As we approach the teeth-grinding, hard-slog portion of the presidential contest, the campaigns are engaging in their closing arguments to swing voters, and perhaps more importantly, their altar calls to their respective base voters. Reading through Gabriel Debenedetti’s account of the stretch-run turnout strategies of the two presidential candidates, it’s hard not to be struck by the contrast between Clinton’s complex and multilayered tools of the trade and Trump’s blunt instrument of sheer noise. On the one hand:
With 39 days to go, Brooklyn headquarters and battleground state operatives are activating the massive surrogate machinery, a heavy early voting push, and a large-scale registration offensive they think they need to secure a win in November.
On the other:
Trump’s team has also turned more fully to agitating the real estate developer’s base of white men, as campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and campaign chief Steve Bannon calculate that such a push — matched with a solidifying of the Republican base that could see him hang onto suburban white women — should be enough to edge him over the line in November.
The key words in the description of Clinton’s efforts are the adjectives “massive,” “heavy,” and “large-scale.” You will also notice most of these initiatives are by their nature targeted and under the radar screen.
The key word for Trump’s turnout strategy is “agitating.” And best we can tell, that mostly means via such subtle efforts as the candidate shrieking on Twitter and bellowing during debates.
I’m exaggerating a bit, but not much. And the key point that often does not get made goes beyond the quantitative and qualitative advantage Clinton has in get-out-the-vote and voter-targeting operations.
Much of what Clinton is doing is relatively low-key. Most of what Trump’s been forced into is anything but low-key. And so whatever success he has in mobilizing his base will be offset by the fact that he’s helping Clinton mobilize her base, too. Indeed, it’s a shame we cannot conduct some kind of experiment where Clinton does nothing in a particular locale and lets her base feel the full toxic force of Trump’s messaging.
We’ll see how it all turns out, but if Clinton has a secret weapon, it will be the inevitable backlash to a Trump campaign that thinks it has to ratchet up old-white-male racial and cultural resentment and Republican partisanship to an insane level to win this election. It’s not like Americans who are not in his base can avoid hearing about it, even if they try.