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Democrats mystified over Trump's comeback. They shouldn't be. Here's how we got here

OpinionDemocrats mystified over Trump's comeback. They shouldn't be. Here's how we got here

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Super Tuesday is behind us and there is no doubt this presidential election is shaping up to be one for the history books. With the votes counted, former U.N. Ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has decided to drop out of the race. That leaves us with our two 2024 presidential candidates long before the party conventions declare them as official nominees. In so many ways, this election feels like a rerun from four years ago. But even though the candidates are the same, this election cycle looks and sounds quite a bit different.

So many Americans are asking what on earth is going on; specifically, how in the world former President Donald Trump is leading by so much on the Republican side, despite his endorsed candidates’ lackluster results in the 2022 midterms, four indictments and 91 criminal charges against him?

I have to be honest; I have been surprised by the “comeback” of Donald Trump as the emerging leader of the GOP primary. And I’ve learned some key lessons from voter analysis this election cycle. In studying people’s responses, I’ve realized something: framing — how Trump’s message is shaping perception — explains a lot in this election cycle.

TRUMP REACTS TO SUPER TUESDAY VICTORIES: ‘RARELY HAS POLITICS SEEN ANYTHING QUITE LIKE THIS’

Language and framing matter. The way you talk about something has the power to shape how people perceive it. In this case, it’s the way each candidate positions themselves as the next candidate for the President of the United States. Simply put, it helps us fill in the blank in a sentence like this: “I am voting for XYZ candidate because they are __________.”

In politics, it is often said that the best message wins. Over the years, my firm helped change the language on some key issues, to shift perception in a more favorable way. For example, we rechristened “estate tax” as “death tax”; and “education spending” as “investing in our youth.” Both shifts changed the shape of the conversation and resulted in much more favorable outcomes.

When communicating in politics, with the right framing, if you change the language, you can truly change — and win — the debate. Ultimately, your frame either dooms your argument, or sets it up for success.

TOP REPUBLICANS RALLY BEHIND TRUMP, CALL FOR UNITY AFTER DOMINANT SUPER TUESDAY SHOWING: ‘PRIMARY IS OVER’

Right now, only one Republican candidate has framed the election in terms that matter most to voters. Among the Republican field of former contenders for president, here’s a look at paraphrases of how they framed their candidacy and explained why they should win votes:

“…I’m an outsider who will get things done.” – Vivek Ramaswamy

“…I will fight the woke culture and protect your children.” – Ron DeSantis

“…I’m a true conservative.” – Mike Pence

“…I’m a next generation leader, pragmatist, and will tell you the truth.” – Nikki Haley

“…I am running on hope and the American Dream.” – Tim Scott

And then there’s Donald Trump. In the past, his campaign had a central message and frame. It played in to a central voter truth: America isn’t what it used to be. And he had an answer for it. He summed up in an utterly memorable and successful slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

This go-round, he’s framing it in a new way:

“They treat us unfairly. The system is rigged. They look down on us. I will fight back.” 

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Trump is tapping into something bigger than just why vote for HIM, he is making the stakes much BIGGER than him. He is tapping in to the very real belief that Americans have that the system is rigged. That there is a two-tier system of justice. That things are UNFAIR. And this message resonates with people. 

When communicating in politics, with the right framing, if you change the language, you can truly change — and win — the debate. Ultimately, your frame either dooms your argument, or sets it up for success.

A poll from Ipsos last year suggested that nearly seven in 10 Americans across political ideologies believe that the system is rigged to favor the elite. And 61% said they want a leader who can “take the country back.” 

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Only one is promising to do that — and that’s why he’s winning on the Republican side and that is why he succeeded by such a huge margin on Super Tuesday. 

Whether right or wrong, Trump has clearly framed the reason to vote for him — and it’s working.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM LEE HARTLEY CARTER

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