Super Tuesday is just days away, and Donald Trump is already cruising toward the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. He’s won three states in a row in rather spectacular fashion (winning by 20 points in New Hampshire, by 10 points in South Carolina, and by 22 points in Nevada) and there’s no sign that his delegate lead will be threatened heading into Tuesday’s so-called SEC primary.
Meanwhile, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz are busy bickering over who gets to win the Second Place Is The First Loser trophy, Ohio Gov. John Kasich is taking a break from pimping Obamacare so he can openly muse about why he’s even in the race, and Ben Carson is shopping for a an electron microscope that might allow him to catch a glimpse of his minuscule poll numbers.
So is there any hope of beating Donald Trump at this point? Can he be stopped? I think he can, but only if the rest of the candidates follow a very specific playbook. Donald Trump’s playbook, in fact. Here’s how to beat Donald Trump in just four easy steps using his own playbook.
1) Get Free Media Instead Of Buying Ads
There are two types of media when it comes to campaigning: earned media, which consists mostly of news coverage, and paid media, which includes any and all ads that a candidate might air over the course of a campaign. Paid media is expensive. Earned media is free. And earned media also generally has the benefit of being viewed as fair and objective. A paid ad is received skeptically. But that tidbit you heard about so-and-so on the news? That has a lot more credibility.
Donald Trump thrives on earned media. He’s built his campaign around it. Instead of paying tens of millions of dollars for ads, he releases an ad on the Internet and waits for the news media to replay it ad nauseum, resulting in a far bigger audience (and better reception) than anything you could ever get from a paid advertisement.
When you’re in a race with Donald Trump, do as Donald Trump does: just get tens of millions of dollars’ worth of free airtime on every broadcast and cable news network. Get cable network talk show hosts to turn the keys to their studio over to you and let you run their shows day after day and night after night. Don’t buy ads like a moron. Just get free media. That’s step one.
2) Let The Other Candidates Attack Each Other Instead Of You
Step two is to skate through the race without ever facing a sustained barrage of attacks from your competitors. This one is really important. If you can just convince those other idiots to fight over your table scraps instead of punching you in the face and stealing your lunch, you’ll be golden. Sure, one of them might take a swing at you every now and again, but that’s easy to deal with. What you don’t want is all of them ganging up on you at once for the entirety of a two-hour prime-time network debate just days ahead of a major primary.
Donald Trump has been the master of this strategy. Granted, it helps to have competitors who are too stupid to realize that the front-runner is winning race after race after race while they fight over who gets to be the top loser versus Trump. Still, Trump has stumbled onto a fool-proof campaign strategy: don’t get attacked during debates, and don’t get attacked with tens of millions of dollars’ worth of attack ads. That’s step two. Simple, right?
3) Say Ridiculous Things Without Consequence
Step three is the ability to say anything–literally anything–regardless of how stupid it is or how much it contradicts that other thing you said like five seconds ago. This step cannot be stressed enough. If you can say whatever pops into your head at any given moment without having to worry about anyone holding you accountable for it, you’ll be untouchable.
First you’re for amnesty, then you’re against it. First you want to invade a country, then you want to pretend you opposed that invasion the whole time. You said Hillary Clinton was awesome and gave her money and paid her to go to your wedding, but now she’s totally the worst. You say Obamacare is icky while simultaneously praising the individual mandate and pining for a single-payer, government-run system. You’re pro-choice in every respect, but also you hate abortion, and oh yeah, Planned Parenthood is pretty cool and should definitely get taxpayer money.
Not being held accountable for anything you say is essential if you want to beat Trump using Trump’s playbook. A person who can say anything can get away with anything. Just ask Hillary!
4) Avoid Any Real Media Vetting Of Your Background
The fourth and final step is key, especially for a Republican.
The media wants to cover a candidate, but there are only two types of campaign coverage: over-the-top fawning, and over-the-top criticism. Democrats usually get the former, and Republicans usually get the latter. You want the former. To get that treatment, you either need to be a liberal-in-good-standing, a celebrity, or both. Donald Trump found the sweet spot: he’s a lifelong liberal who supported Obama and gave money to Hillary, and he’s a celebrity. Win-win. Step four is complete.
See how easy it is? All the other candidates have to do to beat Trump is follow his playbook of getting constant free media attention, letting the other idiot candidates attack each other instead of him, saying ridiculous things without consequence, and avoiding any real sort of media vetting of his background.
The final Republican debate before Super Tuesday airs tonight at 8:30 p.m. EST, giving us yet another opportunity to see if Cruz or Rubio is willing to follow these four easy steps to defeat Donald Trump.