In fact, most candidates that have actually captured the White House, post-Nixon, did so by taking incredible risks in order to shake things up. Ronald Reagan used his unflappable determination and humor to defeat Jimmy Carter. More obvious was the move by the George H.W. Bush team of 1988 to run the controversial Willie Horton ad to reverse a Mike Dukakis post convention lead and win the presidency.
It took the emergence of a larger-than-life Ross Perot just four years later to split the moderate and conservative vote, giving Bill Clinton a win over Bush. Clinton’s re-election bid was guaranteed by an early set of ads linking Bob Dole to a then-unpopular Newt.
In fact, had the “Swift Boat” team not arisen in 2004, John Kerry might have provided George W. Bush a real challenge. But playing it safe has generally netted the GOP a big fat zero on the presidential win scorecard.
Enter Donald Trump. Oh, I can already hear the generations of Washington hack pollsters and consultants whose endless fees land at the corner of Safe and Boring streets. They think of him as too brash, too much about himself, too over the top ... not one of them. And that is exactly why I propose that the otherwise dead-in-the-water Romney campaign play that “Trump Card.”
To be fair, they jabbed at it, with an amusing bit in which Trump played his “Apprentice” role to a barely visible Obama character, raising issue after issue and finally telling President Obama, “You’re fired.” It was a funny piece. But at a GOP convention where anything daring was shoved to the early hours or, in the case of the Trump video, shoved aside due to the infamous non-hurricane, it had no hope of having any impact. In fact, it is just now making its way into the media world.
What the Romney campaign needs is a series of game changing ads that can pierce through the clutter of boring typical GOP ads and get the attention of an electorate that is swiftly starting to actually believe that the economy is getting better and that President Obama has handled foreign policy well. Why not let Trump set everyone straight?
Oh, I know — “He’s too pushy ... too controversial ... too flamboyant.” Oh, yes, I can hear the multitude of used-up GOP political hacks dismissing the idea in unison. But hold on: It’s Trump who has years of experience with a successful television show geared toward the average bear who watches network television. The man not only is bright as can be and obviously more knowledgeable about politics than most entrepreneurs, he also knows how to sell virtually anything to anyone.
And the wealthy Trump can connect with those so-called Reagan Democrats (now more like Reagan independents), who just can’t stomach the to-the-manor-born style of the wealthy Romney. They like the more rough-and-tumble, “say it as he sees it” Trump.
I’m sure I could poll this idea and find some result to justify going in a safer direction. But sometimes even pollsters who are ex-politicians know that the gut can be stronger than any survey’s “margin of error.”
It is obvious that someone has to capture the public’s attention and give the reasons to fire President Obama. Why not give that job, with a little dose of humor added, to a man who knows how to do it.
Roll the dice, and let Trump save this sinking disaster of a campaign. Based on what I am seeing, the Romney campaign has nothing to lose ... absolutely nothing.
Matt Towery of Vinings heads the polling and political information firm InsiderAdvantage.