Donald Trump’s Moves

This blog was originally published on Forbes as Donald Trump’s Moves on Monday, October 10, 2016.

Will the ghost of Al Gore come back to haunt Donald Trump? One of the most indelible images of the 2000 presidential campaign occurred during a debate between then-candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush. While Bush was addressing the audience, Gore walked across the stage toward him. The move appeared almost threatening, but Bush stopped in mid-statement, paused for a beat, then nodded at Gore and smiled, evoking titters from the audience. That “invade the space” moment drew extensive media attention—and boomeranged on Gore. According to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll at the time, “George W. Bush has taken a significant lead over Al Gore.”

In last night’s debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, he made a similar move while she was speaking and came up to stand behind her. Although she wasn’t aware that he was there, the move drew broad media attention in the post-debate commentary on the cable stations. In an eerie coincidental footnote, the move took place in the identical setting and venue as did the Gore-Bush debate: a town hall format at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

But that was not the only Trump move that drew attention. Throughout the debate, he paced the stage like a stalking animal, broadcasting his message to the town hall voters in the debate area and the audience behind them. His strategy and words were to attack his opponent and his body language conveyed the same message.

One particular manifestation of that pacing is worth noting. In the town hall format, several questions came from a group of undecided voters. When a question was asked of Trump, he delivered his answers to the audience, “playing to the crowd,” in theatrical parlance. When questions were asked of Clinton, she delivered most of her answer to the asker.

Evidently, she took a lesson that her husband had learned from his campaign manager in the 1992 election. James Carville, who was Bill Clinton’s advisor for that campaign, wrote in his memoir, All’s Fair: Love, War, and Running for President, “We did practice having the governor get off his stool and walk down to make contact with the man or woman asking the question…we would always remind him, ‘Go talk to that person. Be engaged in what he has to say.’”

Will history repeat?

This blog was originally published on Forbes as Donald Trump’s Moves on Monday, October 10, 2016.