Hillary Clinton told NBC's Chuck Todd on Sunday that the message of her campaign, when boiled down, amounted to two words: "Stronger together." She might be better off going with two different words: "Donald Trump."
That's according to a new NBC-Wall Street Journal national poll that makes very clear that Clinton's best selling point to lots and lots of voters is that she is not, well, him.
Asked to name one or two reasons they were supporting Clinton, 1 in 3 answered that "she is not Donald Trump." That was the leading reason, followed by "she has the right temperament and experience" (31 percent) and "she will build on the progress made by President Obama" (29 percent).
Among those same Clinton voters, more than half (52 percent) said that their vote was more against Trump than for Clinton (44 percent).
The reverse was also true. Fifty-four percent of Trump voters said their vote was more against Clinton than for Trump. More than 1 in 4 (28 percent) said one of the main reasons they are for Trump is because he's not her.
Trump has clearly grasped the power of the not-Hillary message. Everything he says and does — in person and on social media — is aimed at reminding people of some of the things they may not like about the Clintons and presenting himself as a straight-talking outsider alternative.
Clinton, on the other hand, has pledged to avoid getting into a daily back and forth with Trump, insisting that people want and deserve better out of a campaign for the nation's highest office. Well, maybe we deserve something better. But it's very debatable that it's what we want.
What the NBC-WSJ poll suggests that Clinton voters want from their chosen candidate is a message that goes something like this: "I am not Donald Trump. And I fundamentally disagree with him on the past and the future for our country."
That's it. Two sentences. Sort of like "Make America Great Again." Or "Crooked Hillary."
There's a tendency by politicians and their strategists to overthink things. Especially Democrats. Al Gore's entire 2000 presidential campaign, which went through roughly 1,000 messages, should have had only one: "Like Bill Clinton's policies? I am the guy who can continue them."
There's a danger here for Clinton to try to make this election — under the aegis of "stronger together" — about 100 things when, really, voters only want one: You aren't going to be Trump, right?
Simple works in politics. "Hope and change." "Morning in America." "Compassionate conservatism." Yes, I will acknowledge that "I am not Donald Trump" doesn't have the lyrical and inspirational feel of those others. But Clinton isn't exactly beloved by this electorate, either.
This election isn't about winning as much as it is about not losing. And Clinton's best strategy not to lose is to keep reminding people that she is the candidate not named Donald Trump.