The Difference Between Strategy And Tactics

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Over at the Weekly Standard, Jonathan V. Last makes the observation that “Trump is all tactics and no strategy. Clinton is all strategy and no tactics.” This, I think, is spot-on. And, as James Carville and Paul Begala wrote in their book Buck Up, Suck Up…and Come Back When You Foul Up, “Strategy is hard. Tactics are easy.”

It’s no surprise that Donald Trump is better at executing tactics than Clinton. But—much like the state senate candidate who does a great job of campaigning door-to-door in the wrong district—much of his effort is wasted, if not counterproductive.

Let’s take last night’s debate, for example. Trump landed some punches and kept Clinton on the defensive. Based on the challenge he faced coming into the debate, I think he performed surprisingly well.

But, in terms of winning the election in November, Trump needs to add voters. The best way to accomplish this would be to focus on “persuadable” voters who are not yet with him.

Some voters (say, Mexican-American men) are never going to support him in large numbers, but Trump could conceivably pick up the votes of college-educated Republican women.

So did Trump do anything to woo this important subset of voters? No way. If anything, he’s alienating them. Based on everything Trump has done in the last several weeks (making no apologies for his treatment of Alicia Machado, hovering over Hillary in the debate, etc.)—he has no interest in sucking up to this particular cohort.

There’s an old line (attributed to Emerson) that suggests: “The man who knows how will always have a job. The man who knows why will always be his boss.” The political equivalent of this would be that the person who thinks strategically will usually win the election.

I believe that Trump won the debate, in the moment. But this debate is but one battle in an epic war. And it is Hillary Clinton who is doing the things that are more likely to end in victory on Election Day.