Republican strategist and founding partner of OnMessage Inc. Brad Todd said surrogates on the presidential campaign can only do so much to help their candidate — and more often they hurt more than they help.
“Transference also in politics usually works in the negative and not the positive,” Todd told CNN’s “Party People” podcast hosts Kevin Madden and Mary Katharine Ham in a recent conversation. “You can hurt people more than you can help them a lot. It’s the rare politician who can transfer popularity. It’s just very difficult.”
Their comments cited the efforts of both President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, who both had high approval at the tail end of the presidential campaign but ultimately were unable to vault Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to victory.
Todd’s claim to fame from the 2016 campaign cycle perhaps comes most notably from comments he made about Donald Trump in August where Todd was the first commentator to say, “Voters take Trump seriously as a candidate, but they don’t take him literally,” whereas “the press takes Donald Trump literally but they don’t take him seriously.”
The comments, which first happened on MSNBC, were repeatedly used throughout the rest of the campaign trail, as shorthand for the disconnect between the perception in the media of Trump’s candidacy and his appeal to many voters.
“The voters knew that Trump wasn’t a politician and so they didn’t hold him to the same standards that they hold politicians to,” Todd told Ham and Madden, describing what led to his analysis.
“Whenever he did say some things that were slightly outlandish, it merely validated to them that he was a political outsider, not a combed politician,” he added.
To hear Todd talk about his latest column for The Federalist, what Democrats keep getting wrong about elections and the science behind political ad making, listen to CNN’s “Party People” podcast.
Get CNN’s “Party People” podcast at CNN, Stitcher, TuneInRadio or iTunes.