The decision by the British people to leave the European Union has stunned the world and has major implications for the US presidential elections, scheduled on 8 November 2016. The media and political elites (the “Pundocracy”) in the United States have dismissed the chances of the presumptive Republican candidate Donald Trump winning the Presidency.
The truth is quite different. Donald Trump, an instinctive politician, sensed the mood of the American electorate which is angry, frustrated and ready for an outsider to smash the failing status quo when he launched his insurgency campaign in June 2015. What the Brexit result signifies is that the working and middle classes are in open revolt and will not be intimidated, bullied and silenced by the political and economic elites on either side of the Atlantic.
Political experts agree that Donald Trump needs to win the Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michagan and Wisconsin if he has a realistic chance of defeating Clinton. Reports are indicating that Trump could do very well in these states and Hilary Clinton hasn’t connected with the concerns of blue-collar voters. The Pundocracy are underestimating the anger among the American people and the real levels of support for Trump outside the Beltway. Just as a “shy Brexit” phenomenon contributed to the victory of the Leave campaign, the pollsters haven’t factored into their models the potentially 4% of the electorate who are “shy Trump” voters, who could swing the election.
The firing by the Donald of his top aide Corey Lewandowski on 20 June will be considered by future historians as a key turning point in the Trump campaign. Lewandowski encouraged a “let Trump be Trump” strategy that worked well in the primaries but has backfired with the broader electorate. The experienced and ruthless political operator Paul Manafort is now in charge of the Trump campaign and will direct the pivot towards a more “presidential” Trump.
Donald Trump has seen a sharp drop in the national poll ratings recently with the average poll of polls showing that he is 6% behind to the presumptive Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton. This was triggered by ill judged and inflammatory comments about the Mexican heritage of a judge investigating the Trump University law suit which has amplified wider concerns about whether Trump is fit to be president.
Trump will need to deal with this toxic issue head on if he is to gain traction among minority voters and independent voters. Trump, contrary to what some in the Pundocracy appear to think, is not a stupid man. He is fully aware of the need to adopt a more serious, sober and “presidential” campaign and the firing of his closest aide Corey Lewandowski shows that he now “gets” the importance of the general election pivot I have written of before. The Republican Convention at Cleveland will be a key moment in reshaping perceptions of Trump and challenging the view that he is a racist buffoon.
As long as the Donald stays with the playbook outlined by Paul Manafort and pushes his powerful anti-establishment, inclusive and economically populist agenda with the wider American public, than he will be on course for a historic victory on 8 November 2016.