I keep hearing about how Trump’s going to win because (1) thousands of people come to his rallies and fewer come to Clinton’s and (2) his crowds are far more enthusiastic than Clinton’s. The problem is, enthusiastic crowds don’t equal victory at the ballot box.
Let’s think this through.
First, the number of folks showing up at rallies is meaningless. Let’s say that throughout the primary and the general election campaign as many as a total of 500,000 actual registered voters attended Trump rallies. I think the number is far less, but let’s just ballpark it, shall we?
In 2012, a total of over 128 million people cast a ballot for President; nearly 66 million voted for President Obama. If a total of 500,000 registered voters attended Trump rallies, that would be .0039% of the total number of people who voted for President in 2012, a tiny drop in the bucket. And the number who will vote this year is on track to be greater than the number who voted in 2012, so the 500,000 would be an even smaller drop in an even bigger bucket.
How about looking at actual votes for Trump and Clinton in the primaries as a measure of support? Okay. Trump got a record 13,300,472 votes in the GOP primaries. Good for him. But Clinton beat him, getting 15,805,136 actual votes during her primary campaign. In other words, over 2.5 million more people turned out in the primaries to vote for Clinton than turned out to vote for Trump.
But, but, but….rallies show enthusiasm, you say. Sure they do, especially if that’s what the candidate is good at generating and what the candidate is seeking. Trump loves the roar of the crowds and his crowds love to roar at him. Peachy keen.
Clinton’s not that kind of candidate and her supporters are not those kinds of voters. She doesn’t need the roar of the crowds and most likely voters never show up at rallies anyway. Take me, for example. I’ve now voted in 13 presidential elections and I’ve only attended a presidential campaign rally once. In 1972, I covered George McGovern’s rally in downtown Fort Worth for the Denton Record-Chronicle; I wouldn’t have been there but for my job as a daily news reporter.
Unlike Trump, Clinton’s been pursuing a sophisticated campaign strategy: targeting her efforts to the states she needs to win. She’s also spent a lot of time off the campaign trail raising money like crazy.
She’s spent some of that money on setting up offices in critical states, hiring managers, and training volunteers to identify likely Democratic voters and get them out to vote. Some she’s spent on campaign commercials targeted (early on) to driving up Trump’s negatives.
Some of the funds Clinton wisely saved for now, the home stretch, so that she could do what what Trump isn’t doing: cementing her lead in battleground states by flooding the airwaves with end-of-campaign commercials and redoubling local efforts to get out the Democratic vote.
Clinton also is doing something else Trump is not: helping down ballot candidates in close races. She’s opened the spigots for such Democrats. What’s Trump doing for GOP candidates in close races? Not so much. In fact, Trump has completely stopped fundraising for the Republican Party, which means the party has had to take money it would have spent on his race to try to shore up Republicans in close races, which means his already-lacking get out the vote efforts are going to be even weaker.
Enthusiasm? It’s a great thing. But unless Trump’s enthusiastic rally attendees — and millions of other supporters — show up at the polls, it won’t matter.