Trump's secret weapon: Legions of supporters spreading his message

A sea of thousands of "Make America Great Again" hats were bobbing to "Macho Man" in the packed arena when t...

Posted: Oct 24, 2018 11:51 AM
Updated: Oct 24, 2018 11:51 AM

A sea of thousands of "Make America Great Again" hats were bobbing to "Macho Man" in the packed arena when the dire warnings about the consequences of a Democratic takeover of Congress began.

"They've become the party of crime. They have that mob mentality. They're not about jobs," he said, warning that a Democratic House takeover would spell one thing: "Chaos."

2016 Presidential election

Brett Kavanaugh

Continents and regions

Donald Trump

Elections (by type)

Elections and campaigns

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

Government organizations - US

Houston

Midterm elections

North America

Political candidates

Political events

Political Figures - US

Political organizations

Political rallies

Politics

Southwestern United States

Texas

The Americas

United States

US federal court system

US Federal elections

US federal government

US political parties

US Presidential elections

US Republican Party

US Supreme Court

White House

Then, he turned to stoking immigration fears, drawing on the caravan of several thousand migrants inching toward the southern US border and a slew of baseless claims.

"What happens if tomorrow morning everybody from South America, Mexico -- I'm not talking 5,000, 20,000, I'm talking 5 million, 10 million, 15 million people -- wake up tomorrow morning and say, 'Why don't we all just go to the United States and invade the country?' " he said. "You're gonna be like, 'Oh my God, what are we gonna do now?' You're not gonna be able to take your kids to the mall, to go eat ..."

And all of that was before President Donald Trump took the stage.

The comments belonged to Arnold Garcia, a 57-year-old hair salon owner from the Houston suburb of Woodlands for whom Trump rallies have become part of his daily routine.

"I get home from the gym, I have them recorded and I watch them," he said. "I have not missed one."

But Garcia is just one of multitudes of Trump supporters who, just like in 2016, are internalizing the President's political messaging and distributing it -- to friends, neighbors, coworkers and prodding reporters -- in the run-up to the midterm election.

With just two weeks until the election, Trump is applying his 2016 playbook to his midterm messaging, turning to his uncanny ability to connect with voters in plainspoken, often emotional terms to drive his base to the polls. This time, it's to protect Republican majorities in Congress.

Since hitting the road in earnest in recent weeks, Trump has made his closing argument to voters ahead of the midterms, distilling the election in just a few words that repeatedly came up in interviews with voters at Trump's Houston rally -- words he will continue hammering as he prepares to host at least 10 more rallies before Election Day.

Turning supporters into surrogates

When Trump took the stage in Houston on Tuesday night he repeated his midterm campaign talking points that Garcia and a half-dozen other supporters had already offered up in interviews with CNN moments earlier.

"The caravan ... is an assault on our country. That's an assault. And in that caravan, you have some very bad people," Trump said, as if echoing Garcia, rather than the other way around.

Later, he offered: "The choice in November could not be more clear. Democrats produce mobs. Republicans produce jobs. Right?"

"This will be the election of the caravan, Kavanaugh, law and order, tax cuts, and common sense," Trump said in Houston, as he did at his most recent rallies last week.

Republicans vying for re-election are also picking up on it. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Trump's onetime 2016 nemesis, drew on Trump's framing as he delivered opening remarks at the rally: "Do we embrace jobs or do we give in to mobs?"

Republican and Democratic strategists agree that Trump has a unique knack for effectively communicating his ideas to his supporters and watching them spread like wildfire, a key to his success in 2016. And rather than instilling new ideas, Trump largely focuses on taking widely held views and branding them.

"The President has an incredible, kind of remarkable ability to sum very complex ideas in a kitchen table language. And that's where his voters sit, they sit at the kitchen table," said Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign adviser. "We've been talking about the mob violence and the craziness that went on at the Kavanaugh hearings, and the President summed it up in: jobs vs. mobs."

David Axelrod, President Barack Obama's former strategist, agreed that Trump "has a genius for this."

"Part of his genius is he takes simple and easily digestible -- and often disturbing -- ideas and just pounds them relentlessly. And they become part of the ecosystem," Axelrod said.

And while translating a political base's support for a president into enthusiasm for the midterms can be a challenge, Axelrod said an uptick in Republican enthusiasm in recent weeks suggests Trump is "having more success than most presidents do," but noted that Trump "continues to galvanize the opposition" as well.

The newest lines Trump is deploying for the midterms were already catching on before Trump took the stage in Houston. Just as Garcia echoed Trump's "jobs vs. mobs" mantra, Mary Ann Quimby homed in on Trump's recent focus on the consequences of a Democratic takeover of Congress.

"They're crazy. They're socialists," said Quimby, a 63-year-old from Bryan, Texas, who was passing out campaign signs with signature Trump slogans. "They would ruin this country ... If we don't keep the government like it is now, America is going to go down the tubes -- and that's a fact."

Later that night, Trump would warn that Democrats "want to replace freedom with socialism" and "take a giant wrecking ball and destroy our country and our economy" if they won majorities in Congress.

The same boogeymen, the same words

It's not just that Trump's voters are articulating the same ideas. They're framing issues in the same way, pointing to the same boogeymen and even using the same words.

But Republican strategists fighting to stave off a Democratic wave of support in the midterms threatening, especially, Republican control of the House are hopeful that Trump's rhetoric and his message to his base is helping amp up Republican turnout.

They are betting on Trump turning out voters like Carri Slaughter, 50, and Sherri Parris, 47, who drove roughly four hours to Trump's rally in Houston from Fort Worth. Both said they did not regularly vote in the midterms, but said they were motivated to do so this year.

"Right now, I'm worried about the House. I do not want Democrats taking it over. And I don't want Democrats getting control of the House and shoving Trump out," Slaughter said. "I've never been this determined. This is an important election."

Both women pointed to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's contentious confirmation, Trump's stalwart defense of his nominee and Democrats handling of the confirmation process as a key motivating factor.

"We like beer," Slaughter joked, referring to Kavanaugh's defense of his high school drinking.

"I liked beer, and I still like beer," Parris added.

Andy Surabian, a former Trump campaign and White House official who now advises the President's eldest son, likened Trump's effectiveness at conveying ideas and talking points to his supporters to that of conservative radio hosts, who like Trump, spend hours each week -- sometimes each day -- in their listener's ears. But ultimately, Surabian said, it comes down to authenticity.

"He distills what people already intrinsically believe. If there wasn't some truth to his catchphrases, then they wouldn't catch on," Surabian said. "They're not only representative of what they actually believe, they can see it's what Trump believes, too."

But Trump's ability to drill his message into his supporters is facing new and unexpected headwinds. While local news continues to offer heavy coverage of Trump's rallies, the major news networks -- including Fox News -- are largely abandoning the full, unedited live airings of his rallies.

For that, the President will need to rely on supporters like Russell Coker to spread their own message.

"I stay so busy that I just really don't keep up with all of it like I should. My wife is at home, I've got two small kids so I focus on their sort of -- so they're taken care of and their future," said Coker, a 34-year-old who lives near Waco, Texas. "Best I can tell, I've got more money in my pocket now, so I think things are going well."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 501097

Reported Deaths: 9990
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34338538
DeSoto32117403
Hinds31939628
Jackson24494382
Rankin21995390
Lee15543235
Madison14581280
Jones13851242
Forrest13453251
Lauderdale11991317
Lowndes11050188
Lamar10521135
Pearl River9533237
Lafayette8550140
Hancock7732127
Washington7438158
Oktibbeha7146131
Monroe6777177
Warren6694176
Pontotoc6664102
Neshoba6637206
Panola6531131
Marshall6467134
Bolivar6317148
Union602894
Pike5820152
Alcorn5669101
Lincoln5436135
George496879
Scott472898
Tippah469281
Prentiss467281
Leflore4658144
Itawamba4636105
Tate4588111
Adams4587119
Copiah448592
Simpson4446116
Yazoo444187
Wayne439772
Covington428894
Sunflower4239105
Marion4226108
Coahoma4160105
Leake408288
Newton381779
Grenada3707108
Stone360364
Tishomingo359792
Attala331589
Jasper329965
Winston314291
Clay308076
Chickasaw300367
Clarke292494
Calhoun279446
Holmes267987
Smith264050
Yalobusha234047
Tallahatchie228051
Greene219348
Walthall218763
Lawrence212940
Perry205556
Amite205156
Webster202946
Noxubee186740
Montgomery179656
Jefferson Davis171743
Carroll169138
Tunica159839
Benton148838
Kemper141941
Choctaw133426
Claiborne132737
Humphreys129538
Franklin120228
Quitman106428
Wilkinson105139
Jefferson94534
Sharkey64120
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 819597

Reported Deaths: 15406
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1147901924
Mobile725791338
Madison52306697
Shelby37597350
Baldwin37245552
Tuscaloosa35101612
Montgomery34106740
Lee23526246
Calhoun22225488
Morgan20941378
Etowah19825500
Marshall18361304
Houston17384412
St. Clair16054339
Cullman15443293
Limestone15343199
Elmore15241286
Lauderdale14302295
Talladega13836283
DeKalb12649261
Walker11202370
Blount10192176
Autauga10043148
Jackson9871184
Coffee9210191
Dale8897185
Colbert8860201
Tallapoosa7084198
Escambia6772134
Covington6712183
Chilton6641162
Russell636659
Franklin5959105
Chambers5607142
Marion5005127
Dallas4973200
Pike4795106
Clarke475584
Geneva4571127
Winston4516103
Lawrence4321117
Bibb425186
Barbour357776
Marengo338090
Monroe331464
Randolph329764
Butler326396
Pickens316284
Henry312666
Hale311388
Cherokee302860
Fayette292880
Washington251551
Cleburne247760
Crenshaw245275
Clay243368
Macon234663
Lamar224147
Conecuh186153
Coosa180240
Lowndes175164
Wilcox168839
Bullock151644
Perry138840
Sumter133038
Greene126744
Choctaw88527
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
80° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 81°
Columbus
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 73°
Oxford
Partly Cloudy
79° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 80°
Starkville
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 73°
Clear cool and dry to begin your weekend, but both afternoons should be a little bit above what we expect for this time of year temperature wise. Rain chances begin to return late Sunday night, with at least two chances for storms over the next week, summer could be strong.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather