"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Some Caveats Are In Order”: The Missing Details From Bernie Sanders’ General-Election Pitch

March 10, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, General Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Discarding The Playbook”: Can A Campaign That Breaks Every Rule Still Win?

About four months ago, the University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato, a prominent political scientist, co-authored a piece on Donald Trump’s electoral prospects. “If Trump is nominated,” the analysis said, “then everything we think we know about presidential nominations is wrong. History has shown that presidential nominations tend to follow a certain set of ‘rules.’”

And in Trump’s case, those rules are being challenged in ways without modern precedent. Sabato focused on some key structural and institutional constraints, but one of the “rules” appears especially important now: “[A] likely nominee needs a layered, professional organization that has been carefully constructed at the national level and in each of the early critical states.”

It’s important at this stage to appreciate how far short Team Trump is falling on this front. The New York Times ran a piece the other day that surprised me – because while I knew Trump was blazing his own trail, I didn’t fully understand the degree to which he’s breaking with Campaign 101 orthodoxy.

His advisers have not revealed the existence of any pollsters on their staff or any advertising team. He has no real research operation to examine his own vulnerabilities or those of his opponents and, based on Federal Election Commission filings, little in the way of a voter contact operation to identify and turn out his supporters. […]

[He] has conspicuously opted against spending in conventional ways that could fortify his lead or harm weak rivals, discarding the playbook that winning candidates have used for many decades.

A Washington Post article added over the weekend, “[J]ust as Trump doesn’t spend money on pollsters or focus groups, the campaign has yet to purchase databases of potential voters, a key organizing tool used by most campaigns. Instead of buying such a tool from a private contractor, the campaign has compiled its own database using contact information from every rally attendee, either when they registered online or showed up at the door.”

Not to put too fine a point on this, but as national campaign strategies go, this appears to be bonkers.

We’re not talking about exotic, outside-the-box expenditures. Bakers understand that to make a good loaf of bread, they’re going to need some flour. Guitarists understand that to perform a good song, they’ll need a set of strings. And modern, competitive presidential campaigns – in both parties – understand that to compete nationally and in early nominating contests, candidate invest in some basic elements.

Team Trump simply isn’t making these investments, evidently because the candidate and his aides believe they don’t have to.

At a certain level, Trump and his backers may not see any real value in traditional campaign “rules.” Indeed, breaking those rules may serve as a point of pride. It’s a “movement” in which the Old Way is being replaced with the Trump Way. And if the polls are correct, why mess with success?

The answer, or at least one possible answer, is that the race is entering a more difficult phase, and if Trump lacks necessary infrastructure, he won’t be able to capitalize on his dominant position in the polls.

Over the weekend, the Washington Post highlighted a middle-aged Iowa couple, Bonnie and Randy Reynolds, who’ve bought “Make America Great Again” hats, put on the Trump T-shirts, and who are ready to support the GOP candidate “100 percent.”

So, obviously, the couple plan to caucus for Trump on Feb. 1?

“We’re going to see,” Reynolds said. “With kids and grandkids and all this, it’s kind of hectic…. We’ll look into it. If our time is available, then yeah, maybe we’ll do it. Maybe. We’ll have to see.”

A meaningful campaign infrastructure takes shape in order to make sure folks like Bonnie and Randy Reynolds show up at the campaign rally and at the caucuses.

Trump’s rivals have tried and failed to find ways to slow the frontrunner’s momentum, but perhaps the more pertinent question at this point is whether Trump has found ways to undermine his own chances by choosing such a deliberately nontraditional path.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 28, 2015

December 29, 2015 Posted by | Campaign Organization, Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , | 1 Comment

“Fox News’ Unique Approach To Polling”: Foxy Facts, Less Concerned About Accurately Reflecting Public Attitudes

Major news organizations conduct polling and eagerly tout the results, but as regular readers know, Fox News’s polling operation is … what’s the word I’m looking for … unique.

Take the results, for example, from the news network’s latest national survey, published this morning. It included this truly extraordinary gem:

“In the aftermath of the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Libya, the Obama administration falsely claimed it was a spontaneous assault in response to an offensive online video, even though the administration had intelligence reports that the attacks were connected to terrorist groups tied to al Qaeda.”

Remember, this is part of a question in a poll conducted by an ostensible news organization. It went on to ask respondents, “Which of the following do you think best describes why Obama administration officials gave false information?”

Got that? In a poll that’s supposed to be a legitimate measurement of public attitudes, Fox News tells respondents what to think and then asks them to reflect on the “facts” Fox News has presented to them in the least-objective way imaginable.

Respondents were then asked how much they blame former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the attack in Benghazi, followed by a question about how much they blame President Obama. There were no questions about how much the public might blame the perpetrators of the attack, presumably because that falls well outside the agreed upon narrative.

The more one considers the details of Fox News polling, the more amazing the operation appears.

My colleague Mike Yarvitz flagged another gem from a Fox News poll several months ago:

“The Internal Revenue Service admitted it targeted Tea Party and conservative groups for extra scrutiny. How concerned are you that the government’s surveillance program designed to track terrorists using phone and Internet records will be used in the same way to target specific groups and individuals that may disagree with an administration’s policies?”

Again, note the impressive artistry on display. The question tells you what to think about a manufactured faux controversy, and in this case, quickly changes the subject to raise the specter of government abuse.

As we’ve discussed before, this has been going on for a long while. Indeed, I’ve long marveled at the kind of questions that make their way into a Fox survey, starting in March 2007 when the network’s poll asked, in all seriousness, “Do you think the Democratic Party should allow a grassroots organization like to take it over or should it resist this type of takeover?” Soon after, another Fox poll asked, “Do you think illegal immigrants from Mexico should be given special treatment and allowed to jump in front of immigrants from other countries that want to come to the United States legally, or not?”

In 2009, a Fox poll asked, “Do you think the United Nations should be in charge of the worldwide effort to combat climate change and the United States should report to the United Nations on this effort, or should it be up to individual countries and the United States would be allowed to make decisions on its own?”

In March 2013, a Fox poll asked, “Former President George W. Bush stopped golfing after the start of the Iraq war. Do you think President Barack Obama should stop golfing until the unemployment rate improves and the economy is doing better?”

As a rule, professional news organizations put a great deal of care into how they word polling questions. To get reliable results that accurately reflect public attitudes, surveys have to be careful not to guide respondents or skew their answers.

It’s possible – just possible – Fox is less concerned about accurately reflecting public attitudes, and more interested in advancing an agenda.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 24, 2014

January 26, 2014 Posted by | Fox News, Public Opinion | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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