Ashley Pratte, Polizette
This presidential cycle has seen the end for politics as usual, and so-called political experts have been left scratching their heads.
Donald Trump’s dominance over the GOP primary field was fueled by enthusiasm-driven turnout, negating the necessity of a traditional ground game. But will that strategy work in the general election against the well-oiled Clinton machine?
Trump is known for trotting out endorsements from celebrities and renowned athletes rather than politicians — but Clinton has those, too. In fact, she has Hollywood and political heavyweights on her side. Not to mention that those endorsements are coupled with the support of the Democratic National Committee, known for a strong political operation that has traditionally outpaced its Republican counterpart.
In 2008 and 2012, Republicans admitted their failures when it came to voter contact operations and technologies — conceding that the Democrats had outperformed them when it came to extensive and fine-tuned databases. The GOP has since attempted to retool and put massive investment into catching up with the Democrats’ data operation.
But even with the GOP’s help and the installment of Victory Offices across the country, the Trump campaign will have to get rolling on traditional voter outreach, something that hasn’t been an emphasis in the primary. In other words, Trump will have to start playing the game in order to compete against the Clinton machine. He can and should continue to utilize the non-traditional methods that have led to his rise, but he will also have to focus his efforts on a traditional ground game.
In past elections, Republican candidates have come under fire for their inability to effectively use social media to engage voters, particularly younger ones. But Trump boasts almost eight million followers on Twitter (Hillary has 6.1 million) and has used social media to his advantage in the Republican primary — far outpacing his Republican rivals.
What’s more, Trump announced on Wednesday that he won’t be self-funding his general election campaign — after spending 11 months telling voters that he could not be bought. Undoubtedly, Trump will need significant cash to go up against the well-funded Clinton, but how will he remain an outsider candidate while taking money from people representing their own unique interests? Not only that, but his creation of a joint fundraising committee comes extremely late in the game, since Clinton formed one last August.
It is no secret that Trump received significant media attention during the GOP primary, to the tune of nearly $2 billion in free advertising, but will that carry over to the general election? With Trump as the GOP’s nominee, it is entirely plausible that he will start receiving less air time than he has during the primary, since the liberal media will likely promote coverage of their darling, Hillary Clinton.
Trump has promised that he would become more presidential when “appropriate.” If Trump doesn’t polish his sometimes off-color rhetoric, he could cause days of bad press. While his bombastic statements have yet to cause him any real damage — they actually gave him a boost in the polls — the media will now go after him with all they have.
But Clinton has her own issues when it comes to gaffes and troublesome statements. One resurfaced this week when she visited West Virginia and faced a chilly welcome in coal country, where a worker confronted her on her controversial anti-coal statements. “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” Clinton said last month.
Clinton still faces huge problems, with the FBI investigating the home server she used while she was secretary of state and questions still looming over Benghazi and The Clinton Foundation’s donations from foreign nations.
So far Trump’s strategy has been to win every state — simplistic, but for the most part it has done the trick, and there’s no sign of that changing in the general election. His confidence, matched with Clinton’s, is sure to make for a contentious and competitive battle across the country.
Both Clinton and Trump have high unfavorables, and both are prone to gaffes and scandals — so this general election matchup may be one of the history books. Who will be the first to fall?