Okay, we’ve been over the Conservative Candidate Conundrum and the Swing State Strategies in the first two parts of this series. And now that the convention is over and the GOP officially has a candidate for president, we can get to the campaign details and talk about Trump’s campaign specifically.
Right now there are approximately sixteen weeks until the election in November. Mail-in ballots go out far earlier than that, and early voting starts in mid to late October, at least in Texas. So some votes are going to be cast well before the November 8th election date, and sixteen weeks isn’t a long time to mount a national general election campaign.
But again, let’s pretend that Trump and his team are all over this. Let’s say they’re working on turnout, messaging, ad buys, campaign appearances, outreach, real-time data analysis, social media, and all of the other pieces of a successful campaign. Romney and McCain, as well as they could, did all those things and lost. We’ve been over the numbers. What’s substantially different about the electorate in the intervening years? Anything? Can we afford to assume things have gotten BETTER for conservatives or even Republicans? Is it wise to operate on the assumption that Republicans are doing better, to count on that to give Rs the edge in November? It’s pretty clear the answer is no. The Trump campaign needs to be ready to work harder and smarter than the Romney Team, harder and smarter than the McCain team, and harder and smarter than Hillary’s campaign.
Given the numbers we’ve looked at in this series, Team Trump not only has to be better, they have to be MIRACULOUSLY better than recent campaigns. They have to do more than rally the base. The have to invade Democrat territory and steal their supporters OR they have to create millions of all-new voters in states where Rs haven’t had a good victory track record.
In sixteen weeks.
Given the challenge ahead, you’d think Friday Trump would hit the ground running. And you’d be wrong. But let’s again take the sunniest outlook. Let’s say that was some understandable momentary pique at having his supporters called on to ‘vote their consciences’ and that he’s dropped it. At the convention, the logical move for a candidate is to mend fences and court supporters of other candidates to fill out a ground team and supplement the campaign with experienced people who will work to get the candidate elected.
But here’s what we find coming out of convention:
And then they gave me the final gift of the convention — telling me that by not supporting Trump, John Kasich — former House member, current governor of the very state they were standing in — was “not supporting America.”
So that’s where we are, coming out of the 2016 GOP convention. If you’re not with us, you’re against us — not “us” the party, or “us” the nominee, but “us” the United States of America. – Anonymous Delegate
Other delegates who didn’t support Trump have echoed that report of the mood and tone of the convention as well. But that tone hasn’t stayed in Cleveland. Television personalities are criticizing Tim Kaine’s speaking Spanish on the campaign trail with Clinton with lovely sentiments like these:
CNN conservative commentator Scottie Hughes on Kaine Spanish: "I didn't have to get out my translator to understand anything at RNC."
— Steve Peoples (@sppeoples) July 23, 2016
Online, thousands more are picking up the tactics of bullying and intimidation and trying to destroy dissenters (or jump-start their careers with the Trump Train):
— Kevin Jackson (@KevinJacksonTBS) July 23, 2016
There’s not even any recognition that the Republican candidate and his campaign have to perform amazing feats of addition in order to win. On the contrary, these and other supporters seem only interested in practicing division; mocking the concept of outreach via language, or threatening to put Trump detractors out of business.
So even if Trump were in the proper place to campaign to win, many of his surrogates and followers are not; and this adds another level of difficulty to the electoral math. One would think Trump could criticize or rebuke or otherwise signal disapproval of these types of statements. One would think he would want his most ardent supporters to be his best advocates. Presumably Trump needs these people working with him towards a single goal of winning the election, and needs them to refrain from hurting his campaign in the process.
Unless winning the election isn’t the goal.
And if it isn’t, then one must ask what the goal IS.
I asked before, and I repeat now, in light of where we are:
- How can Trump (now that it’s his show) increase the number of votes in swing states by significant margins to win?
- What would a campaign that was actively courting voters in swing states look like?
And we can add this question:
- Is this campaign showing signs of working towards those goals?
This series will continue with an installment on recognizing the enemy – you’ll definitely want to return for THAT discussion.