Optics and Donald Trump: The campaign to look presidential

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NEW YORK — Donald Trump's unusual and at times outlandish bid for the Republican presidential nomination is an exercise in looking presidential -- and it's being expertly choreographed, political and marketing insiders told PIX11 News Friday.

"Presidential campaigns are marketing just like any kind of brand or product is marketing. People have become very sophisticated at managing the image and the optics," this according to John Barker, an award-winning advertising executive.

The latter is true with regards to Manhattan resident and GOP front-runner Donald Trump, said Barker, the CEO of Barker Advertising and Interactive.

"Donald Trump is doing an incredible job of looking like the president. He is commanding the headlines, he is dressing the part," Barker said.

Trump's highly publicized trip to Texas and the border town of Laredo is the perfect example. Aside from the media attention that assembled for the visit, Trump produced a presidential image for the cameras with a grand arrival at the airport. Additionally, all around him as well as in his vehicles were security guards.

Some members of the detail had hard pins on their lapels and communication devices in their ears that made this campaign event appear as if Trump was attending a political summit in a third-world nation and not appearing at a border town in Texas.

"There is a concerted effort given that some of his statements have been rather unpresidential, to make up for that and compensate by having him have the optics and the stagecraft and the imagery that makes him look more presidential," political analyst Dan Gerstein said.

Gerstein is the former communications director for Conn. Sen. Joe Lieberman in the 2000 presidential election. He describes Trump's run more as a production rather than a campaign.

"It's Hollywood imitation brought to a political campaign," he said.

And the reason for this is simple, according to Gerstein.

"There is a credibility gap right? And to a certain degree they are using this imagery to make him look presidential and get people to buy into the fact that he is not just a cartoon character," he said. "He's not just the guy from Celebrity Apprentice."

Google appears to already be buying into it, as a result of a search PIX11 News conducted for an image of "Trump and security" Friday afternoon. The search engine offered up as a similar image President Barack Obama exiting Air Force One which, in the eyes of many, lends itself to the real area that requires work for Trump.

"He doesn't need to change around who he is to appeal to the common man, it's just the opposite. He's got to change his image to be taken seriously as a world leader and that's why he's dressing the part," Gerstein said.

The former reality TV host deserves some credit, according to Gerstein, for what he has accomplished this far.

"To be fair to Donald Trump whatever his political deficiencies, there is one thing he is very, very good at and he has shown it which is self-promotion," Gerstein said.

Barker is in agreement when it comes to optics and stage-crafting and presence. In fact, he views Trump as in a class all by himself.

"Trump is a master showman. He is probably one of the best showman in the world," Barker said. "Whether or not he actually has to perform, whether there has to be the real substance behind it is up to the voters and if history tells us anything, the voters don't demand much other than a good show."

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