WASHINGTON — For your sake, I hope you’ve been busy and are just now beginning to focus on the upcoming election. Yes, that one.
If you’ve indeed been so fortunate, here’s a catch-up lexicon, one you’ll find useful when communicating with those who have been immersed 24/7 in “the most important election of our lifetime.”
—Pivot. This is when a candidate realizes his most important points are disgusting to a majority of voters and decides to do a verbal slight-of-hand in an attempt to sound reasonable and intelligent. It rarely works. But it results in a major speech to set the record straight, which is heavily covered by the media, a real sucker for pivots, real or imagined.
—Wheelhouse. This means you’re in control of your campaign and your message. As in, she thinks she is and then a bunch of emails gets released or people fret about her foundation and that’s all the media wants to talk about instead of her plans. As in, he thinks he is and then something stupid pops out of his mouth.
—Opposition research. This is the spy-like stuff of political legend whereby one side digs up dirt on the other. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s team reads newspapers and watches TV to find out what Republican opponent Donald Trump just said. Trump’s people figure out how to get the words “emails,” “crooked” and “foundation” into every sentence.
—Likely voter. The aim of every pollster is to find this elusive person, someone who will vote Nov. 8 in “the only poll that really matters” — Election Day. Huge numbers of people who have been spouting off on TV abut Trump and Clinton for the last year are not registered to vote, will not vote, do not know where their polling station is and will feel no compunction about complaining for the next four years about whoever wins.
—Ground game. This is about contacting every likely voter and presenting him or her with a yard sign, bumper sticker, brochure, button and potential ride to the voting booth. Trump’s ground game is almost invisible, leading some to speculate he got in this for the notoriety and to boost his bottom line but is now too proud to bow out.
—Electoral College. This is not a real place and has no ivy (as neither did Trump U) but is the euphemism to denote that the president is not elected by popular vote. Each state has a set number of votes that Electoral College delegates will cast in December, unless the election is tied and the Supreme Court decides the winner.
—Campaign manager. This is a swinging-door job; nobody is quite certain at any given moment who has it. If the candidate makes a really bad move, the campaign manager takes the blame and leaves. The candidate hires somebody else who goes on TV to announce a new strategy devised by the candidate until said candidate lays another egg. The shuffling chairs give pundits something to bloviate about instead of how accident-prone the candidate is, unless he is Trump and the question is, “Will they let Trump be Trump?”
—Debate prep. This is the crucial process of grooming the candidate to go on TV before the world to debate his or her opponent. Clinton’s people boast she, in advance of the first debate, set for late September, has been cramming like crazy to vacuum up as many facts as there are. Trump’s people boast that he has been stuffing his face with hamburgers at his vacation house and practicing insult jokes with his buddy, ousted Fox News head Roger Ailes.
—Down ballot. This refers to all those other races — one-third of the Senate, the entire House of Representatives, city, state and county seats that will be decided this year. Republicans are terrified that if Trump loses, Democrats will walk away with these jobs.
—Surrogates. These are people who have a lot at stake in their candidate and are not afraid to call the opponent bad names on TV no matter how undignified or opportunistic it makes the surrogates look.
—Rigged election. Trump shouts that the system is rigged, in case he loses. This year it might be true — Russians hacked Democratic National Committee computers and are trying to hack local election machines as well.
This is a partial list. There are two months to go.
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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at [email protected]