The next two weeks will set the tone for the rest of the Presidential campaign. In fourteen days we will know just how everything is going, from the themes we can expect to carry through to November to the polls telling us how the horse race has started.
How will it shake out? If you’re a Republican, you’re probably hoping it won’t be a disaster. Democrats have their own fears for a disruptive show, but appear to be better prepared for a traditional convention bounce.
Here’s what to look for over the next two weeks.
We have to start with Mike Pence, the Governor of Indiana. He is still being introduced to America, especially since Trump pretty much failed to make an actual introduction. The news conference was a rambling mess until some white haired guy showed up and actually looked like he was running for office. Pence is cool, controlled, and generally likable. But his policy stands can only be described as far right. If the Democrats and/or the press succeed in defining him before he can define himself, he’s a net negative.
Then we have Clinton’s running mate, who we don’t know at this stage. Speculation is running amok now that Elizabeth Warren doesn’t have her own speaking slot at the convention. If she is chosen, Republicans will salivate over the opportunity to assail her as a far left icon. Democrats, no matter who they pick, will be looking for a bounce of excitement – and may get it. It’s about getting young people out to vote, which is why the all-women ticket may be a good gamble. If the pick is announced on Monday it could also wipe out the Republican convention coverage, limiting their potential bounce.
Speaking of the Republican Convention, it will be a bore. Yes, I am a Democrat and yes, you could expect me to say this. But the most interesting speaker is likely to be Newt Gingrich – the one politician in America who may be more hated than Trump. Everyone will be looking for a convention bounce, but there is not likely to be one – especially if Clinton steals the news cycle.
Look for a strong theme of “Law and Order”, reminiscent of the successful campaign of Nixon in 1968. It’s not a sure thing, but it would be a good angle for Republicans.
On Wednesday, we have two pieces potentially devastating news for Trump. The first is the release of the June FEC filings, which could easily show the announced $51 million Trump said he raised is actually much less. A lie will play into the general theme that the guy is a fraud. Speaking of fraud, the lawsuit against Trump should be certified to proceed to trial as a RICO suit on Wednesday – bringing Judge Curiel back into the news and putting the words “fraud” and “Trump” very close together.
Then, there is the prospect of violence. To be fair to the Republicans, conventions always bring out lunatics and it’s not the party’s fault. Cleveland, however, happens to be in an “open carry” state where the lunatics on both sides will be armed. How that spins any “Law and Order” pitch is the real issue at hand. If the message becomes Republicans equal chaos, or indeed if it suggests a need for gun control more than a police crackdown, the Republican convention will be a net negative. That’s bad for them.
We also need to watch for displays from the “Never Trump!” faction on the floor. The press will love that junk and play it up – if it happens.
If the Republicans escape the week without a major problem, the Democratic convention could be their next headache. It’s much better set up for success, with top-notch speakers and displays of unity woven into every moment. The theme is “Stronger Together,” which describes both the party and Clinton’s general theme of uniting the country.
It should ignite the media and produce a traditional convention bounce of six points.
All together, a Republican bounce of zero to two points and a Democratic one of six points should leave us with a solid Clinton lead in two weeks versus the oft-reported tight race now. Polling is very hard today, especially among younger people. Many polls under-state the expected 16% of the electorate who will be under 30, as well as the 40% non-white share.
Clinton is leading now, no matter what you read, but two weeks from now it should be obvious.