Two words best define Donald Trump’s campaign strategy: confirmation bias. Trump sets up an expectation and then lets events confirm his statements. He ensures that his statements are well-covered by the press, by expertly manipulating coverage.
He manipulates coverage by saying the most outrageous, extreme version of some position, then walking it back, then walking back his walk-back. He doesn’t give opponents room to breathe, sucking up all the press and all the media cycles like fire consumes oxygen. He lies so much that there’s no parsing the lies, so that lies become normal, and when Trump tells the truth, it becomes special.
Therefore, when terror events happen, or immigrants commit crimes, or Hillary Clinton falls ill, it’s all confirmation bias of the strongest sort, proving Trump right.
This is what many people, sick of political coverage, remember: Trump being right.
During the primary season, Trump ensured that his debates garnered high ratings, even sitting one out to set the baseline of a “no-Trump” debate. Now, I believe Trump wants Americans to tune out for his debates with Hillary.
At the end of July, Trump set up the confirmation bias, claiming that two of the debates with Clinton are scheduled opposite NFL games. “I’ll tell you what I don’t like. It’s against two NFL games,” he said. “I got a letter from the NFL saying, ‘This is ridiculous.'”
As usual, Hillary & the Dems are trying to rig the debates so 2 are up against major NFL games. Same as last time w/ Bernie. Unacceptable!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 30, 2016
Monday night, the 0-2 Saints play the 2-1 Falcons. It will be a good game. It should draw somewhere around 12 million viewers. Compare that to the debate, which between 40 and 65 million viewers will watch.
Trump knows he’ll get better ratings than MNF, and will probably tweet about how he’s drawing all the viewers. But really, he wants Americans to pay attention to football (or anything else) and watch the news for sound bites.
The sound bites will be himself goading Clinton about the polling (which is tied), and hitting her on terrorism, immigration, and crime. In all three categories, Trump’s bets have paid off. Terror bombings in New York and New Jersey, a Turkish immigrant in Washington state killing 5 in a Macy’s, and riots in Charlotte define the last two weeks.
In all of these, Hillary has muddled her message, depended on positive press spin, and generally stepped in dog doo. This couldn’t be a better environment for Trump’s confirmation bias headed into the debate. But only if you don’t watch the debate.
If you watch the debate, you might see the prepped-to-the-max Clinton score some jabs on Trump, or drone on for 10 minutes on the minutae of ISIS strategy, or economic inequality. The news will cover as much of her jabs as they can, but none of her extended monologues will package neatly for the news.
Everything Trump utters will be a sound bite or a dig at Hillary. He might fill space with a few sentences about how he’s built a terrific business, employed thousands of people, how he loves African-Americans, Hispanics, and gets along with leaders all over the world. He might talk about visiting Mexico, and of course, the wall. But that’s all just repeating themes.
Trump would rather you watched the Saints and the Falcons, and then watch the news the next day, but he knows he’ll still get great ratings, because to Trump, politics and entertainment are one in the same. Hillary is about as entertaining as gout.
Hillary will claim victory, but Trump will win the debate. She will lose more voters and he will rise in the polls. Confirmation bias is very strong.