President-elect Trump won the presidency against Hillary Clinton against many odds with the electoral vote of 289 to Clinton’s 218. Trying to analyze the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and now President-elect Donald Trump is not an easy task. The campaign plans of each candidate could not be more unique to each other, and with the win of Donald Trump with the limited campaign he assembled calls into question whether the traditional campaign tactics will be used in future campaigns. The overall question here is do campaigns matter? Are the 12-hour days knocking on doors and phone banking voters no longer how you win an election? Is the new tactic just tweeting to supporters, saying outrageous things, and holding a few concert-style events in a few states?
According to Campaign Craft written by Michael John Burton and Daniel M. Shea, there is no “universal set of guidelines” in place that a candidate must follow to be successful, but the logic of winning an election does have certain fundamentals: polling, communications, and fundraising.
The results on election night came to a surprise to the large amount of
people in the country that were following national and state polling, which predicted Hillary Clinton’s strong victory over Donald Trump. According to Pew Research Center, election forecasters put Clinton’s chance of winning at anywhere from 70 percent to as high as 99 percent and had her winning swing states such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by large margins that ended up going to Trump. So how could the polls have been so wrong?
There is not a set answer quite yet to this question about how the pollsters got it so wrong, but there are some ideas. Nonresponse bias occurs when certain kinds of people don’t respond to surveys despite the equal outreach of the polling. This can be seen with Trump supporters because of their mistrust of the media and polling organizations. While obviously a large amount of the electorate supported Trump, that same group of people were not likely willing to express their support because of the ridicule they could receive. Trump supporters were often portrayed negatively, therefore to avoid this stigma, people in polls either refused to express that they were choosing to support Trump or lied about it. According to Henry Enton from www.FiveThirthyEight.com, The people who lied about their support seem to make up a group called the “shy” Trump supporter.
The polls were in the margin of error, and it is difficult for pollsters to effectively predict who will turn out on Election Day. Donald Trump and the Trump campaign said that the polls were wrong and biased from the beginning. Maybe they just all know something that professional pollsters and political scientists don’t know.
The Clinton and Trump campaigns had very different opinions on what turned out voters. Clinton ran a more traditional campaign comparable to President Barack Obama in 2012, but still didn’t reach the number of field offices he had. In other words, neither candidate lived up to the ground game that their parties’ nominees had in 2012. In 2012, the number of field offices for the Obama campaign nearly doubled Mitt Romney’s offices, and Clinton’s campaign has continued that pattern this year outpacing Trump by an even larger amount. Due to the Republican Party’s offices and groundwork on behalf of Trump, his ground game was far from nonexistent, but his campaign simply didn’t have the infrastructure to match the mobilization or voter contact that the Clinton campaign had.
A lot of people have focused on the fact that Trump had such a limited ground game like it is new for the Republican party, but if the ground game of Mitt Romney in 2012 is analyzed then it is easily seen that this is not the case. The tactics of winning an election seem to be different for the two parties. According to the analysis by Five Thirty Eight, Trump and Romney’s ground game was close to identical — meaning that the tactics for the Republican Party during a campaign were not much different in 2016, but the candidate was.
Another traditional campaign tactic is fundraising. According to OpenSecrets.org, Clinton outspent Trump by more than $380 million over the course of the campaign, putting Trump at a disadvantage once again. The Trump campaign also spent their money quite wisely spending less than $5 per vote, about half of what Clinton paid, according to Reuters. Trump relied on his social media posts and radical statements to gain earned media, which is when the media covers something without any cost to the candidate unlike paid media, which Clinton spent the majority of her money on.
All in all, the tactics of traditional campaigning was not completely thrown out by Trump, but not considered as important to his campaign in terms of winning the election. The campaign tactics needed to win an election will most likely not change after this election, so yes campaigns do matter. Voter contact is the key to making people feel connected to candidates and energized to get out and vote on Election Day.
The campaign strategies were different this election cycle because Donald Trump was a completely different candidate than anyone who has ever run before. We may never see a candidate like Trump again. The Republican Party and Democratic Party will continue the tactics they usually take to become elected. Trump definitely surprised the nation on Election night, but the idea of a strong ground game and grassroots campaigning will continue, especially in the Democratic Party. The Republican Party may even improve their campaign tactics because Trump’s type of campaign isn’t the future, it’s the exception.