Trump picks unwinnable fight with Gold Star Family

SMU experts are available for interview on all things related to the current state of the presidential race.

DALLAS (SMU)SMU experts are available for interview on all things related to the current state of the presidential race. A full list of available faculty and their areas of expertise is available here.



Donald Trump hasn’t exactly shot out of the gates after two weeks of party conventions. On the contrary, he stepped into a number of fresh controversies over the weekend, with none more glaring than his feud with the Khans, a Gold Star family that spoke at the Democratic National Convention.

“This could be a rare instance of Trump actually going too far,” Martin says. “Trump demonstrates all the time that he has no ability to be in the political arena and rise above the fray, and be about someone or something other than himself. Everything is about people treating him unfairly, and that pettiness is just not how most political candidates behave.”

Rising above the fray is Trump’s best shot for winning the election, says Martin. Not because he can win it with soaring oratory, but because he needs to get out of the way so Hillary Clinton’s own missteps can find the necessary oxygen to catch flame with the media.

“Clinton was so stupid on Fox News this weekend because she needs to stop trying to claim she didn’t lie about the email server,” Martin says, referencing Clinton’s past innacurate statements about her email server to the press. “If Hillary Clinton isn’t elected, it will be because of the emails, so she has to get that through her head if she intends on winning.”

Should Trump gain enough composure to let the election become about Clinton instead of himself, the one demographic that’s been loyal to him since the beginning might be enough to carry the election – white working-class men.

“You could see a Trump presidency because of those working-class white men,” Martin says. “Don’t forget, Sanders won the Michigan primary, and for the Clinton campaign that should remain the danger signal. Something happened in Michigan that they must never forget because if they forget it, they could lose. They have to fix whatever happened there.”

Martin is an SMU assistant professor of Communication Studies in the Meadows School of the Arts. She can discuss:

  • economic messages in political campaigns
  • presidential campaign strategy
  • religious voters and evangelical social movements




Trump made waves this weekend when he said the NFL had sent him a letter complaining about presidential debates being scheduled on the same nights of football games – a letter the NFL denies sending. But it does raise a pertinent question: Were the debates poorly scheduled?

“I have been saying for a long time before this campaign that there are flaws in the presidential debate commission and they really need to do a better job,” Voth says. “Trump’s complaints are hyperbolic, but that’s almost a given. Personally, I’d say the NFL ought to change the times and nights of their games.”

Voth puts the onus on the NFL because he says the debates are simply too important to be at the mercy of outside forces. He also points out that, though NFL games might pry some eyes, they aren’t a threat to the debates’ ratings.

“This is something where 60 to 80 million people will watch,” Voth says. “The conventions got 20 to 25 million viewers, by comparison. Presidential debates are the super bowls of politics, and it’s fair to say that because the Super Bowl is the only TV event of the year bigger than the first presidential debate of each season.”

The first presidential debate is also the Super Bowl of winning undecided voters – and that’s why Voth thinks any speculation of Trump skipping the debates is a lot of hot air.

“The first presidential debate is one of the pivotal events of the campaign for undecided voters,” Voth says. “Trump is functionally the challenge candidate and Clinton is functionally the incumbent, and almost every incumbent has lost debate No. 1 going back to Nixon. I also think Trump has learned that skipping one of the Republican debates cost him Iowa, so I think he’ll be on the stage unless he’s way ahead in the October polls, which is unlikely.”

Voth is SMU’s director of debate and an associate professor of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs. He can discuss:

  • debate prep
  • debate strategy
  • comparisons between this debate season and the 2012 election’s debate season