I host a regional radio talk show. Every single show for the last six weeks, Monday through Friday, I've received calls, emails and Facebook comments during my broadcast from audience members starving for a new-and-improved nation.
It's apparent from my vantage point behind the microphone that if you're even remotely glossy-eyed by presidential coverage in the media, you'd better buy some eye drops. The panorama of candidate content, communications and messaging is barely on the horizon, and soon to be in full view as the Iowa caucus and primaries in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and Nevada come into focus.
Maneuvering through the gauntlet of opinions, I'm finding a consistency remains in deep-rooted support for presidential candidate Donald TrumpDonald TrumpPence: Supreme Court has chance to right 'historic wrong' with abortion ruling Prosecutor says during trial that actor Jussie Smollett staged 'fake hate crime' Overnight Defense & National Security — US, Iran return to negotiating table MORE.
People love Trump. They deem him a saving grace. He's the proverbial Hercules and America's problems are the labors to pursue and slay. He is riding a wave of popularity so profound even the sharks are curbing their taste.
In light of the Trump sensation, it may be appropriate, or at least instructive, to delineate what my radio listeners embrace from Trump's message.
Here are five reasons why Trump appears to be the candidate to beat:
1. He doesn't need to bluff. Trump has such confidence that he's the kind of player who doesn't bluff in a poker game. While this feels counterintuitive to a winning strategy, particularly in an age of baby-kissing politicians who thrive on placation over results, it's actually refreshing. His candor builds respect. Radio listeners are extolling day after day the fact Trump is transparent to a fault, from his stances on immigration to foreign relations. Even his faults are steadily accepted and adopted. Poll Americans on who they like better: Trump vs. Univision reporter Jorge Ramos, actress Rosie O'Donnell, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), blogger Erick Erickson, pollster Frank Luntz or even columnist George Will, and the New York businessman will be on top every time by double digits.
2. He can't be intimidated. Forget his multibillion dollar net worth. Push aside his armada of contacts and networking forged over decades. One of the strongest resonating dimensions to Trump is grit and tenacity. Super-PAC coffers of more than $100 million, compliments of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United case, don't dissuade or cower Trump. He has access to the same level of resources. Political titles and legislative chevrons glimmering with laws passed in Congress don't make Trump blink, because he's been the donor sought after by many of these same politicians now running against him. From connections to chits, deep roots in business to opponents with far less resources, competitors simply can't match Trump's popularity. As one caller to the show recently bemused, compare Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-Fla.) student loans or Gov. Scott Walker's (R-Wis.) personal debt to Trump's acumen and portfolio, and it's almost like petulant children are competing against their successful, prominent father.
3. Out with political correctness. Build a wall to block illegal immigration from Mexico and Central America while deporting what he calls "anchor babies" and their families; impugn Russian, Chinese and South American leaders despite inextricably linked economies with the U.S.; hobble castigators who choose insults and fodder over substance in debates and interviews. It's almost like describing a Roman general or martyr of a revolution, yet it's a precise portrayal of Trump. His wherewithal is opening the eyes of Americans to the incompetence of our government. Callers remind me nearly every show that they want solutions, not sensationalism. They seek commonsense policies, not sound bites. My callers think Megyn Kelly was rude in her Fox News debate questions. They resoundingly believe Ramos deserved his fast-and-furious escort out of the recent Iowa press conference. They concur that chest-pounders like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) do, in fact, need to be taken down a notch on the hubris ladder. From race to gender to economic principles, Trump's stark opinions are catching the attention of the public, and they can't stop staring — in a good way. This isn't a painted breast in Manhattan, but the cold, hard truth about America being broken, and a journeyman blessed with the right tools to "get 'er done" and make repairs.
4. He's reinvigorating America across the political spectrum. Like a Lee Greenwood or Johnny Cash song, Trump is traveling from the lakes to the fields to the cities of America, and he's definitely been everywhere — and isn't stopping. The media follow his path; opponents emulate his narrative; the electorate revels in the freshness of a candidate diagnosing what ails us and offering painful but necessary remedies. As for radio talk show listeners, be it the libertarian free marketer, Tea Party stalwart, open-minded Republican or smidgeon of moderate Democrats, Trump's ascension in public support isn't just vertical, but also lateral from right to middle to left in partisan affiliation. As one listener messaged last month, President Obama's initial campaign maxims of "hope" and "yes we can" were just that: maxims, that never came to fruition. It appears Trump's legacy may be following through with his promises, and that expectation appears to have awakened the American ethos.
5. Finally, a business-centric leader who is comfortable making decisions. A fan of the show recently commented that Trump can win the race for the presidency by naming his vice president and Cabinet members in the next few months, rather than after a Republican nomination. The logic is that building a team of experts who will manage the operations of the nation, as part of a campaign platform, is superior to generalities and wishful thinking. Trump's business acumen is proven. Callers are alluding to the fact that he isn't afraid of the media, nor does he use the crutch of notes and prepared speeches. He's a negotiator, not a political puppet. He's a dealmaker who thrives in the hot seat of a boardroom. Logic suggests he'll be the same in foreign negotiations or hunkered down in a military command center. Trump doesn't "blink," in the Malcolm Gladwell context.
If radio listener opinions are any indication of genuine support, Trump will sail to victory next year. He will have the opportunity to do away with the frivolity and waste so many disappointed Americans yearn to eliminate.
Polls and the trending of primary politics may matter, but don't overlook the culture of American talk radio and the obvious backdraft of resentment building behind the doors of Americans across the country.
Voters are listening, and radio talk may be the clearest window through which to understand their wishes.
Anderson is the managing partner at Optima Public Relations and a radio talk show host.