CNN's 'Unprecedented': 'Common sense,' Trump's campaign strategy from the get-go

Story highlights

  • In the days after Mitt Romney's 2012 loss, Donald Trump began discussing 2016
  • Trump adviser Sam Nunberg explains why "The idea of the wall is genius'

(CNN)Donald Trump and his political advisers decided early on that two words would drive the billionaire's campaign for president: Common sense.

For more than two decades, Trump had begun simplifying the problems facing the United States as he contemplated a future in politics, reducing complex global issues to a black-and-white dichotomy that made the choice confronting US leaders appear simple and straightforward. And as he began preparing for his 2016 campaign, Trump quickly applied that same mantra.
In the days after Mitt Romney's 2012 loss, Trump began discussing the 2016 campaign with his primary political adviser -- at the time Roger Stone -- and quickly trademarked the phrase: "Make America Great Again."
    That was the first sign of the campaign strategy Sam Nunberg, one of Trump's political advisers who helped him launch his 2016 bid, summed up in two words.
    "Common sense," the former Trump adviser said. "The Republican primary voter will want it. And Washington will immediately tell you, 'You can't do that.' That's the elite class telling you, 'We're smarter than you and you don't know what's good for you.'... Further infuriating the voter, and making the voter more dedicated to Trump."
    Nunberg made the comments in an interview for "Unprecedented: The Election that Changed Everything," CNN's upcoming book on the 2016 race that comes out December 6. It was written by CNN's Thomas Lake with reporting from Jodi Enda, Susan Baer and CNN's political team.
    Trump would apply that "common sense" mentality to some of the core features of his campaign, from the "wall" to Trump's excoriation of establishment politicians that helped him capture the populist anger that would ultimately drive him to victory.
    "The idea of the wall is genius too. It touches on immigration, so it's a policy issue. Two, it touches on Trump's brand. Builder. Developer. Three, it fits the rational and appeal of his candidacy. The wall. Subliminally, you're saying it's time to take care of America's problems," Nunberg said.
    "Then you have the wall between the Trump people and the establishment people. ... And every single time you mentioned the word wall, wall, wall, Trump, Trump,Trump, on TV, the prospective primary voter is going to think, 'Trump. He's our protective wall. To protect us.'"
    Since being elected, Trump has largely stood by his campaign promise to build a wall.
    Asked if he'd accept a fence instead of a wall, Trump Trump told CBS' Lesley Stahl in a "60 Minutes" interview this week: "For certain areas I would, but certain areas, a wall is more appropriate. I'm very good at this, it's called construction." Trump added that "there could be some fencing."