With one speech, Trump changes cam­paign nar­ra­tive

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Pre­sump­tive Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump’s speech last Wed­nes­day about Hil­lary Clin­ton rep­re­sents the Democrats’ worst night­mare, a speech that even the lib­eral news site Slate.com called “ter­ri­fy­ingly ef­fec­tive.”

Fi­nally — fi­nally! — the GOP has a leader who is will­ing to take it to Mrs. Clin­ton, re­veal her litany of scan­dals and make the case that she is a “world-class liar.” His abil­ity to de­fine her as cor­rupt and reck­less was im­pres­sive. The one­lin­ers were es­pe­cially mem­o­rable, from “Hil­lary Clin­ton has per­fected the pol­i­tics of per­sonal profit and theft” to “She gets rich mak­ing you poorer.”

While his mes­sage was pow­er­ful, Mr. Trump still has much to do to con­vince the GOP es­tab­lish­ment that he is de­vel­op­ing a ro­bust po­lit­i­cal and grass­roots strat­egy — and has the dis­ci­pline to im­ple­ment it ef­fec­tively in a gen­eral elec­tion. It has been nearly seven weeks since Mr. Trump clinched the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion, and dur­ing that time, he has made lit­tle progress in ex­pand­ing his cam­paign and so­lid­i­fy­ing sup­port within the Repub­li­can Party.

In­stead, many in the GOP have been grow­ing in­creas­ingly anx­ious as the can­di­date stum­bled in a se­ries of mishaps, dis­trac­tions and mixed mes­sages, in­clud­ing his pub­lic crit­i­cism of a Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can judge’s eth­nic­ity and his dis­jointed re­sponse to the Or­lando gay night­club mas­sacre. Fall­ing poll num­bers and dis­mal fundrais­ing added to the pres­sure for sig­nif­i­cant change within the cam­paign. The exit of Mr. Trump’s cam­paign man­ager, Corey Le­wandowski, was the first sig­nal that the “Let Trump be Trump” model was about to end.

That mixed back­drop is what makes the Clin­ton speech this week such a defin­ing mo­ment of Mr. Trump’s per­sonal and po­lit­i­cal re­vival. The king of brand­ing, Mr. Trump per­forms best when he is on the de­fense. Af­ter weeks of be­ing at­tacked by the Clin­ton camp, Mr. Trump de­liv­ered a stag­ger­ing coun­ter­punch by ruth­lessly ex­pos­ing Mrs. Clin­ton’s own many weak­nesses.

This speech should stand as the cor­ner­stone of his en­tire cam­paign, en­cap­su­lat­ing all the rea­sons why a his­toric num­ber of GOP and in­de­pen­dent vot­ers sup­ported the bil­lion­aire de­vel­oper in the pri­maries. It pro­vided clar­ity on the prob­lems that our na­tion faces and the solutions needed, as well as on Mr. Trump’s own vi­sion for his first 100 days in the Oval Of­fice. Mr. Trump’s mes­sage and per­for­mance could also jump-start the process of calm­ing anx­i­ety-rid­den and skep­ti­cal Repub­li­cans.

Why? Be­cause Mr. Trump re­turned to the ba­sics: a pop­ulist eco­nomic mes­sage of “Amer­ica First,” one that would ben­e­fit all Amer­i­cans — mi­nori­ties, whites, women and even Bernie San­ders sup­port­ers. “The in­sid­ers wrote the rules of the game to keep them­selves in power and in the money,” Mr. Trump noted at one point. “That’s why we’re ask­ing Bernie San­ders’ vot­ers to join our move­ment, so to­gether we can fix the sys­tem for all Amer­i­cans.”

It’s not just the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem that is rigged against or­di­nary Amer­i­cans, Mr. Trump added, “it’s the whole econ­omy.”

This ad­dress should be his stump speech ev­ery­where he trav­els, the in­spi­ra­tion for tele­vi­sion and ra­dio ads and fundrais­ing letters. Mr. Trump prides him­self on op­er­at­ing a “leaner and meaner” cam­paign, but he needs to in­vest in grass-roots and coali­tion-build­ing ef­forts and fundrais­ing cam­paigns, es­pe­cially with small donors, many of whom al­ready at­tend his ral­lies. Mr. Trump sent out his first fundrais­ing let­ter this week, and the cam­paign says the re­sponse was over­whelm­ing, rais­ing a record $2 mil­lion in 12 hours.

Mrs. Clin­ton should be scared. Mr. Trump has tapped into the frus­tra­tions of many Amer­i­cans who feel the ef­fects of a dis­mal econ­omy and be­lieve the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem is rigged and owned by the es­tab­lish­ment. Mrs. Clin­ton is the em­bod­i­ment of a cor­rupt es­tab­lish­ment owned by spe­cial in­ter­ests, hav­ing per­son­ally en­riched her­self by giv­ing closed-door speeches to Wall Street firms and the big banks.

The ques­tion will be whether Mr. Trump can stay dis­ci­plined and “on mes­sage” for the long haul. He has no choice if he wants to win the pres­i­dency. His road ahead is tough, but this week’s dev­as­tat­ing speech demon­strated that he can make Mrs. Clin­ton the most un­lik­able and un­trust­wor­thy can­di­date in the race, and that he un­der­stands the plight of so many dis­il­lu­sioned Amer­i­cans.

Mercedes Schlapp is a Fox News con­trib­u­tor, co-founder of Cove Strate­gies and for­mer White House di­rec­tor of spe­cialty me­dia un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush.

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