Friday, January 1, 2016

Can Trump Win Elections?

Everybody is all worked up about Donald Trump's campaign for president. But the real question is: can he win elections?

Up to now, Donald Trump has walked on water with his campaign by insult, amazing experts and not-so-experts near and far. He seems to be breaking all the rules of campaigning and getting away with it.

Recently, news reports tell that Trump is making ad buys in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, the three early primary/caucus states. So now he is starting to move towards a more conventional campaign.

So let's think about some campaign conventional wisdom.

  • Typically, politicians are careful about the insults, indeed about everything they say because, with everything that comes out of a politician's mouth about four things can happen. He can encourage his supporters; he can discourage his supporters. He can discourage his opponent's supporters; he can make his opponent's supporters enraged. And who knows about the moderates in the middle. You can see why politicians are very careful what they say and poll-test every word.
  • There is the question of the ground game, and it is not clear what Trump has done about that. These days, ground game includes Big Data and microtargeting of voters, the tactic that Obama brought to the game in 2008 and 2012. I have read nods and winks that Ted Cruz has gone heavily into Big Data and microtargeting, but nothing about the other candidates. My understanding of microtargeting is that is affects turnout -- that's why the Romney campaign completely missed the result of the 2012 election; they misread the effectiveness of the Obama microtargeting. My understanding of microtargeting is that it requires, e.g., people working door-to-door with tablets that upload the results of each interview into the campaign database in real time. How does that work in 2016? Does everyone use an RNC app to do the door-to-door canvassing? Or what?
  • Apart from immigration, Trump's agenda is pretty mainstream. And on immigration his rhetoric is pretty mainstream, unless you are a regime liberal or an immigrant that hasn't yet got the whole family to the US yet. It's not just the white working class that opposes immigration; it's everyone that worries about their job. In recent years you were a racist for opposing immigration, but now Trump seems to have changed the rules. So what happens now? And what about the nexus between immigration and terror?
Nobody knows what will shake out in 2016. But the words of Joseph Schumpeter keep ringing in my head. The skill possessed by elected politicians is the skill of running and winning election campaigns. That is their profession: it is not governing, it is running for election and winning.

That's why I'd put my money on the professional politicians like Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio to win the Republican nomination for President of the United States. But you never know.

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