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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 Electoral Map in the U.S. Presidential Election

When it’s all said and done, a U.S. presidential election is not really a nationwide, but a state-by-state election. Each state has a number of so-called electoral votes according to its population size. Presidential candidates collect these electoral votes with a winner-takes-it-all system. This means that a candidate who wins the plurality of the votes in a state, will get all electoral votes from that state. The candidate who collects a minimum of 270 electoral votes moves to the White House.

If there will be a nationwide wave (as it looks like at the moment), the swing states won’t really matter. The winner would then pretty much run the table. If the race will get closer again, however, it might matter. In that respect, let’s not forget also that there are polls such as the IBD/TIPP, LA Times/USC tracking as well as the Rasmussen Reports, which stubbornly show a much closer race than the other polls. In a scenario of a close popular vote, the electoral map favors Clinton as she has many more ways to the needed 270 electoral votes than Trump. In 2012, Barack Obama won his re-election with 332 electoral votes, while Mitt Romney got 206. Out of the so-called Obama states, Ohio looks the most promising for Trump right now. But even if he were to win Ohio’s 18 electoral votes, he would still be far away from the needed 270. And just for the sake of argument: According to realclearpolitics average, Clinton is now leading in Florida by 3.8%. If Trump were to turn things around there and win the state's 29 electoral votes, that would still leave him 17 votes short of the needed 270 (in other words: Clinton can win the White House without Florida and Ohio). The Trump campaign had high hopes to pull states such as Michigan or Pennsylvania away from the Democratic column. These states havn't voted for a Republican presidential candidate since the 1980is and it doesn’t seem to happen this time: Clinton now leads Trump according to the realclearpolitics average by 10% in Michigan and by 6.2% in Pennsylvania. On the other hand, it seems that reliably Republican states such as Arizona and Georgia (and some say even Texas or Utah) are now within reach for Clinton. If that were to happen, it would really mean a landslide victory for Clinton. This is also where the Clinton campaign can flex its muscles and use its financial advantage over Trump. With the well-oiled campaign machine that Clinton has, they can throw in a couple of millions in tv advertising in these states and see if the numbers are moving. Even if they don’t move enough for a win there, it would force the Trump campaign to spend time and money in traditionally Republican states that they should not have to worry about at this point in time. Texas and Utah probably are long shots for Clinton, so more realistically, it is noteworthy that Clinton is in a pretty good position in Nevada (4.2% lead according to realclearpolitics), North Carolina (2.5% lead according to realclearpolitics), and Virginia (8% lead according to realclearpolitics). Virginia is particularly interesting since it wasn’t really a swing state in presidential politics until Barack Obama won it back in 2008 (and then again in 2012). As a general rule of thumb, a reasonably popular Vice Presidential candidate can give his running mate a boost of about 2% in the Vice’s home state. With this in mind, the choice of Tim Kaine from Virginia was a particularly smart move by Hillary Clinton.

On Monday after the election, November 14, I am running a seminar on the lessons learned from the U.S. presidential campaign. It will take place in Zurich and be conducted in German. You can find more information and/or sign up on my website: www.perroncampaigns.com/seminar

Early Voting Is Changing the Timing of Election Campaigns

Early and absentee voting has started in several states - and it changes the timinig of the campaigns. By Election Day, November 8, about a third of the electorate will have already voted. As a result, so-called GOTV efforts (get out the vote) will become the main focus of the campaigns soon after tonight's debate (and already are for the case of Clinton). The purpose is to identify, mobilize, and turn out the supporters of each candidate (by the way, this would be a great tool for smaller parties in European multi-party systems). Ever since George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004, Democrats have held the advantage with respect to turning out the base. Clinton, never sure as to what other Wikileaks revelations might surface out there, is trying to secure and bring home as much of her current lead as possible.

Crisis Communication: Lesson 5

Last week end, The Washington Post published a video where Donald Trump made lewd remarks about women. His apology and performance during the second debate have probably helped him stop the Republican defections. As a result, he will stay in the race. This being said, the incident is a good opportunity to continue our series on crisis communication. As a general rule, once a crisis breaks (point of no return) the goal is to get over it as soon as possible. Most of the time (and with respect to communication, not legally speaking) it is best to admit mistakes and accept responsibility. The faster you do this, and the more full-heartedly, the more people are willing to forgive. It’s wrong to blame others. One has to promise concrete action in order to put the crisis to a rest. Once the crisis is dealt with and over, it is possible to come out of it stronger, but things will never be the same like before the crisis.

U.S. Presidential Election Campaign: The Second Televised Debate

The Trump campaign hinted that their candidate would attack Hillary Clinton more aggressively in the second debate, which is scheduled this coming Sunday evening. However, debates are usually NOT good venues to openly attack one of the other candidates. There’s a simple reason for this: the other candidate can immediately respond and if he is more or less well-prepared, he will have a good rebuttal ready for the most likely attacks. This being said, Trump is now behind in most surveys. He has to do something in order to shake up the dynamics of the race and therefore might take the risk.

The Vice Presidential Debate

Tonight, the televised debate among the vice presidential candidates will take place. An expected 50 million people will watch the showdown between Mike Pence (R) and Tim Kaine (D). This being said, I can’t remember a vice presidential debate that had a lasting and substantial impact on the presidential race. People vote for the top guy. Therefore, the candidates tonight should attack the top candidate of the other ticket and defend their own running mate.

The New York Times Reports Tax Bombshell about Donald Trump

Unlike most other presidential candidates in recent history, Trump refused to publish his tax returns. During the debates, Hillary Clinton speculated about the reason for this. We might know more now. The New York Times reports that Trump could possibly have avoided paying federal income taxes for 18 years. A big loss back in 1995 might make it possible.

Trump didn’t confirm nor deny the allegation. Either way, it was a bad week for candidate Trump. During the debates, he looked like a spoiled little boy, during the days after debates like an angry and unreasonable old man. The New York Times story further puts him on the defense. Remember this general rule about the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign: Whoever is the main focus of the public debate will lose the election.

Will the story move the needle? We will see. In fairness to Trump, the New York Times is not accusing him of any illegal behavior. Also, it’s not in contradiction to what he said himself during the campaign, namely that he pays the strict minimum in taxes. This being said, the story helps Clinton paint a picture of a crude businessman who doesn’t care much about working people. In a close race like this, a few percentage points can make a big difference.