Donald Trump has picked the most American of analogies to get his tough-guy message through to his supporters, who view his brash, pugnacious rhetoric as a reprieve from the politically cautious messages coming from the rest of the presidential candidates.
The Republican presidential hopeful on Sunday told 3,000 people at a Reno, Nevada rally that the NFL has gone "soft" like the United States, referring to new rules aimed at reducing concussions among players.
Concussions have become a major safety concern that has forced disciplinary measures from the league, such as 15-yard penalties in cases of helmet-to-helmet collisions.
"What used to be a violent hit, a great tackle," he said to the crowd on Sunday, now results in penalties never called in the past against Hall-of-Famer defenders such as Dick Butkus and Lawrence Taylor.
"You used to see these tackles and it was incredible to watch. Now the whole game is so screwed up," said Mr. Trump.
This sort of weakness, he explained, threatens the country’s superpower status, which he would restore if given the chance.
"If I become president of the United States, we are going to be so strong," said Trump.
His off-script, non-PC comments – from calling for the barring of all Muslims from the US, to publicly instructing staff at a rally about a protester to “get him the hell out of here,” to saying that the comedian Rosie O’Donnell has a “fat, ugly face” – seem to be responsible for some of his popular appeal.
“Trump is the proverbial strongman,” David Axelrod, formerly the top adviser to President Obama, told New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd recently.
“There’s no one more opposite to Obama. Bush had been impulsive and reckless, so voters wanted someone who was thoughtful and deliberative. Now they’ve had enough of gray and they want to go back to black and white, and that’s Trump. He knows nothing else,” Mr. Axelrod said.
The Christian Science Monitor's Peter Grier reported after an August GOP presidential debate in which Trump went after FOX News anchor Megyn Kelly:
There’s no obvious ideological or demographic component in his voter base, after all. He gets a degree of support from all parts of the GOP spectrum. That means that to some extent, it is Trump’s personality that is the core of his appeal. And that personality is nothing if not pugnacious.
That’s what Republican pollster Frank Luntz appeared to find, anyway. He assembled a group of avowed Trump supporters in his D.C.-area office for a focus group on Monday night. According to an account of the focus group in Time magazine, the Trumpians generally espoused a “we’re not going to take it anymore” anger.
Trump’s football analogy warnings in Nevada Sunday were followed by a call for his supporters to vote in Nevada's GOP caucuses February 23.
"In this state, we are way ahead but you have to register or you can't vote. If you don't vote, this country is going to go to hell," he said.
This report includes material from the Associated Press.