts about last night, as seen through the Master Persuader filter.

Candidates who win primaries usually do a little victory speech the same night. Trump turned his brief remarks into an extended press conference that had all the optics of a sitting president. He called on reporters, took hard questions, and swatted them away like King Kong at the top of the Empire State building.

In other words, he made you think past the sale. Your rational mind knows Trump is not yet president, and yet you observe Trump looking and acting like a sitting president. When it comes to persuasion, visuals beat reason. This was one of Trump’s best 3D chess moves so far.

It was obvious that Trump was trying to showcase his moderate, non-scary side – so the public knows he has one – and by most accounts he succeeded. I thought he succeeded as well. His statements about supporting women’s health in the context of Planned Parenthood funding – against the grain of his own party – were especially powerful.

Trump’s impromptu press conference was insanely brilliant. CNN probably lost money because they couldn’t take a commercial break until he was done, and he was in no hurry. It was the longest free political commercial of all time, and the best possible format for Trump. It was also riveting because you didn’t know what would happen next.

Unlike other formats – such as debates and normal press interviews – Trump completely dominated the stage and the reporters. He made them raise their hands to talk, then he interrupted when he didn’t like the question, and dismissed the trouble-makers with their long, repetitive, damning questions.

Best of all, Trump got to do some disavowing of David Duke in front of the world. And this time he did it right. The first words out of his mouth this time were “I disavow.” 

That is good technique. A Master Persuader says FIRST the thing he wants you to remember. Then he explains why. If you do those things in reverse order – which is a common error – you get a hot mess. Good persuaders start with the conclusion first in this sort of situation. Bad persuaders give the reasoning first and work toward the conclusion.

Regular readers of this blog know that laughter can be a tell for persuasion. As I watched Trump’s press conference, I found myself giggling without an obvious cause. I’ll bet some of you did the same.

Chris Christie did his best impression of Trump’s future vice president, but he seemed physically uncomfortable on stage when Trump was speaking. I think he was either exhausted or not feeling well. The Internet was not kind to him.

By now you know there is a rumor that the New York Times has a recording of Trump acting reasonable about his deportation plans. When asked about it at his “press conference,” Trump said he was not contemplating any compromise “at this time.”

In other words, Trump said he would not compromise, but he did so in language that assures you it is an option for later. Everyone gets to hear what they want. That’s strategic ambiguity.

Trump’s Super Tuesday dominance gives him a solid lead. But his impromptu press conference was Trump showing us what his afterburners will look like when he fires them up for the general election. 

You haven’t seen anything yet.

You might wonder what it’s like to be me, and to see the future so clearly in this particular case. The answer is that this is my normal, so yesterday just seemed like Tuesday to me. When you learn enough about the science of persuasion, the mysteries of life start to fall away. A good start on that journey is my Persuasion Reading List.