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This blog offers an international look at the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Indeed, campaigners worldwide are fascinated with American election campaigns. We observe relentless paid television advertising, straight-forward attack spots, sophisticated targeting and record-breaking fundraising. One cannot – and should not – simply copy paste American campaign techniques. However, campaigners out there in Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia can get a lot of inspiration and specific takeaways from the most professional campaign in the world. This is the purpose of this blog.

The Race for the White House and the Electoral Map as of Today

Good point made by former Bush advisor, Matthew Dowd, in the Wall Street Journal the other day: after two conventions, countless ads, and numerous rallies, the race for the White House is back to where it was right after the primary season. Hillary Clinton leads by 3% - 4% in the nationwide polls.

In the end, however, a U.S. presidential election is actually a state-by-state election. A candidate needs to win a plurality of votes in individual states in order to get the electoral votes of that state (winner takes it all). The candidate who wins 270 electoral votes, moves into the White House. This being said, the electoral map looks rather difficult for Donald Trump at the present time. Clinton leads in traditional swing-states such as Ohio and Florida, even though these two states are set to elect Republican senators this very November. She leads by about 8% both in Michigan and Pennsylvania, states which the Trump campaign originally had high hopes for (even if they had not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988). Super PACS that support Clinton have just announced that they stop airing ads in Virginia, which goes to show how confident they feel about a state that was actually rather reliably Republican until a few election cycles ago.

Making a long story short, Trump needs a nationwide swing in order to change the dynamics of the election. The next opportunity to make that happen? Probably (only) the debates.

Clinton Emails: The FBI apparently found 15’000 new emails

In a presidential election campaign, voters usually take repeated looks at the main candidates. The FBI has apparently found about 15’000 emails sent by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on her private server. How will this affect the election? Of course, it depends a great deal on the content of those emails. Generally speaking, I think that swing voters don’t care that much about what server Clinton used back at the time when she served as Secretary of State. Also, if there is nothing outrageously scandalous in these new emails, timing might work in her favor. I have seen this happening in many campaigns myself: the closer to the election new information becomes public, the more voters see and evaluate it through the prism of the election campaign. “Why only now? If there were something to it, it would have become public earlier”, respondents typically say in such situations in focus groups.

Crisis Communication: Lesson 2

Many crises happen to smart and successful people. In many cases, the accused person gets into defense mode and instinctively denies the accusation. While this is a natural reaction, it often makes things worse.

The Current Dynamics of the U.S. Presidential Campaign: Referendum on Donald Trump

Do you want to know why Hillary Clinton has gained ground in the surveys during the past weeks? Because the dynamics of the public debate have turned into a referendum on Donald Trump. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have record-high negative ratings. As a result of this, whoever is the main focus of the debate will lose. If this will become a referendum on whether or not Donald Trump should be president of the USA, Hillary Clinton will win. Hence why she’s now ahead in the surveys. This could change, however, when a new Clinton scandal breaks or if her past controversies will become the focus of the campaign again.

Read more about this point here (in German): www.schweizamsonntag.ch/USWahlkampf

Crisis Communication: Lesson 1

Lesson one in crisis communication: get the facts straight. It’s like walking in a labyrinth. If you take a wrong turn at the beginning, everything that follows will be wrong as well. As a consultant, if you don’t have all the facts, you can’t help a client.

New York Post Publishes Nude Pictures of Melania Trump: Impact on the Campaign

Donald Trump’s wife Melania Trump recently was in the headlines again. There were news reports that she might have worked in the U.S. illegally back in the 1990is. Then, The New York Post has published nude pictures of Melania Trump: http://nypost.com/Trump

I highly doubt the Republican base and in particular the evangelical right, which Trump wanted to please with the nomination of Mike Pence, will like this. No matter what happens, they will never vote for Hillary Clinton, but they might just stay at home instead. Remember in 2000, when a few days before the election, the media reported that George W. Bush had been arrested by the police for driving under alcohol. As a result of the incident, many Christian conservatives probably stayed home on Election Day and Al Gore went on winning the popular vote.

It’s not that Melania Trump would have been a big help for the campaign to begin with. Yes, she used to be less unpopular than her husband. But her favorability ratings were just about even, meaning to say that about half of the country saw her favorably while the other half saw her as unfavorable.

White men as a problem for Hillary Clinton

Donald Trump is most popular among white men, in particular among white men with no college degree and lower income. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is far from giving up on them. Hence why an important part of her nomination speech was dedicated to workers’ rights, minimum wage, support for small businesses and other so-called pocket book issues. She can also strategically use Bill Clinton as a secret joker communicating to them, as he reminds the American middle class of the good 1990is. Also, she doesn’t need to win a majority of white voters. It’s nothing new that white voters are leaning Republican. According to the Gallup surveys, the last Democratic Presidential candidate who won a majority of white voters was LBJ in 1964. She can win without a majority of white voters. In fact, I remember one of the pundits say in 2012 that the U.S. is no longer a country of white married people. Meaning to say that it’s no longer the favorite candidate of white married people that automatically wins the election. But she shouldn’t fall too low among white voters either. As a rule of thumb, she should carry at least 38% of them in order to be in good shape on Election Day. More on this in my interview on Swiss national television (in German language): www.srf.ch/sendungen/10vor10/Clinton