Strategist: Trump has voters' attention, but he must do more to keep it

While Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s immigration stance may have propelled him into the top spot in the polls, David Winston -- pollster, strategist and president of the Washington D.C.-based Winston Group -- said that for Trump to maintain his spot, he must now show the electorate a detailed immigration plan.

“The attitude about our country is about as low as it’s been; people are pessimistic about the state of the country and the political discourse hasn’t been satisfactory,” Winston said. “Trump is coming out on immigration, and voters want to hear a different discourse. Essentially, the GOP is playing 52-card-pick-up with Trump -- immigration is his entry point, but whether or not his supporters stay with him isn’t clear.”

Trump has made immigration an issue, but Winston said he believes the 2016 election will come down to jobs and the economy. “That’s where the center of gravity is in terms of where the electorate is.”
Winston said Trump’s No. 1 spot in the polls at this time isn’t unusual for the GOP. “Front-runners may only hold their position for a few weeks. The GOP and supporters will want to look at his policies, and then they’ll decide to stay or move onto someone else.”

Trump’s position among the other hopefuls will be more easily measured in the next few weeks, Winston said. “So far, Trump’s position on immigration is for Mexico to pay for the wall.” Winston said several other Republican candidates are of the same mind.

What Trump must do next, Winston said, is to clearly define what elements of immigration he wants to deal with, then lay out a detailed plan on how to get there.

“People have concerns with immigration and want them addressed. How do we get to an immigration conclusion? That’s what the electorate is looking for. What do you do with the immigrants who are already here? What is his broad immigration policy -- letting in more or less? Trump needs to work through those pieces.”

And, of course, all of the media attention Trump has received in the last two weeks --  leading up to Thursday’s GOP debate, where Trump will be center stage -- hasn’t hurt his cause either.

“Now the electorate wants to get a feel for him. They will hear what he has to say and then they’ll come to a conclusion. And they’ll do that with virtually any candidate.”

Trump must now translate media attention into policy, Winston said.

“He’s got to tell the electorate how to make the economy work and move the country forward; he’s got to go from attention to the quality and value of his policy content in order to sustain that support.”