Jim Clark: A deeper look inside Donald Trump’s victory (opinion)
Republicans (and anyone else for that matter) who admire “inside baseball” stories and are curious about how Donald Trump won the election have an unprecedented opportunity.
Bloomberg Businessweek’s edition for the week beginning October 31 has an investigative report by Green and Issenberg dubbed “Trump’s Plan B.”
Written in mid-October, just before the Trump-Clinton debate in Las Vegas, the piece starts with the premise: “Almost every public and private metric suggests Trump is headed for a loss, possibly an epic one.”
Yet staff morale was high because they were “sowing the seeds of a new enterprise with a direct marketing effort … that could shock the world on Election Day.”
The theme of the story is that Trump and his lieutenants could lose the election but still score a smashing win by founding the Trump TV network … hence: “Trump’s Plan B.”
The analysis was that CNN was anti-Trump, MSNBC has always been on the dark side, and even Fox News could be best described as somewhere in the middle. Trump TV could therefore be formed and marketed to his supporters.
We all know now that Trump’s “epic loss” did not occur and Plan B never materialized, but the players and events leading up to November’s election make fascinating reading and hint where the national power buttons will be in a Trump Administration.
The story starts with a young Kansan named Brad Parscale, who enrolled in University of Texas. On graduation, he headed for California and the dot-com boom. When dot-coms crashed, he returned to San Antonio broke and unemployed.
He went into consulting and one day was invited to bid on building a web site for Trump Realty. He underbid and got the job. That led to a website job for Trump Winery. When Donald Trump formed a presidential exploratory committee, Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, had Parscale build that website.
Kushner relied on Parscale for data, having him play with bases of registered voters. Parscale soon found Trump’s most reliable supporters were those seeking tickets to rallies.
He wrote a program that assured ticket seekers were genuine and not protestors and then matched them to their Facebook profiles to create “lookalike audiences” for further target marketing. Kushner shared Trump’s disdain for political professionals and he and Parscale became a team.
When Trump nailed the GOP nomination, Parscale’s operation had to meld with two others: Cambridge Analytica (which brought Breitbart’s Steve Bannon) and the Republican National Committee, which had invested over $100 million in data and infrastructure. Cambridge isolated “disenfranchised new Republicans” whom Parscale bombarded with Facebook ads.
Team Trump contrived to disenchant groups that Clinton needed to win: idealistic white liberals, young women and African Americans. Clinton’s flip flop on the Trans Pacific Partnership helped with Sanders voters, and the parade of women alleging sexual assault by Bill Clinton played to young women.
In 1996, Hillary had said: “Some African American males are super predators.” Team Trump created a South Park style animation using her voice and delivered it to African American voters through Facebook. Kushner told Trump that if the New York Times and cable news mattered, he would be at 1% in the polls.
The Trump team identified 16 battleground states with 13.5 million voters deemed “persuadable.” As of October 18, the top ones were Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia.
Trump believed he had hidden support which would only materialize at the ballot box. He dubbed rallies: “Brexit times five,” implying that he’d upend expectations much as the Brexit vote in Britain shocked experts. On November 8, Trump won all his target states and the presidency.
In hindsight, these are fascinating campaign vignettes. In foresight, Kushner, Bannon and Parscale will be the Trump Administration power team.
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates. He has served on the Washoe County and Nevada GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.