Taking a page from The Donald

That same time and energy could better be directed to unraveling the issues and style that make us even pause to consider Trump’s candidacy when there are so many other conventional candidates to choose from. In my view, his looming candidacy seems better suited to earnest imitation than to introspection. Like third-party and independent candidacies that have traditionally given the Republicans and Democrats ideas for innovation, his insurgency suggests some strategies that the other Republicans should steal.

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Why would anyone — even 10 percent of Republicans, according to a recent CNN poll — take “The Donald” very seriously as a presidential candidate? Now, that’s a question that deserves some rumination. For one thing, his business background speaks strongly to the biggest and most pressing issues out there: jobs and the economy. Voters assume that he’s pretty much a one-trick pony, but it’s a performance no other politician has been able to pull off. We’re willing to turn the rodeo over to amateurs if the pros have all been thrown from this economic bronco’s saddle. Candidates wanting to steal (or inherit) Trump’s meager, yet potentially decisive, 10 points might want to take note. Start talking more about creating jobs and less about base-courting red-meat issues that the rest of the pack dotes on. You’ll never get Trump Tower status over in the weeds.

While you’re refocusing on the jobs issue, it might also be useful to listen hard to Trump’s “America first” rhetoric and his plea that we restore American manufacturing. I suspect there are a lot of eager ears drawn to this line of argument. Conventional politicians, even (or especially) conservatives and Republicans, sometimes seem to figure that being a homer when it comes to the economy is too provincial, or that it contravenes their sacrosanct notions of free-market economics while making them sound a little too much like Big Labor shills. Any Republican who lets fears like that get in the way of winning votes from economically beleaguered Americans is not worthy of our nomination. You’re fired. 

It’s not only Trump’s agenda that’s worth pirating, his style is worthy booty. The pugnacious and cocksure strength that’s his calling card is worth emulating. His tweaking of Obama over the birth certificate issue is a great example of this. The birther ploy is, of course, absurd when evaluated as an assault on Obama’s legitimacy as our elected president. But when alternatively treated as evidence that he won’t let political correctness prevent him from putting Obama on the griddle, it’s a great recipe. Our party is going to need someone who brings the heat and doesn’t apologize for it. This ain’t gonna be a debating society, or we won’t win. That’s Barack’s home turf.

Trump’s strength also will figure well on issues ranging from Middle East policies to negotiations with Mexico over drug violence and immigration. Republicans and independents want someone who’s tough to be our voice in these hot spots. Right now, Trump is talking tougher and seems more resolute on some of these issues than all the others combined. When will another Republican take note and get with the “bad cop” program? Arnold Schwarzenegger twice took a similar “tough guy” approach when running for governor of California, and the public ate it up. Of course, Trump and Schwarzenegger cultivated celebrity personas that said “You’re fired” and “I’ll be back” before running, but there’s still time for some of the non-celebrities to get their own superhero magic going.

David Hill is a pollster that has worked for Republican candidates and causes since 1984.