Sunday, June 26, 2016

Mr. Trump meets the General Electorate Part 2: The Limits of Free Media

By Kit

In the aftermath of disastrous polls putting him below where Romney was four years earlier, and a Federal Election Commission report showing his campaign low on funds, Donald Trump decided to make a speech railing against Hillary and on Monday, fired his campaign manager - a move that never signals health in a campaign. It was probably his first attempt to look like a serious contender for the presidency instead of a contender for the host of Who Wants to be President! And, given his attempts at the Scottish golf course to moderate his more outlandish statements. this attempt seems to mark a new turn in his presidential campaign. But his supporters should be wary of getting too giddy about it.

The speech got the attention of a bunch of the media when he made it. Unfortunately for him, that coverage dropped like a stone when the Democrats staged a 25-hour sit-in that night on the House floor. And by Friday it had disappeared almost entirely, courtesy of Britain voting to leave the EU and all the financial and political mayhem that vote caused. Yes, some late night news programs talked about it but the Brexit got the bulk of the coverage. Indeed, the only programs that might have given it a substantial amount of coverage over the Brexit (Hannity) cater largely to people who are already voting for Trump or otherwise made up their minds on the matter.

This illustrates the first limitation of free media; it only lasts as long as people are talking about it. The moment another Big Thing happens in the news, whatever free media you picked up courtesy of your most recent statements of actions disappears. That means you need to keep staying in the news and Trump, at the very least, seems to understand this, which is why he has spent much of the past year screaming anything that he thought might grab headlines. This swept him to the nomination with those who tend to support him.

Before we go further on the issue of free media, some election numbers: In 2012 129 million people voted, of whom Romney netted about 60.9 million, while Obama received about 65 million. Now, let us assume for a minute that everyone on of the 13,300,472 people who voted for Mr. Trump in the primaries show up in the General. He will still need every one of the 16 million people who voted against him. Let’s assume he will. That brings us up to 29.5 million voters. Romney netted 60.9 million people. The total number of votes cast in in 2012 were about 129 million, just below the 131 million who showed up in 2008, so let’s split it and assume that somewhere around 130 million people show up for 2016. This means Mr. Trump will need 65 million votes to win the general.

He received 20% of that number in the primaries and 45% of that number of people voted in the Primaries. That means Trump will need to quadruple his own vote and double the number of GOP voters just to receive what Romney grabbed. Also, a certain, and rather key, portion of those 30-35 million people who didn’t vote in the primaries but might normally vote for the Republican in the general won’t be paying attention to things until after the conventions, some not until the fall.

And what will they be watching? Well, The O’Reilly Factor, Fox News’ highest rated show and the highest rated cable prime-time news program, averages about 2.5 million viewers in 2015 and Hannity about 1.5 million. By comparison, Big Bang Theory nets about 20 million viewers per episode in its most recent 9th season and NCIS: New Orleans nets about 15 million per episode. Even lesser shows like Mom and Agents of SHIELD grab about 7 million and 4 million, respectively.

And here we have the second limitation of free media: not everyone is watching the shows and channels on which your free media is likely to be showing. And that is counting free media in general, not just the positive coverage. So, when late-September comes it will be shows like Big Bang Theory and NCIS that everyone, including a fair number of potential voters, will be watching, and it will be during those shows’ commercial breaks that people will see the ads put out by the various campaigns.

Well, they’ll be watching Hillary’s commercials at least.

Hillary ended May with $42 million while raising $26 million during the month and is currently buying up ad space between now and November like there is no tomorrow. Her folks and the folks at the pro-Hillary Super Pacs will be hammering Trump with ads about his over-the-top rhetoric, his ignorance about basic issues like the nuclear triad or how anything works, his infidelities and sexual philandering, and the fact that he seems to have to change his views constantly. In other words, the very stuff that prompted a anti-Trump high turnout in the primaries.

Now, before you start pointing out that many of these attacks apply in some way to Hillary (she called Republicans her enemies, she failed to take basic security precautions with her emails, her husband is a serial philanderer, and she too will say anything to get elected) remember the point is not necessarily to get people to vote for her but to ensure that a significant number of the potential Republican voters who dislike both her and Trump stay home or vote third party. Considering that a recent poll showed 48% of Republicans would support a different nominee at the convention, this might prove easier than you might think.

And for those who might be swayed to vote for Hillary, she has a ground game to snatch them up. Pro-Hillary volunteers will canvass swing districts, knocking on doors or calling up homes, asking the residents if they are interested in voting for Hillary Clinton. If the resident says “Yes” then the nice young volunteer will ask if that person would be willing to make a donation or sign of up to receive more information about the campaign. If the person says “Yes” to the first or both (saying yes to the first automatically says yes to the second) then that person will receive emails, letters, and phone calls from then until election day asking them for donations, reminding them to vote on election day, and asking if they will need help getting to the polling place.

Trump’s campaign, on the other hand, only raised about $3 million and ended the month with $1.3 million. By comparison, Mitt Romney had raised about $23.4 million and had finished the month with $17 million. Even the defunct Ted Cruz and Ben Carson campaigns ended May with more money. To further drive this point home, at least 50 House members have campaign funds bigger than him. All of that stuff that I just told you that Hillary will be doing? Trump will be able to do none of it. He won’t be able to canvass and ID potential voters, he won’t be able to remind them to show up on election day, and he won’t be able to help voters get to the polling places on election day.

Now, his supporters may reply that Trump didn’t need any of that in the primaries and still managed to win. True, but he began it as the biggest news-grabber in a divided primary where, due to many of the GOP primaries having winner-take-all or winner-take-most rules, he was able to win either a majority or all the delegates in enough states despite only average about 35-45% of the vote. And when it did become a two-person race between him and Cruz (and Kasich), he had picked up enough momentum and had the aura of “inevitability” to carry him to majorities in the Republican primaries.

Well, he has since lost that momentum. He spent the month after grabbing the nomination launching a series of attacks against the judge presiding over his case, bringing up the fact that he has a lawsuit against him for one of his shady business deals and that he has spent this campaign using racially-tinged attacks that many Americans found repulsive, thus reminding many voters why they dislike him in the first place. Then polls came out showing him trailing Hillary 6 points and now the FEC report showing us the dire state of his campaign.

Now, many earnest Trump supporters are pointing to the Brexit vote, which surprised a lot of people. Yes, there are parallels to the Trump campaign, in that the Remain vote was seen as a vote for the establishment, and the polls for a long time showed a Remain win, but there the similarities cease. First, the Brexit campaign was never tied to one figure, despite the Remainers' attempts to make it exclusively about Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson. Whereas, the Trump campaign is exclusively tied to the person who might be the most controversial candidate since George Wallace. Second, the Leave campaign actually, well, campaigned. They ran ads, they canvassed, they knocked on doors. In other words, the Leavers had a ground game.

As it stands, Donald Trump’s only hopes are the presence of a “shy Tory” factor in the polls, meaning some people who intend to vote for Trump on election day are not admitting it to the pollsters, that Hillary will fall on her face enough times between now and November to cost her momentum, and that Johnson and (maybe) Sanders will eat enough into her votes to give Trump the edge. But these are just hopes and failed campaigns are filled with the such hopes, be they the PUMA voters of 2008 or the “skewed” polls of 2012.


Critch said...

I was not a Trump supporter, however, I detest Hillary. I think she is a danger to the Republic. Trump is containable. A vote for Gary Johnson is a vote for Hillary...BTW, his VP pick is strange for a libertarian.

Kit said...


This election season, I'm not judging anyone. As far as I'm concerned there are no good choices so you pick the best one you can find.

I'm just describing why I think Trump's campaign is in deep trouble.

tryanmax said...

Kit, it can't be said enough that Trump is running an unconventional campaign. His national numbers suck, but he is quite competitive in all of the swing states. Within half a point in PA. Down less than 3 in OH. Down less than 4 in FL. I'd say he's already got NC buttoned up. RCP hasn't declared an average for MI, which is surprising b/c they have more data for that state than many others they've averaged. Still, they're keeping it in the toss-up column, which is intriguing.

Something else to note: campaign ads are largely about name recognition. Both candidates have near universal recognition, which changes the ad game in a way for which there is no precedent. and that's not even considering the ways in which ads are failing to be seen more and more thanks to view-shifting devices.

Finally, I don't see the 2016 election as having a defining issue as of yet. Both candidates desperately need something to triangulate against. Certainly that's not for a lack of effort on the media's part. Which may be the reason no such issue has emerged. All the scrambling for something important has diminished and confused every topic touched. The only thing that seems to hold focus is how awful the electoral system that gave us these options is. If one of the candidates could triangulate against that, they'd be a winner.

Kit said...


Those states are usually toss-ups at this point, same is true of PA but eventually, like it has every election year since Reagan left off, it has gone reliably blue because of those (growing) suburbs in which the Democrats have worked.

A point: Romney was doing better than Obama in PA at this point by about 4 points. Still lost.

I agree, he is running an unconventional campaign. But it only succeeded in the primaries because of a series of events, mainly 12 candidates fighting and jostling with each other, that are not present to that degree right now in the general.

Just because Germany could knock out France w/in two months doesn't mean they could do the same to Russia.

Kit said...

A note on the "Shy Tory" factor: If I recall, Trump has traditionally underperformed on election day. That is, he tends to do slightly more poorly than the polls would've indicated.

This is what happens when you don't have a ground game.

tryanmax said...

My only point is that this manner of prognostication wasn't able to predict the primaries in spite of the now apparent jostling. You may ultimately be correct about this election's outcome, but it won't illuminate anything to be wrong about the "why?" All the reasons "why" Trump will lose are based on past patterns which, quite simply, are not being replicated this time around. I'm not claiming this is something new under the sun, but whatever it is, it hasn't been out basking in a long time.

AndrewPrice said...

Critch, In the last few days, the Supreme Court has rolled back significant victories from the past 5-4 court -- affirmative action, abortion. That is entirely on the fault of religious conservatives who didn't turn out to support Romney.

By not supporting Trump, whatever group of conservatives it is this time who won't support their nominee will likely cause the court to switch to 6-3 with two Hillary appointments. That puts us in as bad a position we were in in the 1960s/1970s before Reagan and Bush and Bush.

Reagan giveth and conservatives giveth away.

AndrewPrice said...

OT How sad is it that I would rather see the Progressive Insurance "Ghostbusters" commercial made into a movie than the new remake? Yikes.

AndrewPrice said...

BTW, while I'm on the topic of martyrdom...

I find it amazing that George Will, who was never a genuine conservative -- he was always more of a country-clubber pet for Sam Donaldson and counseled against everything conservatives tried to do in the 1980s and 1990s -- has left the GOP over Trump. That would be the same GOP that is doing its best to destroy Trump and is even still trying to remove him at the convention.

Where is the validity in leaving the people who are trying to right the only valid ship of conservatism in the middle of the fight? There is none. This is just more conservative martyr syndrome.

Anonymous said...

andrew as a conservative as much as it pains me to hear this bitter truth you may be absolutely right. after today's scotus ruling i shudder to think what hillary appointees will do on the court and much as i despise trump i want the republican nominee to win. my fellow conservative friends talk a good game when it comes to policy issues but can't swallow their pride and self pitying behavior when it came time to vote. we prefer being in the wilderness i think.

Kit said...

Actually, conservatives did show up in support of Romney. That was a claim made by folks like Rush Limbaugh based on incomplete data and, because it was helpful to folks like Limbaugh and James Dobson, they peddled it long after the data showed otherwise.

Obama won because he clobbered Romney in the middle, the same group Trump is being pounded in. Which is indicated by the number of people who are IDing as Democrats in the polls.


tryanmax said...

Andrew, Critch, too many people treat their vote as though the candidate they choose is a reflection of their own character. It's an utterly asinine approach.

Kit said...

Trump's problem is that whatever gains he is making among blue-collar whites, they are being offset by losses in Middle-Class, suburban whites, whose votes in the primaries were fractured by 5-10 different candidates.

He is getting plowed among white women and is barely hanging on among white men.

Trump has a chance but he has some huge glaring weak spots and the lack of a ground game or budget provides Hillary with opportunities Trump simply does not have.

tryanmax said...

Myths and realities aside, Trump is not a conservative candidate by any definition except, possibly, that of the Democrats' caricature of a conservative. But even then--

The word "conservative" ought to have been dropped from discussions about the election as soon as there were no contending conservatives left.

AndrewPrice said...

Anon, When I first started paying attention to politics in the 1970s, I really came to despise the Country Club Republicans (pre-RINOs). These people controlled the party and they liked to lose. There's no other way to put it. They were uncomfortable when conservative ideas or politician won. They would undermine, betray and outright run against conservatives and conservative ideas every time. Basically, their policy was "don't do anything that upsets my liberal friends." These people ran John Anderson against Reagan, opposed his court nominations, mocked his policies, and called his foreign policy "cowboy diplomacy." They routinely endorsed liberals against conservatives.

Reagan II and Bush I showed conservatives unified and those were landslide elections.

Then you had Bush v. Clinton. This time, Pat Buchanan raised the culture war and his target was Bush. We lost with support in the 40% range because the culture war people didn't turn out.

Dole lost because neither the culture war types nor the RINOs turned out.

W Bush won by the skin of teeth because he faced the two worst Democrats in the world, because the US rarely changes presidents during a war, because Clinton fatigue unified conservatives, and because of redistricting.

McCain lost the genooine conservatives, and Palin lost him the moderates.

Romney lost religious conservatives.

Trump is losing insiders and ideological conservatives.

And in each of these elections, some group or another fetishized losing. Each time, whole groups came out to announce how they would rather lose and be a tiny minority than let that other guy win.

All of this strikes me that conservatives (not conservatism) simply like to lose. For whatever reason, losing gives them a smuggy.

Liberals don't think that way. They want to win and will sort out the details later.

Kit said...

Looking at state-wide polls from 2012 I think in July we'll see if Hillary's campaign is having an impact.

Yes, the battleground state polls are close, but they're not really much different from what they were 2012. In some cases Romney was closer or ahead. The only exceptions are the Rust Belt and even then, Hillary has the advantage.

2012: LINK

2016: LINK

And the reason they haven't said anything on Michigan is because the last poll was in late-May (don't ask me why).

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, A couple points.

First, I don't put any faith in polls, but if you do, the correlation is clear: Trump's support was growing with a very regular curve until the GOP world decided to destroy him. Trump may lose, but the blame will lie firmly with the conservative punditry, not with Trump.

Second, the article about the 4 million voters is making a fundamental error -- it is comparing the wrong things. McCain was a disaster who lost both conservatives and moderates. Essentially, he is the worst the GOP can do: both moderates and conservatives stayed home.

Comparing Romney to McCain and saying, "see, more people turned out for Romney" is not a valid basis for comparison. The real comparison is Romney versus W. Bush, the last guy to get full support. When you look at that, Romney's vote total was down about 1.1 million voters despite the country being 20-30 million people larger. So if he's gotten what Bush got, plus about half of the new voters in the 20-30 million (say 30%), he would have had an additional 3.6 million. So it is likely that 3.6 million conservatives stayed home.

Kit said...


If the 3 million religious conservatives James Dobson claimed had stayed home, Obama would still have been president. It would've been closer but still an Obama victory.

Romney actually picked up a million more votes than McCain did and even if he had grabbed up all the votes Bush did (62 million) Obama would still have won.

Trump's only key to victory lies in keeping the blue collar voters and getting them to the polling station —while not losing the suburbs.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Correct: Trump is no conservative.

But that's never been a problem for liberals. They will back whomever and then reshape them where they want them. That's been the secret of their success. They get that winning is the key, and everything else can be handled later.

Conservatives (be it ideological, moderate, fake or wild-ass), on the hand, prefer to lose if they don't get exactly what they want. The result is a steady drift left for the country with only occasional lucky breaks when the left really screws up.

And that is despite a population that is overwhelmingly sympathetic to most conservative ideas.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, It wasn't all religious conservatives, it was them and it was current Trumpsters -- "genooine conservatives."

Read what I wrote though, McCain isn't relevant and it was about 3.6 million "reliable" voters. And that doesn't include the effect on the middle of having one side smear their own guy for months, and amount which is likely unknowable.

What's more, the raw number isn't what matters. Where it's distributed is what matters. A 540,000 vote flip gives Romney Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Another 150,000 gives him Virginia. 60,000 gives him Florida.

Those are small percentage changes for the win.

Kit said...


First, polls, when taken as a whole, tend to be pretty accurate. They are off once in a while (Iowa in Jan) but usually they are spot on.

And Trump lost that when he launched that post-nomination bump by wasting May with the Judge Curiel attacks. He made no effort in May to unite the party.

In fact, it was the Curiel attacks that bolstered the attacks against him by convincing many that he was not going to adapt to the general. The conservative attacks might still have hurt him but his Curiel attacks ensured it. In fact, the attacks may have brought more people to their side.

He finally seems to be changing course but it may be too late.

Further, what is hurting him is the barrage of bad news. First the bad poll numbers at the end of May, then the FEC report showing him to be flat broke, and then the firing of his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.

What helped Trump was that his name-brand put him at the number one spot in a divided field which, when added to the series of wins he grabbed, bolstered his credibility as a potential nominee. Here, it's almost the reverse. He is struggling in the polls and facing a constant barrage of bad news: his campaign has barely any money, there are stories of in-fighting between him and the RNC, and Republicans in at-risk seats are loth to endorse him because they know it could cost them.

In the primaries momentum built in his favor, now it is building against him.

Kit said...

Correction: Anyway, Trump lost his momentum when he launched that post-nomination bump by wasting May with the Judge Curiel attacks. He made no effort in May to unite the party.

AndrewPrice said...


First, polls, when taken as a whole, tend to be pretty accurate. They are off once in a while (Iowa in Jan) but usually they are spot on.

No, they aren't. Polls are a way to send messages. They don't accurately predict behavior.

As for the judge, I can assure you that almost no one outside of political wonks had any idea Trump was attacking a judge. That was the moment the GOP turned up the anti-Trump attacks to full volume and turned this into a thing.

And what you are calling "bad news" is just the GOP's attack on him. The public doesn't care how much money he has on hand (and by the way, he doesn't need any on hand to finance a campaign), nor do they care about a campaign manager. That's inside baseball to them.

The negative Trump is facing is a steady flow of GOP luminaries attacking him for being unqualified and lacking the right temperament or mentality.

tryanmax said...

I'm still standing firmly in the "no one knows what the hell any of this means" camp. Quite literally, Trump has not begun his general campaign yet. $0 on ads, a total of 30 (not a typo) staffers who, as far as I can tell, are waiting around for orders. Trump is even slowing his Tweet game. It's weird as f**k!

Kit said...

Andrew, I'll respond to that later but for now I think Trump can win but he faces an uphill climb.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Whether Trump wins or loses, I think there are some really good lessons to be learned here. I just hope the GOP can put aside its anger at Trump and learn them...

1. Celebrity matters. The days of political monks (Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, etc.) winning office are dead and gone. Anyone who wants to win needs to make themselves a celebrity first in some way apart from politics.

2. Learn to use technology.

3. Fight back on everything the media does or says. Snipe at the Democrats constantly. Snipe in terms the public gets, not wonk speak.

4. Never apologize. Never play the Democrat's game. Never play the media's game.

5. Always act like you're enjoying yourself.

6. Don't be afraid of issues that the left tells us are untouchable.

Anonymous said...

as much as i hate trump andrew i think the one thing he has done that i can kind of respectfully nod at is going on about "untouchable" issues and just destroying political correctness. YOU CAN'T SAY THAT. Trump: Just did. and I'm gonna keep saying it.
It's what andrew breitbart wanted all republicans to do when they were accused of anything: SO? AND?

AndrewPrice said...

Anon, I agree. I really don't like Trump in any way shape or form, but he has proven that the right needs to stop letting the left tell them what issues are acceptable to debate and which aren't. Trump has shown that you can fight political correctness without harm -- especially as you'll be accused of it whether you do it or not.

Anthony said...

Hillary's Hope is little more than Romney 2.0. A trust fund baby whose political past put him out of step with the modern conservative movement but who won the primary by talking crazier than his rivals (some of whom were sitting governors).

To no one's surprise, as with Romney, what thrills the base doesn't necessarily play that well in the general (I am sure Hillary is praying that in the debate Trump goes after her the way he went after Carly Fiorina).

On that note, the string of Republican woman who have signaled their lack of enthusiasm for Trump is truly impressive (the latest is Mia Love). One can win the general without a meaningful portion of minorities (they are only 36% of the population), but winning without minorities or women is mathematically impossible.

Kit said...

"Whether Trump wins or loses, I think there are some really good lessons to be learned here."

On that, I wholeheartedly agree.

BevfromNYC said...

I think once the VP running mates announced, conventions are over, and the REAL debates start, the landscape will become clearer. Can't say what that landscape could be, but it should be clearer.

AndrewPrice said...


"We warned you!" -- Goldman Sachs

"Stupid proles! Serves you right!" -- Joint statement by UK Labor and Conservative Party

"Dude, it's soccer. Who cares?" -- America

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