- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 10, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Donald Trump didn’t win the GOP primary because of his improvisational, provocative and brash manner, he won in spite of it.

It was Mr. Trump’s message that resonated with voters, not his temperament.

He was the only candidate who came out of the gate challenging the status quo and demanding change. He pressed for increased controls on illegal immigration, rejecting Congress’ push for reform. He addressed blue-collar economic concerns, challenging the value of multilateral trade deals. He spurned the GOP’s calls to restructure entitlements such as Social Security, pledging to maintain the program.

His slogan, “Make America Great Again,” reflected — and still does reflect — a sentiment many Americans identify with. More than 70 percent feel like this country isn’t on the right path, and a majority feel their children will be worse off than them financially. Mr. Trump represented change and hope. A chance for them to regain their voice.

So when he went off-script — and said horrible things — most of his supporters excused him. They still do. He’s not professional politician, after all, he’s a Manhattan brawler who made his fortune counter-punching. The mainstream media is out to conflate and twist his words. The establishment wants him defeated, and will aid in his demise anyway possible.

Much of this is true, but none of it is why Mr. Trump secured the GOP nomination. It was his message.

We see that in the polls now. Mr. Trump’s stances — on the economy, on crime, on challenging the status quo — actually polls higher when he’s not associated with it. Mr. Trump’s personality, his in-your-face style, is now becoming a larger liability than it was in the primary. And that should come as no surprise. He’s now talking and introducing himself to a wider audience, one that will not so easily excuse his off-color remarks.

And he needs to win these voters over, and he can, with his message.

According to a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll — taken while Mr. Trump was fighting with a Gold Star family and his position within the race was sinking — his stances continued to resonate.

Mr. Trump won in a landslide when it came to “changing business as usual in D.C.,” compared with Hillary Clinton. In dealing with the economy and crime, Mr. Trump was also trusted more, as he was when people were asked who would better stand up for America. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump were practically tied when polled for who was better for terrorism and homeland security.

But most significant in the poll were reactions to Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton’s convention speeches, when their names weren’t attached to them.

Mr. Trump’s message in the poll was of “a moment of crisis for our nation,” where attacks on the police and terrorism “threaten our way of life.” Mrs. Clinton’s statement was sunnier, saying “do not let anyone tell you that our country is weak. … Do not let anyone tell you we don’t have what it takes. We do.”

Mr. Trump’s message won by a 52 percent to 36 percent ratio, with more voters saying he described what they were thinking “very well.”

So it’s time for Mr. Trump to start focusing on what works for him — his message — and stop thinking his antics are actually aiding him in this race. They never have. They’re a distraction.

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