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Monday, August 8, 2016

Between Short Circuits and The Clinton Cackle, Trump Still Can Beat Hillary

If policy decides elections, then Hillary Clinton likely will be elected President in November. Not that her policies are particularly clever or bold, but they aren't insane and they are generally consistent. Some of Trump's proposals, particularly on tax reform, are good, yet others are plain weird. His constant flip-flops on policy mean that a Republican presidential vote is a leap of faith that Trump will surround himself with good advisors and actually take advice.

But we're talking about an American election and there's not much in the way of recent history to suggest that they're decided on policy.

Americans vote for the person they like the most, or dislike the least, and who does a better job of projecting the characteristics of leadership, strength and competence.  In those regards, neither candidate stands out as being an obvious choice, but Trump has many advantages, simply because of Hillary's many conspicuous failings.

Political candidates are selling a product; themselves, and like any product being advertised, the perception and brand value is paramount. What Trump has been masterful at during the campaign is undermining his rival's brand, and destroying confidence in it. While that cuts both ways and there's no shortage of lack of confidence about Trump competence, he's crushing Hillary in the areas of leadership and strength. In terms of likability, Trump's off the cuff speaking style gives him advantages over Hillary's contrived, practiced speech-reciting.

But even more pronounced are the doubts about Hillary's mental acuity in times of crisis with which Trump has been priming the public both consciously and subliminally.

Saying that Hillary's brain is prone to short circuits is making people really take a closer look at the Democratic candidate.  So even if her strange facial tics and gestures aren't due to mini-strokes or a mental defect, Trump has successfully managed to put the idea of that possibility more prominently in the collective consciousness of the voters.

That perception of her was magnified last week, when Hillary completely froze, like a deer in headlights, just by having a couple of animal rights protesters hold up small signs at one of her rallies. Hillary seemed mentally incapable of speaking until one of her Secret Service handlers came up to her and told her, "keep talking."  Moments like that inflict serious damage on public confidence in her.

The Short Circuit isn't all of Hillary's perception problems. In 2004, Vermont Governor Howard Dean's presidential primary campaign was derailed not by a a scandal involving corruption or sex, not by him making an offensive remark caught on or off camera, not by a policy misstep, but by a mistimed shriek at a campaign rally that made him sound silly. The "Dean Scream" was so widely ridiculed that many observes thing it's what accounted for his precipitous decline in the polls and withdrawal from the race.

Just as Dean had the Scream, Hillary has the Clinton Cackle.

Hillary Clinton has a shrill, nervous laugh she utilizes in the most odd of times, including right after her deer-in-headlights moment at last week's rally.  It's a terrible sound and many people have noticed and commented on it. It hurt her in 2008 when she ran against Obama in the Democratic primaries and it is hurting her again in this election cycle.

The Republicans are behind in the polls and have their own problems to deal with. But in the privacy of the polling booth come November, lots of Americans will not be voting for Hillary based on no other reason than that they don't want a President who sounds like the Wicked Witch of the West.

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