Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Real Problem with Trump's Poll Numbers? Where to Spend the Money.

Where he can win isn't as important as discovering he can't take Arizona or South Carolina for granted, and that's expensive.

Politics is a money game, provided you know how and where to spend it.

Donald Trump raised about $80 million last month -- if he is to be believed -- and is involved in a increasing number of fundraisers, but he's oddly showing few signs of the things you spend money on in a campaign, like TV ads and campaign organizing.

TV advertising in Florida? Little to none. Organizing there? One office. One.

These missteps aside (Trump apparently thinks he doesn't need a traditional campaign), even if the RNC handles organization for the Trump campaign, the real problem is that too many states are in play to know where to defend. If Utah -- freaking Utah! -- Arizona, Georgia, even South Carolina are within the margin of error in polling, it becomes devilishly difficult to know where to put the money.

There's been a longstanding debate on how to organize for victory in national elections. Howard Dean was a proponent of the so-called 50-state strategy -- making a play in every state, if for no other reason than to draw the other side into counter-spending. Others have eschewed it, instead focusing on key swing states in order to pile up the electoral votes needed for victory.

It was generally conceded going in that Donald Trump needed to win at least two, if not more, of four key states, being Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina if he were to stand a chance in the general election. As it stands, his goose appears cooked at this point: He's behind in all four.

If that weren't enough, Clinton has put Virginia and Colorado out of reach, has built a small lead in Georgia (Georgia!), and is within a couple of points in Arizona, Utah and South Carolina. She may still be unlikely to flip those last three, but her strength there amounts to a kind of spending Waterloo for the GOP.

Strong candidates, even eventual losing ones, could make decisions of where to defend and where to concede. Republicans knew not to spend in places like New York and California and instead focus on Ohio and Florida. That's still true for the Trump campaign (assuming one exists), but to have to consider pouring money into Arizona, Utah, Georgia, and South Carolina means spreading your resources too thin. What you have to now spend in Georgia you can't spend in Ohio.

With Trump conceding much of the organizing on the state level to the RNC -- who are already panicked over defending Senate races that seem now more compromised -- the paltry staffing and advertising in states like Florida won't improve quickly enough if at all if money and effort needs to be shifted to hitherto solid red states.

This is where it stands in mid-August, a time when convention bounces have begun to settle and reality hardens. Trump's in a pickle, with donors holding him at arm's length while the GOP establishment tries to decide if and when to dump Trump in favor of down-ballot races newly tightened by the on-going Trump catastrophe.

It doesn't help that Donald Trump apparently decided that he can, as he did in the primaries, insult and shock his way to success. His apparent adoption in the general of an OMG-he-said-THAT? strategy hasn't helped.

These are days when Republican operatives and strategists have stopped pulling out their hair because there's none left.

Did I mention that this is Hillary Clinton's fourth national campaign, and she is not only in fighting trim but could also write the book on national organizing?

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