Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday since 1997.
It may seem strange that a candidate who generalized about Mexicans as rapists, denied knowing the identity of ex-KKK leader David Duke, called for banning Muslims from entering the U.S. and entertained the prospect of punishing women who get abortions would try appealing to Democrats and Bernie Sanders supporters on certain serious issues.
But as a strategy, it would not be too bizarre to see Republican Donald Trump try in some ways to run to the left of Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Clinton voted in the U.S. Senate for the Iraq War — an albatross revived by Sanders eight years after Barack Obama used it against her in his own 2008 primary campaign. In debate, Trump cited the war carried out by President George W. Bush to harangue rival Jeb Bush, who is now long gone from GOP contention.
Never mind that barely a decade ago, radio talker Rush Limbaugh called those who protested the Iraq occupation as “anti-American, anti-capitalist Marxists and communists.” Or that Trump was once a contributor to Clinton’s Senate fundraising committee.
Partner and spouse Bill Clinton advanced the North American Free Trade Agreement now widely derided on the left and right alike by critics including Trump.
And Trump’s stated position that “NATO is obsolete and it’s extremely expensive for the United States,” or his positive talk about Russia’s intervention in Syria, departs from Clinton stances as well as Republican lawmakers’.
This is all apart from the billionaire’s tactically “encouraging” Sanders via Twitter this week to run as a third-party candidate — a move that could of course help the blustery billionaire siphon Clinton votes in a general election.
On Israel and Palestine, Trump said, “Let me be sort of a neutral guy” before adjusting his rhetoric to appeal to the American Israel Political Action Committee. Clinton had cited that statement to suggest Trump would be untrustworthy as an ally of Israel.
One strategy used by politicians is to persuade skeptics to at least not come out for their opponents. In a general election, Trump would benefit from Democratic or independent voters persuaded to conclude: “I don’t like him, but I don’t like her either. They’re no different, so I’ll skip Election Day.”
And there is billionaire conservative activist Charles Koch’s statement this week in a TV interview that it’s possible he could support Clinton over either Trump or Cruz. “We would have to believe her actions would be quite different than her rhetoric. Let me put it that way,” Koch said.
Once the general election gets underway, everyone’s marketing gets recast. Just as the Republican candidate wouldn’t mind attracting or neutralizing dissident Democrats, it may be the kind of election where a Democratic candidate like Clinton sees a way of attracting or neutralizing Republican voters.
In other words, it will soon be time to get out that Etch A Sketch.