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Trumpbert

Scott Adams is a funny guy. His Dilbert comic strip has been skewering the irrationalities of the workplace for more than two decades. But lately Adams has taken time away from his busy schedule of drawing pictures to explain—apparently in all seriousness—why he, as a certified hypnotist, believes Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States.

On the stump, the real-estate mogul is not running on the knowledge of his numbers or the dissection of the data. He is running on our emotions, Adams says, and sly appeals to our own human irrationality. Since last August, in fact, when many were calling Trump’s entry a clown candidacy, the “Dilbert” cartoonist was already declaring The Donald a master in the powers of persuasion who would undoubtedly rise in the polls.

In his blog, Adams has looked at Trump's sales techniques such as anchoring, "thinking past the sale", and claiming the "high ground". Adams concluded last summer that Trump's powers of persuasion would enable him to win not just the nomination, but the White House.

Adams maintains this view even in the face of polling consistently showing Trump losing to Hillary Clinton in the general election.

Adams explains the discrepancy by acknowledging that Clinton supporters have thus far won the battle of persuasion.

Clinton’s side includes more than her campaign team. It also includes pundits, supporters on social media, and the liberal-leaning parts of the mainstream media. While the Clinton campaign itself has been notably weak with its persuasion game, the folks on her side have been viciously effective at branding Trump a crazy racist.

Nothing else in this election matters.

"Crazy racist" then becomes the filter through which the public views the Trump campaign. His verbal attacks against Hispanic journalists and judges feed into this narrative. His referring to Elizabeth Warren as "Pocahontas" feeds into it. Viewed within this filter, Trump's recent attack tweet against Hillary Clinton—with a six-sided star and a background of a pile of cash—looks like an anti-Semitic slur. The fact that Trump's Jewish son-in-law was compelled to reply in his defense shows the power of the "crazy racist" narrative.

Trump has tried to counter with a "crooked Hillary" meme, with some apparent success, but if history is any indicator, this is not a winning strategy. In 1991, ex-KKK Grand Wizard David Duke challenged ex-convict Edwin Edwards for the governorship of Louisiana. Edwards captured more than 60% of the vote. In an increasingly diverse population, a racially divisive candidate today is forced to draw support from a shrinking subset of the population. This is bad news for Trump if the "crazy racist" moniker sticks.

But Adams thinks Trump's powers of persuasion will still carry him to victory in November.

If you were Trump, and you didn’t want a stronger candidate to replace Clinton at the last minute, you would hold back your best attacks until she secures the nomination. My guess is that Trump’s strongest attacks will start in late summer.

That's one way to spin it. A more conventional analysis would begin with the fact that the Trump campaign is struggling to raise money. The last candidate who went through the summer with funding trouble was John Kerry. In 2004 Kerry was unable to respond to an attack ad from an organization known as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. He spent much of the summer watching his poll numbers drop as the press openly questioned whether his heroics in Vietnam were genuine. By the time the conventions were done and he was ready to counter the attacks, it was too late. The swiftboaters had cemented the public perception of Kerry's character.

Under normal circumstances I'd say with confidence that Trump is doomed to the same fate. But this year—who knows?

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