Right now Donald Trump leads the polls for the Republican nomination for President even though the US Presidential Election is a year or more away and early primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire are off in the distance.
Not only is he leading – and if major US polls are right – doing so by impressive margins.
People who follow US politics and who live elsewhere can only wonder how a candidate like The Donald is a serious contender for the Presidency. Particularity with a campaign performance that so far would sink any mainstream politician.
Trump is bold, brash, full-on and often offside and ventures where other Republican candidates dare not go but soon are tamely forced to follow.
Trump’s stump speeches rarely change. He rails against immigration, wants to deport eleven million undocumented people from America, disparages female reporters, criticises his fellow Republicans and scorns America’s inability to negotiate international trade deals. In national security he adamantly opposes President Obama’s Iran deal and declares he has a secret plan for beating ISIS.
Yet for a man intent on the Presidency his policy platform is remarkably thin. So far Trump’s website boosts a single policy on immigration. There is nothing on jobs, the economy, national security or rebuilding America. In contrast Senator Marco Rubio, another Republican contender, offers a policy-rich mix ranging from gun control to tax reform. The contrast between the Kennedy-like, 42 year old Senator from Florida and the flamboyant billionaire builder from New York could not be starker.
Yet surveys like the 18 August CNN poll shows Trump leading Rubio by twenty four percent to eight percent.
Trump may campaign in a policy vacuum but the media and crowds flock around him like moths cluster around a candle. Republican voters and journalists are drawn by his celebrity, his soundbite-ready outspokenness and his self made claims that he defines the American success story. Or perhaps they enjoy his appearances which cross between politics and entertainment.
One thing is certain, his colourful performance makes an interesting study in communications.
Put aside the bluster Trump’s communications strategy is deceptively simple. He focuses on a single audience: a slice of disaffected America who feel the country no longer works for them and want it back. Trump’s messaging is plain. Washington is broken, political correctness is stifling the nation and the political class has failed. Now is the time to change and do that through an outsider – like him.
Whatever you think of his politics Trump is a master messenger who makes other Republican hopefuls look like the apprentices who once lined up for his reality television show. He is likely to ride the wave of discontent in the Republican base as far and fast as he can until forced to detail his policies or his ‘shock value’ wears thin.
Elections have many twists and turns and there is a long way to go before American voters gather in November 2016 to choose their next President. The question is can Trump sustain his current appeal until the primaries, to the Republican Convention and then against a Democratic opponent. Will we still be talking about “The Donald” when November 2016 rolls around?
Watch this space! American voters are in for interesting times and some will Australians if Trump makes it to the White House to become Commander in Chief of our strongest ally.