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The Trump Chess Board - Dilbert Blog

The Trump Chess Board

With the New York State primary tomorrow, let’s see how the chess board is set up for Trump. 

The Lead

Trump has the lead in delegates for the Republican race and that lead will grow with the upcoming primaries.

Momentum

After Trump wins the New York primary he will be the one with momentum for a few weeks.

The Colorado Innocculation

Trump cleverly used the Colorado “rules change” situation that denied him any delegates as a warning to the party for the convention. Trump’s Wall Street Journal article about Colorado was perfect because it primed voters to be touchy about any future shenanigans. The party has been warned.

The Colorado situation is a perfect fit for Trump’s story. Trump is trying to break the system at the same time the system is acting rigged right in front of our eyes. 

Victim of a Woman

Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski learned there would be no charges against him after journalist Michelle Fields’ accused him of grabbing her arm at a Trump event. Regardless of the facts, the court’s conclusion made Trump look like a victim of a woman. On the level of objective fact, the Fields situation has nothing to do with any of Trump’s policies. But as a matter of persuasion it changed the frame from Trump being less empathetic on women’s issues (or so it seems) to Trump being a victim of a woman (or so it seems). Watch how Trump’s “woman problems” seem to diminish going forward.

Moreover, Trump stayed loyal to Lewandowski the whole time. Voters noticed. 

Megyn Kelly Interview

As I predicted, Trump and Megyn Kelly are planning a one-on-one interview that will be a yuuuuge ratings event. Expect Trump to be polite and professional. Expect Kelly and Trump to be on good terms when it is over. Kelly has been a big part of the story of Trump’s perceived problem with women, and this will probably fix it. If this were a movie, Trump’s critical third act solution would revolve around the Kelly interview.

Bad Boy Transition Story

In movies, the hero has to undergo some sort of change in order to make the story compelling. Voters want Trump to moderate his obnoxious style and it seems that he is doing just that. We assume Trump’s new subdued style is because of hiring Reagan campaign veteran Paul Manafort. This transition from bad boy to responsible leader will be catnip for the press for months, assuming Trump keeps it up. 

The new approach will help Trump run out the clock without introducing any drama that might derail him. And obviously it sets him up for the general election.

Can Trump Take Advice?

The anti-Trump public worried that Trump would be a narcissist and not follow the advice of experts once in office. That was a reasonable fear because Trump seemed to be winging it on the campaign trail. But the hiring of Paul Manafort followed by Trump’s pivot towards a more leaderish vibe are clear indications that Trump can listen. If you were worried about Trump’s finger on the nuclear trigger, you can worry less now. Apparently he does listen to expert opinions.

New Haircut

Unless it is my imagination, Trump’s haircut has recently improved. I don’t know if that is because of Manafort’s advice or something else. But on the visual plane of persuasion, the haircut is far more than a haircut. It is another visible signal that Trump can be influenced by the public and his advisors. And it is part of his transition story.

In the 2D world of reason, no one ever rejected a presidential candidate based on his haircut. But in the 3D world of persuasion I would bet Trump loses 10% of voters based on them not wanting a clown-looking president to be the face of the nation. The new haircut is a big, big deal on the persuasion level. 

The Sanders Association

Trump has been painting Bernie Sanders as a victim of the rigged system to show that Trump is not alone. It is a smart way to make Trump’s claims of an unfair system seem less Trump-centric. And it makes it easier for Sanders supporters to jump ship to Trump later.

The Shame Test

Trump recently passed the shame test. And by that I mean he quickly changed his position on abortion penalties when he realized his first thoughts on the subject were immensely unpopular. The public saw that as a mistake, and it was. But on the level of persuasion it solved one of Trump’s biggest problems: People believed he was impervious to facts and shame. Voters believed Trump would be dictatorial and ignore the legitimate interests of the people. But the people just spun Trump like a top on the subject of abortion penalties. Now we know he can be managed when it makes sense to do so. That’s a big deal. It might be the most important thing that happened in the campaign because it solved Trump’s biggest problem – the idea that he would not be “managed” by the people. He just was.

It might be my imagination, but I think all of the Trump=Hitler memes stopped at the same time the public “managed” Trump back to a more popular position on abortion penalties. That would not be a coincidence.

New Clinton Linguistic Kill Shot

Trump is testing “Crooked Hillary” as his new linguistic kill shot. It lacks the visual reminder element that “low energy” and “liddle Marco” had, but that’s probably a good thing because it wouldn’t be classy or smart to go after Clinton’s physical appearance. (Because of gender.) Instead, Trump is using the same confirmation bias play that he used for “Lyin’ Ted.” And by that I mean Trump depends on a slow drip of future news that reinforces the label. Trump knows Cruz will say some things that are not true (as all candidates do) and it will reinforce his “lyin’” label. Likewise, Clinton will endure a slow drip of allegations about crooked dealings in the past, taking money from banks for speaking fees, and the email server situation. Every time another sketchy detail emerges, you will think “crooked.” The new name is sticky. And it is engineered with a timer so it worsens all year until the election.

Trump has also called out Clinton for her lack of “stamina.” That’s the second kill shot, and it too is engineered as a magnet for confirmation bias. Every time Clinton coughs, loses her balance, looks tired, or cancels an event, you will wonder about her stamina.

In the movies, the hero kills all of the bad guys with one clean shot until the final showdown with a super-nemesis. The super-nemesis doesn’t die from the first shot. You always need more. So don’t be surprised by Trump using two linguistic kill shots on Clinton. Crooked and stamina work well together.

Headlines and Confirmation Bias

Unfortunately, there’s a good chance of more terrorist attacks around the world before November. You can also expect more stories about Syrian immigrants in Europe causing problems. Those stories – which are inevitable – will strengthen Trump’s appeal.

Bill Clinton’s Sabotage Tour

It looks to me as if Bill Clinton doesn’t want Hillary to be president. That makes sense on a human level because it would wreck his lifestyle and diminish his own accomplishment. Before the primaries, people assumed Bill would be Hillary’s secret weapon. But that weapon might be pointed in the wrong direction.

Obviously I could be reading too much into Bill Clinton’s motivation. But you can already see that the public is starting to interpret his actions that way. 

Summary

This is the strongest position Trump has been in since he announced. The chess board is all set for him to win the nomination and then go on to a landslide in the general.

If you think this blog is ridiculous, you should see my book.