Donald Trump stayed front and center in the news cycle for the weekend. It sometimes appears that his political strategy is to make outrageous statements to guarantee that he stays in the center of attention.
When he is in the crosshairs of his attackers, they are still focusing on him and not looking at anyone else. Meanwhile, he continues to rise in the polls. It may be too early to determine the impact of his comments about Megyn Kelly but initial results look like his numbers stay high.
It appears that Donald Trump is too quick to allow his questioners to take control of the issue. For example, back when Frank Luntz was talking to him about John McCain, Luntz referred to McCain as a war hero. Trump jumped on that and for the next several days the leading story was what Trump said about John McCain.
Now, the leading story is about what Trump said about Megyn Kelly and being uninvited to the Red State Gathering. I know that he is flamboyant and can be abrasive. During Thursday night’s debate at one point he even said that he knew that the crowd did not like him.
Is he really that thin skinned that he feels the need to attack anyone and everyone who openly disagrees with him and call them names? Is he playing the media with an intentional strategy? He is writing his own playbook for a political campaign. It is like negative ads. Everyone hates them but they work.
Even though Trump is high in the polls there is one thing that I have not seen. I see no ground game. People involved in a ground game are committed to a candidate and will not change their minds easily.
It is one thing for someone to answer a phone and tell a pollster that if he or she voted today it would be for (fill in the blank). It is quite another for that person to be willing to call friends, take people to the polls put their personal reputation on the line for those in their sphere of influence. I am not seeing that yet with Donald Trump.
This weekend I went to the Georgia 8th District Fish Fry and Perry, GA where Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was a featured guest. There was a good attendance. Huckabee was well received and he picked up some new supporters.
I then went to Newnan and had a chance to meet another Presidential candidate, Senator Ted Cruz. There was a huge crowd that outgrew Sprayberry’s Barbeque so the event was moved to a large field nearby.
That crowd, and others like it at all of his stops, showed up because the people were invited by someone they knew. Ted Cruz has key organizers in every congressional district in Georgia and they are quickly filling the positions for every county.
As I talked with different ones there and asked them about the Presidential election, I noticed two things. The first thing I noticed is that when I told them that I had seen Mike Huckabee earlier in the day, many of them told me how much they loved Mike Huckabee and had worked for him in 2008. They also told me that they were for Ted Cruz this time around.
The second thing that I noticed is that Cruz supporters are not changing their minds and they have an evangelistic zeal about him. Ted Cruz has a ground game. His ground game is grabbing up supporters from the same pool that fed Mike Huckabee in 2008 and Rick Santorum in 2012.
The pool is not stagnant. It has grown since 2008. When you add Scott Walker and Carly Fiorina in the mix it makes it a challenge for all of them.
These are the grassroots workers who sacrifice when they write a check for $25.00. Their checks may not buy a split second of air time, but they will be sure that every member of their family, their Sunday School Class, their square dance club, and every name in their worn out address book knows about and votes for their candidate.
These are the people that I saw at the Ted Cruz event. These are the people whose friends stayed home in 2008 and 2012 because they were not passionate about the Republican candidates for President. These are the people who will refuse to let their friends stay home in 2016 if they believe that the Republican nominee represents them. With these people, Republicans win. Without them, Republicans lose – every time.
I gave a copy of a book I wrote entitled, Grassroots: Leading Others to Accomplish the Impossible, to both Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz. The book is about the 2002 upset victory of Sonny Perdue being elected as Georgia’s 1st Republican Governor since Reconstruction.
Thirteen years later, the atmosphere I observed at the event for Ted Cruz can best be described in the words of that famous philosopher, Yogi Berra. “It’s deja vu all over again.”
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