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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Digital Clinton v. Analog Trump

Both of President Barack Obama’s campaigns were organized around a series of six regional pods, with a lead official in each responsible for managing field, data, communication, or digital across seven or eight states.
2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton also uses pods—but hers look nothing like Obama’s. As she has reoriented her campaign for the general election, her team has devised a structure that reflects not geographic contiguity, with its common weather patterns or vernacular music traditions across neighboring states, but instead the different type of campaigning she will need to win each one. Most importantly, the structure acknowledges the increasing importance of early voting, which offers Clinton the potential to lock in an early lead when ballots begin to be cast in late September.
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In Clinton’s Brooklyn headquarters, states with major opportunities for early voting—such as North Carolina and Colorado—are in their own pod, while the remaining states are divided into two. One pod has large, diverse states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, where mobilizing minorities and young whites will be essential to her victory. The other pod contains smaller, mostly white ones like Iowa and New Hampshire, which present fewer opportunities to identify and turn out new voters but a major need for persuasion.
Jim Tankersley reports at the Washington Post: \
Hillary Clinton is running arguably the most digital presidential campaign in U.S. history. Donald Trump is running one of the most analog campaigns in recent memory. The Clinton team is bent on finding more effective ways to identify supporters and ensure they cast ballots; Trump is, famously and unapologetically, sticking to an 1980s-era focus on courting attention and voters via television.
He interviews Issenberg:
Trump is very much a throwback to that old mass-media world — this is a guy who seems to prize being on the cover of Time or featured in "60 Minutes" above anything else — but has also decided to run for president on the cheap. So he's still relying on the three national networks (and cable news), but since he isn't paying for airtime, he is reliant on the media to filter his message in a way that past candidates haven't been. No wonder he's in such a love-hate relationship with us.
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Now I think that dramatically fails to appreciate the extent to which campaigns are not just about changing people's opinions to get them to like you. Now more than ever, thanks to partisan polarization, campaigns are about modifying the behavior of people who already like you — getting the unregistered to register, mobilizing infrequent voters to turn out. That is best done through targeted communications that don't involve the candidate
We know from dozens if not hundreds of randomized field experiments that the best way to turn a non-voter into a voter is to have a well-trained volunteer from his or her neighborhood conduct a high-quality face-to-face interaction at the doorstep. The Clinton campaign is building the structure to do a lot of that, at scale, before voters they have modeled as most likely to change their behavior as a result. That doesn't fit into Trump's idea of what an election is about. To his credit, though, unlike a lot of candidates, he doesn't go through the motions of halfheartedly opening field offices — or printing up yard signs to fill them with — without understanding how they fit into his broader strategy.