Would Trump win again one year on?

Donald Trump was elected as President of the USA on 8th November 2016 and has had a controversial first year in office.  If he were to run again one year on, would he win? An election taking place in Virginia 364 days after Trump’s victory will give us a good idea.

It’s a year since Donald Trump shocked the world and won the US Presidency. Highlights of his term so far include trying to ban people from Muslim-majority countries from entering the USA, defending white nationalists protesting in Charlottesville, withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement and travelling to the brink of nuclear war with North Korea.

Given Hillary Clinton won the popular vote and the consistent chorus of public outrage surrounding the current Presidency, it’s easy to assume that if another contest took place on the anniversary of the 2016 election, the Democratic candidate would end up in the White House.

That assumption is being put to the test in an election taking place on Tuesday 7th November to decide the next Governor of Virginia.

A bit of background on Virginia: it is historically a swing state; George W. Bush and Obama both won it twice; Hillary Clinton won the state by about five percentage points in 2016; and there is no incumbent as governors in Virginia can’t hold office for consecutive terms.

The Republican Party candidate, Ed Gillespie, has totally aligned himself with Trump’s agenda and the Democrat candidate, Ralph Northam, is from the Clinton (as opposed to Sanders) wing of his party.

Like Trump in ‘16, Gillespie is campaigning on the issue of tax cuts, job creation and reducing illegal immigration.  He has argued for the conservation of Confederate-era statues and complained about “sanctuary cities” (a city that limits its cooperation with the national government effort to enforce immigration law).  And he has relentlessly attacked his Democratic opponent.

Gillespie is hoping that by sticking closely to Trump’s Presidential agenda he will encourage a high turnout amongst conservative voters.

Northam is campaigning on abortion rights, the environment and is attacking his opponent as being a reactionary running a nasty, racist dog-whistle campaign.

The Democrat has more money to spend, has run more TV ads than his opponent and will be hoping to turnout the democratic base and add enough undecided women and ethnic minorities to beat his Republican opponent.

Again, this feels very familiar.

The race is seemingly too close to call with different polls showing widely different results; some have Northam with a double-digit lead and others have Gillespie just edging it.

Strategists in Washington D.C and beyond are watching the race closely. The result will give a good indication as to the mood of the electorate and will provide useful intel as to how to play mid-term elections in 2018.

And looking further ahead, if another Clinton-style candidate fails to succeed, it could influence perspectives on what type of nominee stands a chance of beating Trump in 2020.

Clinton unleashes final wave of attacks

Hillary Clinton’s campaign have released a barrage of attacks on Donald Trump that seek to remind people of the offensive, disrespectful and aggressive things that the Republican has said and done whilst in public life.

Whilst these are clearly targeted at particular groups and demographics that Clinton is seeking to persuade to turn out for her – women, Latinos and Muslims – the campaign will also hope they serve as motivation for her core, liberal support.

The first film released in this sequence of attacks was ‘Captain Khan’; in the video the father of an American soldier of Muslim faith tells viewers how his son lost his life in Iraq in order to save the lives of his comrades.  The ad concludes with the father of Captain Khan asking Trump if his son would have been welcome in the USA under his presidency.  It’s moving stuff.

In ’27 million strong’ actor Jimmy Smits, who appeared in the political drama The West Wing, narrates a poem about the strength of the Latino population.  It’s beautifully written and fantastically delivered alongside black and white imagery of Hispanic Americans.  It was made by an agency called Alma, who are based in Miami and specialise in ‘multicultural insights’.

The third spot is similar to a number of other commercials that Clinton’s campaign have run since ‘grab-gate’.  It’s less emotive than ‘Mirrors‘, but makes a more logical argument that Trump’s views on women are deep-seated and firmly held.

And the most recent film that Clinton has released is called ‘We Are America’ and acts as a summation of all of the above and aims to leave viewers thinking “you’re right… our country is better than this guy”.

Cautious Clinton campaign sticks with creative that’s moving the dial

iQ Media have released a report analysing the ad spend of the official Trump and Clinton campaigns over the last 30 days.

The data shows that, unsurprisingly, the candidates are focusing their spend on local TV stations (rather than national networks) in battleground states.  It also shows that, as I wrote last week, Trump is outspending Clinton the final weeks of the campaign.

One thing that jumped out to me was the fact that Trump is airing a number of different TV commercials at a relatively similar weight, whilst Clinton is only really pushing one.

Clinton campaign focus spend on one TV ad
Trump is running a number of ads at roughly equal weight

This indicates to me that Trump is varying his message depending on the political context of the state (you can get a flavour of his ads here), but Clinton’s campaign feel they’ve landed on a piece of creative that is moving the dial.

The spot, called ‘Mirrors’ (below), uses Trump’s own words to portray the Republican nominee as having a negative attitude towards women and asks voters “is this the President we want for our daughters?”

The power of the creative comes from the authenticity with which the cultural insight – that young women are often put under huge social pressure to look and behave in a certain way – is brought to life.

Despite the fact that it has over 5 million views (the most popular film on her YouTube channel),  it will come as a surprise to some that her campaign isn’t varying the copy from state to state; in 2012 there was huge amounts of hype around the way the Obama campaign varied their ads depending on events and the demographics of the viewer.

But the Clinton campaign’s research must show that ‘Mirrors’ is working and therefore, in a typically cautious way, they’ve decided not to take a risk on other creative.



Obama 2012 – Forward

Regular readers will know that, despite the huge number of permutations, there are only really two election campaign slogans:

1) The Opposition Slogan: Time for a change

2) The Incumbent Slogan: We’re doing ok, don’t let them ruin it

Coming up with the most appropriate and most powerful phrasing of one of these two slogans is not easy, but nevertheless, 99% of all election slogans will fit into one of these two categories.

Obama has, sensibly, not tried to reinvent the wheel and has instead obviously spent some time coming up with his take on The Incumbent slogan.

‘Forward’ works very well.

It’s a neat distillation of The Incumbent’s campaign.  It’s broad enough to sit over the vast array of policy positions he will take. It’s simple enough for people to grasp.  It gives his whole campaign a sense of purpose and momentum.  And, crucially, he’s able to use his Obama ‘O’ logo as one of the letters of the slogan.

‘Forward’ also tacitly insinuates that his opponent, Mitt Romney, is ‘Backward’.  Though the Republicans have tried to devalue the slogan – “Forward and straight of a cliff, more like, *chuckle chuckle*” – but the reality of it is that the phrase is quite hard to appropriate for piss-taking.

‘Forward’ feels like a natural and sensible progression from his 2008 slogan ‘Hope’ and I would guess that his advocates will be equally eager to adopt it and use it for their own 3rd party promotional materials; an element of the campaign which was essential to Obama’s success in ’08.

Will the real Mitt Romney please stand up

And so it begins.  Romney is pillared for being a flip-flop in this absolutely brilliant piece of 3rd party, viral, populist attack advertising.

As Mitt Romney’s campaign gets closer to dragging their candidate over the finish line and claiming the Republican Presidential nomination, the Obama-supporting creative industries have plunged their first knife into the campaign’s calf muscle.

Newt Gingrich’s team will be saying “hate to say it, but we told you so…

Obama The Movie – The Road We’ve Travelled

On 15th March Barack Obama’s campaign are releasing a movie, directed by the Academy Award winning director of An Inconvenient Truth, about the President’s first term in office.  Seriously.  Above is the trailer, narrated by Tom Hanks.

This feels like massive hubris.

I will refrain detailed comment until the film is out, but from the trailer, it seems like this will play into the hands of those who detract Obama for courting celebrity, being obsessed with his own legacy and ignoring the feelings of the electorate.

Mitt Flops

This is the first bit of quality political memorabilia that I’ve seen for the 2012 election.  For just under $20 you can purchase yourself some Mitt Flopps, which are…:

“…open-toe thong sandals designed to make sure you can feel the shifting political winds. Is the climate feeling conservative? Stand on your right foot. Looking liberal out there? Stand on your left foot. With Mitt-Flops, your footwear will be popular in any political climate.”

(thanks to Tom Thake for sending).