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The Trump 2020 campaign just launched a national television ad broadcast during Game 7 of the World Series that shows how talented this neophyte politician is in the dark art of political jiu-jitsu.
This is an ad that I would rank up with Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America” ads from 1984. What makes it so impressive? It takes every negative thing people think about Trump to demonstrate why people should reelect him.
The ad lists a set of accomplishments. Some are clearly real, such as job growth, and especially the operation to eliminate the head of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Some are exaggerated, such as the claim that illegal immigration has been cut in half.
But all points make the case that Trump has accomplished much of what he pledged to do in 2016, and the ad also goes after Democrats for their efforts to impeach him.
What is it that folks don’t like about Trump? Not only the allegation that he uses his position to get foreign governments to support his campaign, but that he’s a foul-mouthed, impolite boor, who adopts the persona of a professional wrestler to break the traditional norms of the presidency of the United States.
What is it that folks still don’t like about politics? Washington. The ad responds, “He’s no Mr. Nice Guy, but sometimes it takes a Donald Trump to change Washington.”
It’s a masterful use of the lessons of the Japanese martial art jiu-jitsu, which exploits the strength and force of opponents and uses it against them.
What have Democrats done since the ad was released? They formalized their impeachment inquiry Thursday with a party-line vote in the House. (Two Democrats crossed party lines to vote with the GOP.)
Will Trump’s gambit work? Polls suggest growing support for the Democratic impeachment inquiry. According to the most recent Fox News poll, the country is roughly split 50-50 between those who want Trump removed from office and those opposed to removal.
But now that the Democrats are launching public hearings in the House, the question evolves from the generic “Do you want him removed?” to “Do you support what is actually occurring in the House?”
Strategically, Trump and the Republicans are hoping to cast the question in the purest context of politics: impeachment versus the economic record of the past three years.
Democrats are hoping to frame the question in terms of the president’s phone call with the Ukrainian president and testimony that has been delivered. Democrats say the testimony shows that Trump held back aid to Ukraine to pressure President Volodymyr Zelensky to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden, a possible Trump challenger in the 2020 election. Trump and his most ardent Republican defenders say there was nothing wrong with the call.
What will the public believe? It depends on what the Democrats uncover.
Right now, the Democrats have nothing to compete with the stained blue dress that resulted in Clinton’s impeachment, or the kind of Oval Office recordings that forced Nixon’s resignation.
Until the Democrats find something similar – such as a well-known Trump official, maybe former National Security Adviser John Bolton – to confirm their allegations, my money is on Trump being able to jiu-jitsu the story into one of Democrats obstructing his record.
But if they get that kind of confirmation, all bets are off.
In the meantime, one can only admire Trump’s ability to turn weakness into strength – and to transform the Democrats’ best arguments against him into a reason to support him.
One can only wonder, when will Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, or any other Democratic candidate pick up even 30 percent of these political skills?
Bottom line: While Trump is fighting an uphill battle for reelection (which I believe is exactly how he likes it), this ad made me see the path for his reelection.