Trump’s 2024 Media Game: Less Cable, More Stool


Tyson, an old friend of Trump’s who recently dined with the former president at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, is, in his post-fight days, the host of the «Hotboxin'» podcast. It’s a show that draws a variety of celebrities, including rapper Tyga, retired skateboarder Tony Hawk, and comedian Cedric the Entertainer. And he could soon field a former president who is now the prohibitive favorite to be his party’s White House nominee.

The Trump campaign’s interest in the Tyson podcast is part of a broader strategic outreach to non-traditional media, specifically those affiliated with male audiences interested in contact and combat sports. This week, days after appearing at an Ultimate Fighting Championship fight in Las Vegas, the former president is expected to appear on the popular «UFC Unfiltered» podcast.

This spring, he recorded an interview on “Full Send,” a podcast hosted by the “Nelk Boys,” a trio of comedians and pranksters. There has also been talk that Trump will do an interview on Barstool Sports, a sports and pop culture giant especially popular with young men.

The scope underscores the degree to which Trump remains a cultural figure as much as a political one. He also highlights a central piece of his electoral strategy, both in the Republican primary and, if he is the party’s nominee, in the general election. He and his team are making a big bid to appeal to less politically active voters.

«Doing non-traditional media and attending major cultural events like UFC fights allows former President Trump to reach a completely different audience than doing an interview on Fox News or other political outlets,» said Republican strategist Andy Surabian, a senior adviser. of Trump’s son. Donald Trump Jr. «He’s putting himself in front of people who are much less politically engaged and don’t necessarily have an idea of ​​him.»

Trump’s interview on «UFC Unfiltered» highlights the former president’s focus on appealing to that subset of voters, who are seen as less interested in the election than they are in sports. In a teaser clip posted on the channel this week, an anchor says Trump «sat down with us and talked about fights for 40 minutes: UFC, boxing, his history with boxing, Tyson,» among other boxing-related topics and the UFC.

In a preview for the episode, Trump praises two UFC fighters who squared off last week, Alexander Volkanovski and Yair Rodriguez, and talks about hosting another fighter, Bo Nickal, at the White House. Asked which uplifting song he would pick if he were fighting himself, Trump suggests he would pick something by singer Kid Rock or «We Are the Champions,» Queen’s smash hit from the 1970s, though he says it’s the latter. «There is a lot of play.»

“There are a lot of songs, inspirational songs, songs that make you want to do it,” Trump adds.

Combat sports are comfortable territory for Trump, who is a connoisseur of fights. He is friends with UFC President Dana White and famed boxing promoter Don King, and for years hosted boxing matches at his Atlantic City, NJ casino, including the 1991 «Battle of the Ages» between George Foreman and Evander Holyfield. In 2021, he and Donald Trump Jr. served as commentators for a fight between Holyfield and Vitor Belfort.

He has also been heavily associated with wrestling, also hosting WWE events at his Atlantic City properties and, among other things, fighting billionaire Vince McMahon at WrestleMania in 2007.

Trump’s appearance on such non-traditional platforms illustrates a comfort he has with celebrities and sports culture that not all politicians possess, his advisers argue.

“President Trump’s unmatched star power and energy make him a force of nature that resonates with people of all backgrounds,” said Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung, who is also a former UFC official.

It has also given input to a segment of the young, mostly male electorate who are getting news from prominent personalities like podcast host Joe Rogan, who Trump was seen chatting with at last weekend’s fight, as well as watching those fights. . According to a analysis published last month on the BetMGM sports betting website, the sport is most popular among 25-35 year olds. Ninety percent of her viewers are men.

That demographic played a key role in the 2020 election for President Joe Biden. According to a Pew Research report, Biden and Trump were nearly even in support among male voters, compared to 2016, when Trump won 11 percent more of the male vote than Hillary Clinton. Among white men who did not graduate from college, Biden received 36 percent of the vote, an increase from Clinton’s 28 percent.

“For Trump, the one thing that I don’t think people put into perspective, where he lost between 2016 and 2020,” said Republican strategist Ryan Girdusky. «He left a lot of chips on the table.»

But it’s not just sports platforms that Trump is targeting. A potential appearance on Barstool Sports, a site known for its edgy, anti-«wake-up» content, would fit in with that broader cultural strategy. While he was president, Trump invited the site’s founder, Dave Portnoy, to the White House for an interview.

Trump also conducted a couple of interviews, one this spring and one last year, with the Nelk Boys, who have drawn a cult following on YouTube for their pranks. They rose to fame in 2015, after they recorded a video of them offering «Coca-Cola» to people. It ends with the Nelk Boys being confronted by the police, who then realize that they were talking about Coca-Cola, not drugs.

Trump advisers say they are looking to tap into a segment of the electorate that is not always easy to reach. John McLaughlin, a pollster for the Trump campaign, said a sizeable portion of undecided and independent voters, women without college degrees and younger white voters do not engage with mainstream news platforms.

“It’s challenging to get election information from ‘no news’ voters, but to win their votes, the Trump campaign is working overtime to get it through alternative media outlets,” McLaughlin said.

The reach has sometimes surprised those with access to Trump, including the Nelk Boys.

“We are in Mar-a-Lago. I can’t even believe this is happening,» said one of the Nelk Boys when opening his interview last year. “We have Donald Trump.”

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