If you’re searching for an explanation for Donald Trump’s relatively modest surge in the crowded Republican presidential field, look no further than this story from the Washington Post’s Philip Rucker:
One day in May, operatives from a Washington-based super PAC gathered New Hampshire mayors, state representatives and local politicos at St. Anselm College for a day of training.
They rehearsed their personal tales of how they met Hillary Rodham Clinton and why they support her for president. They sharpened their defenses of her record as secretary of state. They scripted their arguments for why the Democratic front-runner has been “a lifetime champion of income opportunity.” And they polished their on-camera presentations in a series of mock interviews.
The objective of the sessions: to nurture a seemingly grass roots echo chamber of Clinton supporters reading from the same script across the communities that dot New Hampshire, a critical state that hosts the nation’s first presidential primary.
Rucker goes on to note the pro-Clinton PAC Correct the Record has also trained local supporters in Iowa, South Carolina, and Nevada. As one reporter on Twitter joked, “Nothing is authentic.” Perhaps that's not a joke to many Americans. Presidential campaigns look and feel increasingly choreographed, almost like concerts or reality shows. There was more than a ring of truth to an online comedy video that imagines the strategy session for Hillary Clinton’s now-famous trip to an Ohio Chipotle this spring.
So small wonder some voters in both parties are gravitating to candidates who seem the least scripted. Among Democrats, Bernie Sanders isn’t gaining traction against Clinton by being a polished, attractive alternative, as Barack Obama was in 2008. Instead, the often disheveled-looking Sanders strikes a chord of authenticity in his rambling, funny speeches Clinton could never hope to emulate.
Republicans likely see similar assets in the Donald. Trump’s comments about illegal immigrants from Mexico may rankle his corporate partners and earn him scorn throughout the political world, but they’re so clearly and obviously not focus-grouped. Compared to a campaign whose supporters are literally given scripts from which to read, that has to be refreshing.