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Opinion | Trump can win this election if he follows George W. Bush’s example

Opinion | Trump can win this election if he follows George W. Bush’s example

Republicans can practically taste victory in November, and they have good reason to be confident. But they should be cautious. Yes, President Biden’s debate performance was a disaster. But Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) had an even worse debate performance in 2022 and still won in November.

The next president will still be chosen by a handful of swing voters in some swing states. Some are “double haters,” who make up about a quarter of the electorate, and must choose between two candidates they dislike. Others don’t hate what Trump stands for – they liked his policies as president and disapprove of Biden – but they aren’t sure him, and are having a hard time pulling the trigger for the former president.

Trump should focus like a laser on winning over these voters. Every word, action and decision he makes between now and Election Day must allay their concerns and give them permission to vote in their own best interests. His speech at the Republican National Convention is his best chance to do that – by taking a page from the playbook of the last Republican president, George W. Bush.

Bush also faced reluctance among swing voters at the 2004 Republican Convention, so he used his convention speech to address their concerns directly—acknowledging their worries about his behavior and disarming them with self-deprecating humor.

“Over the last four years, we’ve gotten to know each other,” Bush said. “Even if we disagree, at least you know what I believe and where I stand.”

“You may have noticed that I have a few mistakes,” he continued. “Sometimes people have to correct my English. I knew I had a problem when Arnold Schwarzenegger started doing it. Some people look at me and notice a certain mannerism – what they call ‘walking’ in Texas. Every now and then I seem a little too blunt – and we can all thank the white-haired lady up there for that,” he said, pointing to his mother, former first lady Barbara Bush.

“One thing I’ve learned about being president is that no matter what your weaknesses are, people will notice them,” he said, “and no matter what your strengths are, you’ll need them.”

By addressing his perceived shortcomings with humor, he gave voters the opportunity to say to themselves: Okay, he gets it. He understands what we don’t like about himAnd by demonstrating that confidence, he gave them permission to overlook his mistakes and vote for him.

Trump needs to do something similar in his Milwaukee convention speech – in his own inimitable way. We know he can joke about himself – just look at his appearances on Saturday Night Live before the presidential election. Trump can be charming and disarming when he wants to be. He should use those skills to address the concerns of swing voters.

He might say something like, “I know I get on some people’s nerves. Occasionally I’m a little rude to people – in New York we call it ‘Bronx cheering.’ Sometimes I might go a little overboard – in New York we call it ‘bargaining.’ Maybe I’m a little too cocky, but as we say in the city: Hey, I’m going here. If you didn’t like the way I talked, walked, or combed my hair, I hope you liked the fact that our borders were secure, our cities were safe, our economy was strong, and the world was at peace. So, yes, I have a few faults. As president, even if I fought a little unfairly at times, I always fought for you. And whether you love me or hate me, I hope you know that I’ve always got your back – and that America always comes first for me.”

That would send a message to swing voters: He gets it. He understands what we don’t like about him. And he’s right – my life Was better than when he was president.

Trump has shown tremendous discipline of late. During the debate, he didn’t interrupt Biden, but watched with a worried look on his face as the president struggled to form a coherent sentence. And since the debate, he has kept a low profile – giving Biden the opportunity to twist in the wind while Democrats panic about whether he should withdraw from his ticket.

If Trump adds a dose of humility to that discipline – by acknowledging the concerns many voters have about his performance – he can close the deal.