Authenticity is Donald Trump’s crowning political strength and his fatal flaw. Those two conflicting aspects of his brief political career are about to crash into each other.
Polling shows that Trump’s strongest attribute among Republican voters is that he “speaks his mind” or “tells it like it is.” In every state that has held a Republican primary or caucus, he holds a huge – excuse me, a “yuuuuuge” – advantage over Ted Cruz among voters who think that’s the most important quality in a candidate; his margins over Cruz by that measure range from 45% to 80%, says polling compiled by the New York Times. Trump’s second-strongest trait is that he’s “outside the political establishment.” On that dimension also he has trounced Cruz, by 30% to 70%, in every state among voters who consider that attribute most important.
Trump has racked up those giant margins among a certain group of voters by being himself. Alone among presidential candidates, he has no stump speech, no mental list of carefully strategized talking points. He just shows up and vents. On many important issues he seemingly doesn’t know what he thinks until he starts talking about it. He sins against political correctness several times every day. He talks like a real person, unfiltered, not like a politician. At a campaign event in Pennsylvania yesterday he asked the crowd, “How’s Joe Paterno?,” apparently unaware that the legendary Penn State football coach died four years ago. But, well, he was being real. That’s why his supporters love him.
The problem, which can no longer be dodged, is that it’s also why most Americans can’t stand him. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that 67% of U.S. adults have an unfavorable impression of him. Some 53% of adults have a “strongly unfavorable” impression; he tops Cruz on that unfortunate measure by 20 points. If Trump gets the Republican nomination, he’ll be the most disliked major-party nominee in at least 32 years.
Not wanting to be “a loser,” Trump is belatedly addressing this problem. In recent weeks he has hired a delegate strategist, Paul Manafort, and a high-level campaign adviser, Rick Wiley. The strategy taking shape will have Trump making a series of speeches on such major issues as the economy and foreign policy. Trump will read these speeches from texts written by professional speechwriters. No ad-libbing. The objective is to recast him among the majority who loathe him by making him sound serious, intelligent, thoughtful.
You can see the problem. He’ll sound just like a politician. He’ll be filtered, careful, the opposite of what his supporters love. His handlers hope they’ll be giving everyone something to like. But psychologists know that as we form judgments about others, negatives are far more influential than positives. It seems possible that Trump’s strategy could disaffect at least some of his supporters while doing little to attract others.
Authenticity is powerful in a leader, for better and for worse. The ideal candidate, unlike Trump, would be authentically serious, intelligent, thoughtful, optimistic, and likable – someone like, say, Paul Ryan. But apparently he’s not an option this year.
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What We’re Reading Today
Shareholders reject BP CEO’s raise
Shareholders voted against BP CEO Bob Dudley‘s 20% pay increase for a year in which the company lost $5.2 billion. Some of BP’s largest shareholders joined in the 59% “no” vote, which is non-binding. Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg said the board will review BP’s pay policy and report back to shareholders after discussing it further. BBC
Valeant talks to investment banks about asset sale
The troubled pharmaceutical company is seeking advice as it considers selling assets to help it service a heavy debt load. Interest in some of its businesses is apparently high. Outgoing CEO J. Michael Pearson and activist board member Bill Ackman say the company is weighing the sale of “noncore assets.” Fortune
Microsoft sues the Justice Dept.
Satya Nadella‘s company has filed suit over the Justice Department’s use of gag orders that bar Microsoft from telling customers when the government gets a warrant to search their emails. Microsoft claims the gag orders are unconstitutional and says the government is exploiting the shift to cloud computing, which makes it easier for authorities to search emails without the owner’s knowledge. Justice says it “is reviewing the filing.” NYT
The Democratic debate gets heated
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders didn’t hold back in last night’s debate in Brooklyn, as hostility between the two candidates boiled to the surface. Sanders said he’s doing something radical by telling Americans “the truth.” Clinton attacked his stance on breaking up big banks without any clear plan for doing so. The heated exchanges highlight the importance of Tuesday’s New York primary, which Clinton hopes will end any remaining chance for Sanders, who desperately needs a strong showing to continue his underdog run. Washington Post
Building a Better Leader
56% of hiring managers have caught a lie on a resume
What the candidate lies about determines whether the employer may look the other way. Fibbing about year of graduation might be okay; about the school from which the candidate graduated, no. Fast Company
74% of voters support requiring employers to provide…
…paid parental leave. And the support is bipartisan. Fortune
Holograms make their way into corporate meetings
Accenture CEO Pierre Nanterme beamed himself into a confab with 500 company execs. Inc.
Yahoo bidders unsure what’s for sale
As companies consider submitting bids for Yahoo’s internet business, due Monday, they’re having trouble getting detailed financial information from the company. Some have even indicated they’re unsure what’s for sale. In addition, many details of CEO Marissa Mayer‘s plans for the core business, such as a project to develop a new mobile search experience, are thin. At least some bidders, notably Lowell McAdam‘s Verizon, will likely bid anyway. NYT
Starbucks CEO talks to Target employees
Target CEO Brian Cornell invited Howard Schultz to discuss how Starbucks overcame a down period when it had grown too fast and became too bureaucratic. Target is still recovering from problems with similar issues, when it focused on low prices rather than on merchandise that connected with customers. Schultz, whose cafes are in 1,300 Targets across the U.S., said Starbucks had to get back to basics before turning things around. Fortune
Vladimir Putin apologizes to Goldman Sachs
The Russian president issued an apology to the bank over comments he made on the leak of the Panama Papers. In an annual call-in show, Putin had claimed that the German newspaper that first reported the Mossack Fonseca leak was owned by Goldman Sachs, implying that the bank provided the documents. But Goldman doesn’t own the paper. NBC News
Up or Out
Fortune Reads and Videos
Bill Gates comments on the Americans named in the Panama Papers
“I was surprised there were so few,” he said. Fortune
“Uber for kids” is shutting down
Shuddle, which transported kids to activities, couldn’t attract enough funding to continue. Fortune
Oracle will donate $200 million…
…in an effort to teach kids to code. Fortune
ESPN sees the next NASCAR…
…in drone racing. Fortune
Quote of the Day
“Over the past 18 months, federal courts have issued nearly 2,600 secrecy orders silencing Microsoft from speaking about warrants and other legal process seeking Microsoft customers’ data…These twin developments — the increase in government demands for online data and the simultaneous increase in secrecy — have combined to undermine confidence in the privacy of the cloud and have impaired Microsoft’s right to be transparent with its customers.” — Microsoft’s lawsuit against the Justice Department, claiming the agency is overusing gag orders in investigations of customer emails. Consumerist
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