We’re not normally fans of Piers Morgan, but his recent open letter to Donald Trump in the Daily Mail was spot on.
You’re in trouble. Big trouble.
This has been the worst week of your presidential campaign so far and everyone knows it. Including, I suspect, you – even if you’d rather garrotte yourself than admit it.
The polls do lie, but rarely do all of them lie at exactly the same time to this scale. You’re suddenly down 10pts and that’s a big gap (though not insurmountable, Obama was 10pts down to John McCain in September 2008).
It’s clear that Hillary got a massive bounce from her Democratic convention and she’s not only holding it but growing it as your Trump Train has hurtled off the rails.
Of course, every candidate in every presidential campaign careers off course at some point.
It’s the nature of the beast, particularly as election day closes in and the U.S. media fully extends its vicious, unsparing talons.
Your big mistake was to go after the Khan family.
Nobody, not even your closest friends and supporters, could find any convincing way to defend you from attacking the grieving parents of an American military hero.
Your critics swiftly moved in for the kill like starved vultures on a freshly wounded buffalo carcass, ensuring that everything you’ve said or done since Khan-gate has been instantly guzzled up and spat back out in a slew of faux outrage.
You’ve abused babies, you’ve besmirched the Purple Heart, you’ve been deserted by every decent Republican in the country…etc.
But it’s far too early to claim, as some are so keen to do, that your chances of winning the White House are finished.
You didn’t get to be one of America’s most successful businessmen by rolling over at the first sign of real pressure, however intense that pressure may be.
Those who think you may even quit the race because you can’t stand the heat have been spending too long puffing the wacky baccy.
You hate quitters, as I discovered when I competed in Celebrity Apprentice and watched you reserve particularly virulent ridicule for those who walked away rather than stay and fight.
To you, quitting is even worse than losing and we all know how much you hate losing.
But if you are to win in November then you have to re-calibrate your campaign and change tactics, and do so fast.
Here are 10 ways for you to do that:
1) Stop attacking those who don’t deserve it. Your outburst against the Khans was typical of your bombastic, ‘you hit me, I hit you harder’ style. But that doesn’t play with mums of war heroes. All it does is make you look small, petty and heartless. Pick your targets more carefully.
2) Stop squabbling with your own top party grandees. I get why you’re p***ed off with the likes of Paul Ryan and John McCain, who’ve both barely been able to hide their disdain for you, but refusing to endorse them in their primary races is not a smart move. It sends a message that the Republicans remain torn asunder when what you desperately need now is a sense of unity and harmony. To borrow Hillary’s mantra, you are stronger together.
3) Target Hillary and Obama. Hard. Where you win in the court of public opinion is by focusing relentlessly on the weaknesses of both the incumbent president and his potential Democrat successor. There’s so much to hit them with, from the stalling economy to dismal foreign policy fiascoes and the raging sense of injustice many Americans feel about the state of their lives. At the Democratic convention, Clinton and Obama both told Americans they’d basically never had it so good. Many Americans feel the complete opposite. Fight for those people and they will vote for you.
4) Stop moaning about the timing of the forthcoming TV debates and instead, embrace them like an over-excited lion cub about to receive its first juicy bone. Those debates are going to be the most watched in US TV history and they are your perfect platform to rip Hillary to shreds in front of tens of millions of voters. Television is your lair; you love the camera and it loves you. Hillary doesn’t love it, and it doesn’t love her. Get out there and tell the world you can’t wait for the Superbowl of Politics and being declared MVP at the end of it. It will make her fear them even more than she’s probably already fearing them.
5) Kill stone dead this whole line about the election being ‘rigged’. Briefing now that if you lose, you’ll contest the result smacks of someone who thinks he’s going to lose and is going to be a very bad loser if he does. Nobody likes a sore loser.
6) Show us you’re not a monster. There are people out there openly comparing you to Hitler who murdered six million Jews. Those of us who like you and have seen a very different side to you away from the media glare, find this kind of comparison utterly abhorrent. It’s time to show us more of your other side too; the compassionate, caring Donald Trump who raised great kids, loves his country, has never had a drink, cigarette or illegal drug in his life out of his respect for his addicted older brother, prays to God, takes good care of thousands of his employees and regularly helps the needy. At the moment, all we see is the killer tycoon ruthlessly closing the biggest deal of his life and to many it’s an intimidating, scary sight. Khizr Khan says you’re incapable of empathy. I know from personal experience that you’re not. Prove it.
7) Having said that, don’t go all PC on us. I realize this is unlikely but there may be people close to you urging a generally more restrained, mature and kindly Donald. Forget it. It’s precisely your tough no-nonsense non-politician style that has got you this far, as Clint Eastwood has today rightly identified. To ditch that now would be a disaster but it’s vital you channel your aggression onto the right targets and avoid silly own goals. Be strong without being a bully. It’s a fine line but when you get it right it’s very effective. Many Americans are crying out for old-fashioned, chest-beating leadership of the kind that made their country great in the first place. But they want it with a heart too. Be that guy, not the one who kicks sand in the puny geek’s face and then laughs at his distress.
8) Soften your uncompromisingly hard-line stance on Muslims. Be firm but fair. You have been absolutely right to prioritize genuine concerns about Islamic terror, but calling for the banning of all Muslims was needlessly bigoted and since Khan-gate, it will now damage your election hopes not enhance them. Calling for much tougher restrictions on people, especially Muslims, trying to come in from terror-strewn countries like Syria and Iraq is a far more sensible vote-winning idea. You should also echo Mr Khan’s call for decent, law-abiding Muslim-Americans to ‘rat out’ extremists living among them. Find common ground with a man who has grabbed the heart of the nation.
9) Be better briefed on key political issues. You can’t keep making basic mistakes like you did when recently discussing Ukraine or nuclear weapons. It unnerves people. You’re not a politician, we get that. So you’ve not had to spend every waking moment of your adult life pouring over the fine details of domestic and foreign policy to avoid making error when asked about them. But now you’re the Republican nominee and one step from the presidency, you can’t afford to keep dropping silly ill-informed clangers on really important matters.
10) Keep up your energy and sense of humour. You have far greater levels of both than your opponent who often looks both exhausted and humourless. Just make sure, again, that your jokes are about people who deserve them and can handle them. Not those who voters on both sides will instinctively feel sorry for.