Most presidential campaigns spend their time and money appealing to people who vote regularly in elections. Not Donald Trump. According to a Trump campaign memo obtained by FiveThirtyEight, the campaign pursued a highly unorthodox strategy of courting unlikely voters during the primaries, focusing on people who rarely participate in GOP primary elections. The campaign relied on free media, including Trump’s frequent TV appearances, to turn out regular voters, according to the memo.
But survey and voter data shows that Trump won the Republican nomination thanks in large part to Republicans who typically vote in general elections, not by bringing people entirely disconnected from the electoral process to the polls. As Trump heads into the general election, the campaign’s thinking during the primaries, and the ad-hoc process by which it built an operation to target and reach out to voters using data, may offer clues about how it will approach voter turnout in the fall. Trump’s primary success does not necessarily mean that he can win the general election with a similar strategy.
“Based on an internal analysis of our own modeling data and third-party research, and considering the exceptionalism of our candidate, I advise that we put one-hundred percent of our organizational effort into enfranchising the conventionally low propensity voters that support our candidate,” the memo from former Trump campaign staffer Matt Braynard begins.
It goes on to describe a “persistent state of disenfranchisement” for low-propensity voters and suggests that pursuing them while Trump’s opponents fight over “the same heavily tilled soil” of likely voters would be to the campaign’s ultimate advantage. “An unprecedented targeting strategy must be in sync with this unprecedented campaign,” the memo concludes.
The memo is dated Jan. 14, two weeks before Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses. Braynard said …