19 Jul It’s All About That Base
Today’s TLR is not about music. It’s not about “That Bass” … or “The Treble” (thank you Meghan Trainor). Today’s TLR is about how to target voters in a Presidential campaign – it’s about That Base.
In the 2020 Presidential election, President Trump has been targeting That Trump Base – his constituents who oppose immigration, globalization, abortion rights and Obamacare, and who support lower taxes, smaller government, gun rights and religious prerogatives. Each plank in his platform is intended to resonate with his voters, those constituents who vaulted him to the Presidency in 2016. Trump understands that his re-election depends largely on single-issue politics, on championing the fears and concerns of men and women who believe they have been ignored, sidelined by East and West Coast elites. Pollsters estimate that ~42% of American voters today are ardent Trump supporters. They are “That Trump Base” that he is depending on to bring him success on November 3rd.
Vice President Biden likewise is focused on “That Base” – “That” being the traditional Democratic Party constituency of minorities, union workers, women, young voters, and liberals, and he’s carving out a platform designed to appeal to That constituency. He’s proposed a $2 trillion, green infrastructure spending plan designed to move the U.S. away from fossil fuels while, at the same time, providing union jobs that pay at least $15/hour to overhaul roads, bridges, trains, the auto industry and the broadband system. This is not the so-called Green New Deal proposed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The Biden infrastructure plan instead incorporates classic Democratic Party policies that address climate change, infrastructure spending, and a guaranteed minimum wage. It hijacks a core Trump theme by creating incentives designed to onshore critical American supply chains and jobs – not “America First,” but similar enough, a policy designed to resonate with 21st Century voters. Biden opposes Trump’s policy on Obamacare and has proposed adding a public option to broaden coverage to ~97% of Americans – not the “Medicare for All” plan sponsored by Bernie Sanders, but a step in that direction. In contrast to President Trump, Biden supports universal gun background checks, the priority of secular over religious interests and abortion rights. To pay for his infrastructure and incentive programs, Biden would raise taxes on “the rich” – high-earning individuals – and on corporations, increasing Federal revenues by $4 trillion over 10 years: Social Security taxes would be applied to earnings above $400,000, capital gains and dividends would be taxed at the same rate as earned income, tax rates would be returned to their pre-2018 levels, unrealized capital gains would be taxed at death, and the corporate tax rate would be increased from 21% to 28%. Pollsters estimate that ~42% of American voters today are ardent anti-Trump Biden supporters and are likely to vote for him in November.
An April Gallup poll found that 31% of Americans identify as Democrats, 30% identify as Republicans, and 36% view themselves as Independent …, which should mean that it is those independents who will decide the Presidency in November. However, Gallop also found that 46% lean towards the Democrats and 46% lean towards the Republicans. Whatever the percentages, there is a sizable pool of undecided voters. Why then do both President Trump and Vice President Biden continue to ignore independents, targeting That Trump Base and That Biden Base – which, for each of them constitutes less than a majority of voters? Why has President Trump been focusing almost exclusively on his already-committed Base rather than moderating his rhetoric to reach out to independent, undecided voters? And why has Vice President Biden adopted a decidedly leftish platform approved by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, both unsuccessful primary rivals whose positions are far to the left of his?
It’s because … It’s All About That Base! Without those Base votes, neither candidate can carry the race.
21st Century Presidential campaign strategies have shifted to account for a growing emphasis on partisan-based voter turn-out rather than on pursuing independent swing voters. It isn’t so much how many voters a candidate can persuade. It’s about who can be motivated to make the trip to the voting booth. In a get-out-the-vote electoral system – which is what decides 21st Century elections –, reliable supporters have the greatest value. Advances in micro-targeting That Base using computer-aided tools, e-mobilization campaigning and technologies that pinpoint swing districts and levels of commitment greatly increase the value of That Base, especially when polarizing behavioral science techniques are applied. Persuasion is a far more challenging … and more often a less fruitful … approach.
There are approximately 200 million registered voters in America, of which almost 65% vote in Presidential elections. This means that it should take little more than 65 million votes for a candidate to obtain a popular vote majority. If President Trump can motivate That Trump Base of 42%/46% of America’s registered voters to cast their ballots, that would give him >80 million votes …, and if Vice President Biden can motivate That Biden Base of 42%/46% of America’s registered voters, that should provide him with more than enough votes to win the Presidency.
But it’s not that simple. There’s that darn Electoral College.
The U.S. Constitution provides that the popular vote doesn’t determine the Presidency. To become President, a candidate must receive a majority of the 538 votes cast in the Electoral College. Pollsters are predicting that the Electoral College majority in the 2020 Presidential election is likely to be determined by the outcomes in 8 battleground States: Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Minnesota. The election’s outcome therefore will turn on the ability of each Party to (1) connect with That Base in Those States, and (2) then get That Base to vote in Those States. However, the outcomes in Those States also will be affected by the ability of the two political Parties to suppress the votes of the other Party’s candidate. Voter suppression can take a variety of forms. Prior to November 3rd, barriers can be erected, media can be manipulated, disinformation can be distributed, and voter rolls can be selectively purged. On Election Day, voters can be discouraged from voting by limiting the number of polling stations in high-density partisan/ gerrymandered districts and by creating hurdles/barriers to in-person and/or mail-in voting. Post-election, votes can be challenged or deleted, recounts can be demanded, and results questioned. Voter suppression efforts are likely to be ongoing, and court battles therefore should be expected.
Despite the objective of President Trump and Vice President Biden to dictate the November policy agenda, the American public has its own priorities. Its focus is on Covid-19, the economy, race relations, and China rather than the platforms presented by the two candidates … and, yet, the reality is that none of these issues is likely to affect voters’ ultimate preferences or the outcome of the election.
Which is why It’s All About That Base. Turning out That Base will be the key to victory … which is the reason why neither President Trump nor Vice President Biden has been tempering his message or making an effort to reach out to the undecideds. As a group, those undecideds rarely decide on their vote until the last minute. Ample time therefore remains for both candidates to “move towards the center” in September/October. “That Base” has priority … and the undecideds may not matter.
How does each Party intend to get That Base to the polls on November 3rd? Given the importance of the four-year Presidential electoral cycle, efforts began two years ago. Each Party invested hundreds of millions of Dollars into data analytics, field offices and digital techniques, with most of their work focusing on Those States. Each has closely engaged with its supporters on multiple digital levels, informing and soliciting support from like-minded registered voters uncovered by their pollsters and data collectors. In Those States where absentee ballots will be on offer, each Party has plans to send volunteers to constituents’ homes. Although the Democratic Party previously dominated the get-out-the-vote process by utilizing union workers, students and community organizations to provide door-to-door physical efforts, the Republican Party has successfully countered by creating a technologically-sophisticated telephone and online political machine that surveys and connects data. It engages in continuous communications by mail, emails, tweets, texts, social media, phone calls, and door knocking, Both Parties’ databases now reflect voter preferences and hot-button political and economic issues so that communications can be micro-targeted. Key single-issue information points, such as whether a voter is pro-life or pro-abortion, pro-gun control or anti-gun control, a contributor to particular candidates and causes, engages in relevant online searches, or has politically-sensitive charitable interests, are used to develop networks and target the most likely to cast a vote.
Election Day is four months away, and each Party already is spending hundreds of millions of Dollars to exploit That Base. If you’re an independent, don’t be surprised if neither candidate comes wooing any time soon. For each candidate, It’s All About That Base … and how to capitalize on the partisan divide.
Finally (from a good friend)
A logophile is a person who loves words:
1. The meaning of opaque is unclear.
2. I wasn’t going to get a brain transplant but then I changed my mind.
3. Have you ever tried to eat a clock? It’s very time consuming.
4. A man tried to assault me with milk, cream and butter. How dairy!
5. I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I can’t put it down.
6. If there was someone selling marijuana in our neighborhood, weed know about it.
7. It’s a lengthy article about ancient Japanese sword fighters, but I can Sumurais it for you.
8. It’s not that the man couldn’t juggle, he just didn’t have the balls to do it.
9. So what if I don’t know the meaning of the word ‘apocalypse’? It’s not the end of the world.
10. Police were called to the daycare center. A 3-year old was resisting a rest.
11. The other day I held the door open for a clown. I thought it was a nice jester.
12. Need an ark to save two of every animal? I Noah guy.
13. Alternative facts are aversion of the truth.
14. I used to have a fear of hurdles, but I got over it.
15. Atheism is a non-prophet organization.
16. Did you know they won’t be making yardsticks any longer?
17. I used to be allergic to soap but I’m clean now.
18. The patron saint of poverty is St. Nickeless.
19. What did the man say when the bridge fell on him? The suspension is killing me.
20. Do you have weight loss mantras? Fat chants!
21. My tailor is happy to make a new pair of pants for me. Or sew it seams.
22. What is a thesaurus’s favorite dessert? Synonym buns.
23. A relief map shows where the restrooms are.
24. There was a big paddle sale at the boat store. It was quite an oar deal.
25. How do they figure out the price of hammers? Per pound.