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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Failure of the Base Strategy

In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House. In our next book (title TBA), we discuss how these divides played out in 2020

In the 2018 updates, we point out that Trump was a "base president" -- that his political strategy involved motivating his core supporters instead of broadening his support.  The strategy failed.

Amy Walter at The Cook Political Report:
As I'd written about a lot during the campaign, Trump had a 50 percent problem. In 2016, Trump won six states — Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — with less than 50 percent of the vote. Without a significant third-party candidate or candidates on the ballot this year, getting a plurality of the vote would not be enough to win a state. Back in June, I wrote: "Biden doesn't need to win all of these states to win. He just needs a combination of three of them to get to 270... That's why it's more important than ever to understand if Trump's vote share in 2016 was his ceiling, or whether he has room to grow."

The results show that he did grow his showing — but only slightly — and not enough to get to 50 percent in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin or Arizona. Moreover, he actually lost ground (1.1 percent) in Georgia — a state he had carried with just 50.4 percent in 2016.

All of the talk about Trump's improving margins among Latino voters in Texas and Florida has obscured the bigger, more salient lesson of this election: running a base-only strategy was a losing one for the president. Yes, the battleground states were close. But, the bottom line was that Trump's approach turned off more voters than it attracted. And, even improving margins among Latinos in the border counties of Texas didn't make much of an improvement in Trump's overall showing in the state. In 2016, Trump won Texas with 52 percent. He carried the Lone Star state this year with 52.1 percent.