Tag Archives: Trump Campaign

Trump Campaign’s Secret Weapon:  Door Knocking!

Pearl River     With hardly two weeks before the election in the United States, it’s down to the wire.  It will be interesting and important to see the final strategy and tactics each campaign employs.  Biden will be trying to protect his polling lead.  Trump will be desperately trying to play catchup.  There are definitely some important things to watch.

The first debate was a fiasco and an international embarrassment for the entire country.  The second debate before a town hall was the height of social and political distancing with a faceoff on competing television stations, ABC for Biden and NBC and its captive networks for Trump, running simultaneously.  Biden also won that night and did so in way that must particularly gall Trump, the reality TV celebrity.  Biden plummeted Trump in the ratings.  He had a 15.2 million audience with just one network platform compared to a mid-13 million for Trump across NBC’s multiple platforms.  With a final debate upon us, the big question is likely not going to be focused on any of the candidates answers or whether or not they move any undecided voters, but on whether or not Trump can control himself and marginally attempt to act presidential.  I wouldn’t bet the farm on his ability to do so.

Much is being made of the huge well of donor support that the Biden campaign has received, along with other Democratic candidates, allowing his to outraise Trump and sit on a much larger bankroll.  Reportedly ActBlue, the online Democratic donor platform has collected $1.5 billion from July through September, besting what it collected for the entire 2018 cycle.  The cash allowing him to maintain a nearly 2-to-1 advantage on the airwaves for months. His dominance is most pronounced in three critical swing states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — where he spent about $53 million to Trump’s $17 million over the past month largely on ads assailing the president’s handling of the virus as well as the economy and taxes.  .

Biden is focusing on the air war, while Trump seems all about the ground game.  Trump is counting on rallies and crowds to move his base, while Biden is more restrained and surgical in his targeting.  Biden is winning on early voting and a push for mail ballots, while the Trump campaign is counting on Election Day crowds and long lines.

Reportedly, the Trump campaign has spent $200-$250 million to support door knocking to turn out his vote.  That’s unsettling to me, and points to what I worry might be a significant tactical error. It’s hard to beat the effectiveness of door-to-door work in both persuasion and turnout.  It’s also hard to beat the power of volunteer activists speaking your message.  That’s true organizing with measurable results and real “touches” with the voters, where no matter how it is spun, television, social media, and mail messages are more an exercise at throwing it all up against the wall.

Biden is looking like a winner now, but if he loses, it will be because he lost it on the doors.  If Trump wins, it will be because neighbors and flesh-and-blood people on front porches were able to mitigate and neutralize the horror that spews from his mouth and his anarchistic, spiteful narcissism.


Living and Dying on the Numbers

Pearl River     A lesson close to the heart for every organizer is the importance of numbers.  An organization can live and die on the numbers.  Rising numbers are a sign of health, falling numbers are a flashing yellow caution light.  Good organizers learn quickly at their peril that if they don’t manage the numbers carefully, they are in a world of trouble.  They vary strategy and tactics in campaigns so that the numbers are appropriate to the target, and they can husband their strength to when they need to show it the most.

Veteran organizer, Greg Galluzzo, the founder and director of the Gamaliel network of community organizations in the United States, once shared with me an analysis of the strength and weakness of their annual convention-assembly model of organizing lay in the problem of managing the numbers.  If the founding convention had 1000 people in attendance, it needed to be larger in subsequent years in order to build and project power.  In the best cases they could keep the numbers rising for several years, but there was inevitably a plateau that they reached within five years or so, and then a struggle to maintain that level.  Since everything was based on this mass assembly and bringing the targets into the event to win, hitting a peak, and then declining showed weakness and made winning new victories harder and sustaining the organization more difficult.  Sometimes they could, and sometimes they couldn’t.  Every organizer in one way or another know and understands this problem.

President Trump is about to buy this lesson and pay the full price.

First, he and his campaign made a rookie mistake.  Rather than downplaying the expected crowd, so that anything larger elevated the event, they raised the expectation of the numbers to ridiculous levels, even for normal events, much less during a masked pandemic.  They incredibly claimed that a million people had asked for tickets.  They pumped up the media as if hordes were descending on Tulsa for this campaign kickoff rally.  Pride cometh before the fall.

If you live by the numbers, you’ll die by the numbers, and he took a body blow in Tulsa.  In a venue holding 19,000, a kind estimate would say he broke 12,000.  That would have been fine, if you had billed the rally for 5000, but not when you were pumping it up as an event where people were camping out early because you had convinced them they might be turned away by the hordes.  Worse for Trump, this was happening in the beating red heart of his base in Oklahoma where he had prevailed in 2016 by more than 30%.  Even these numbers were boosted by people driving in from nearby MAGA hot spots like Kansas, rural Missouri, Texas, and Arkansas.

Every community, union, and political organizer knows when you can smell death in an election.  Trump’s a campaigner.  I’m betting he is sniffing the stench.  Heads will fall in his campaign now after this opening debacle, but it is impossible not to see blood in the water.