Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoonist-turned-pundit, told Breitbart News in an interview Sunday evening that Donald Trump could still win the 2016 presidential race — but that if Trump’s current approach persists, he will lose.
“His actions look like the actions of someone who is not trying to win at the moment,” Adams said. “Meaning that it would be so easy for him to win from this position, just by softening his stance, because people sort of want him to. And he has to know that, right?”
“So either he plans to do it, because he can wait ’til the end, the final month, and do it — or he knows more than we know, and there are some surprises coming. And it would be surprising if there were no surprises.
“But it’s also possible it’s just a long race, and he sees himself behind in the polls, and he’s having a down week, maybe he’s not as confident. That would be the normal thing to feel in this situation.
“But he’s also got to feel that he’s 70 years old, and doing that job for eight years is just going to be terrible, just terrible.”
Adams has previously argued that both Trump and Hillary Clinton are too old for the job: “My personal bias is that I don’t think any 70ish-year old person (Clinton or Trump) should be president. You wouldn’t hire a 70-year old into any other type of job that requires high energy, mental flexibility, and a possible eight-years of service,” he wrote recently.
However, Adams told Breitbart News he thinks that Trump can still pull off a “landslide” victory in November.
“I think he’s invested in winning. And I think his core personality is likely to re-emerge, which is ‘win at all costs,’ and I think that whatever that takes is likely.”
As evidence, he pointed to Trump’s “softening” of certain policies — such as shifting his immigration policy away from a temporary ban on Muslims to a ban on people from countries with links to terrorism.
That shift, Adams said, is less important for its precise details, and more for its persuasive effect in showing Trump is not as scary as the Clinton campaign suggests.
“The election has come down to nothing but persuasion,” Adams said, referring to the art of using words to change people’s behavior — an art Adams learned through his own training in hypnosis.
It was that training in persuasion that led Adams to predict, last August, that Trump would win the Republican primary and that he had a chance of winning the presidency.
“A year ago, when I was saying that persuasion is the factor that predicts more than anything else, it was in a context where almost everybody was trying to use facts and policies and pretend, at least, that persuasion was a thing only Trump was doing,” Adams told Breitbart News.
“But now, it’s full persuasion, both sides. The Clinton side isn’t making the slightest attempt to be rational at this point. Because it doesn’t work at all.”
He noted that the Clinton campaign has shifted away from discussing her experience and her policies, to stoking fear of Trump.
And that approach, he said, is working for Clinton in the general election — just as it worked for Trump in the primaries.
“Clinton stopped talking about her boring policies, and details, and her experience, and she went to pure persuasion. She went to the bigger scare.
“The reason that Trump had done so well is he used fear as his main persuasion point. ‘Hey, immigration will bring the terrorists in, ISIS is controlling the world, the economy is falling apart.’ Those are big fears. And that really helped. Because fear’s a good persuasion. And that was more effective than what Clinton had, which was, ‘I’m experienced, steady hand, same as before, blah blah.’ At a time when people wanted change, those are the very worst messages: ‘I’ll give you more of the same.'”
But then, he said, Clinton changed her approach — possibly because she hired a persuasion expert, whom he calls “Godzilla.”
“So what happened is she went for the biggest fear. She said, ‘Yeah, Trump’s telling you that terrorists will get in, blah blah, but you’re kind of living with that already, you’re a little bit used to that’ — these are my own words, I’m paraphrasing — ‘But the real thing to be afraid of is Trump himself. Because while a terrorist kill someone you probably don’t know, Trump could destroy the whole world with his erratic personality and his thin-skinnedness, and these things he’ll blurt out.’
“So the Clinton persuasion game went from non-existent, which I reported on for months, to solid-gold, weapons-grade, almost instantly, as soon as Bernie Sanders dropped out.”
Despite predicting a Trump win for months, Adams believes Clinton is now favored to win — and he does not believe that the polls are “rigged” overall, even if some may be. (A Breitbart/Gravis poll released Sunday evening showed Trump down by 5 in a four-way race.)
However, he told Breitbart News, Trump can turn his fortunes around — perhaps by focusing on corruption at the Clinton Foundation; by out-performing expectations at the first debate, which Adams believes he is almost certain to do; or by giving a serious-sounding speech to the nation.
“If he were surprisingly empathetic, and surprisingly non-racist, and his policies suddenly didn’t sound so scary, he would be dealing with the biggest problem he has, which is he’s literally scary.”
There is also the possibility of surprises — such as revelations about Clinton’s health, or new scoops from Wikileaks.
Most surprises would favor Trump, Adams noted, because much of what might shock the public about Trump is already “baked in” to the candidate.
Adams has said previously that neither political candidate matches his own political preferences, though he has endorsed Clinton for his personal safety. Once he started seeing himself compared to Joseph Goebbels, merely for noting Trump’s success, he worried someone might take that seriously.
After all, he told Breitbart News, the media have been convinced that Trump is Hitler, such that it has become “morally reprehensible” for journalists not to be biased against him.
Not that the assumption is rational, Adams notes. In the controversy over Khizr Khan, he said, Trump’s comments about the silence of Khan’s wife onstage at the Democratic National Convention were not, by themselves, controversial.
“The thing he got attacked for is something that — I have to swear to make this point — there isn’t one fucking person in the world who disagreed with him. Not one fucking person disagreed with what he clearly said, which is, ‘Why isn’t she talking?’ Because there’s nobody in the United States that I’ve ever met who doesn’t believe that Islam has some questions to answer about gender.”
That moment, he said, removed “any pretense the media had” about being unbiased.
But in the long run, Adams said, it does not matter who wins.
That is his consolation for Trump supporters, in the event of November disappointment:
“No matter which one gets elected, it’s not going to be that different. Because Congress is still Congress, and everything takes too long, and none of her ideas are probably totally practical, they’re campaign-type ideas.”
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.