Controlling the Narrative – Republican Primary

January 22, 2024

Donald Trump has controlled the narrative in the Republican primaries and will very likely win the nomination for president. There are lessons we can learn and apply from this process.

  1. Ownership: All of the candidates were running on some variation of Trump’s messaging, so they had difficulty differentiating themselves from him and charting their true north. Owning the narrative gives you maximum positioning. It allows you to determine the cadence and focus of the conversation. Always try to achieve message dominance when managing an issue.
  2. Parameters: Strategy places constraints on all messaging. It requires both a broader and longer term view than simply gaining the short term advantage. Republican challenger attacks against Trump took place within defined boundaries. In doing so they avoided the “win-lose” outcome I talk about in my book where you gain short term advantage but in doing so sow the seeds for losing in the end. All of the candidates instead choose the “lose-win” outcome and in doing so several may end up in a Trump administration should he win. Assess the boundaries of your narrative as an issues manager.
  3. Messenger: Joe Biden can deliver very different messages than Republican primary candidates in his criticism of Trump. The opponent has the full arsenal at his disposal. Biden can attack Trump on the 91 charges he faces in four jurisdictions and call his supporters “MAGA extremists.” Trump’s Republican challengers were not free to go there and remain viable to win the general election. It is important to understand who can say what when you are managing an issue.