by Wade Rathke
October 18, 2020
Pearl River With hardly two weeks before the election in the United States, it’s down to the wire. It will be interesting and important to see the final strategy and tactics each campaign employs. Biden will be trying to protect his polling lead. Trump will be desperately trying to play catchup. There are definitely some important things to watch.
The first debate was a fiasco and an international embarrassment for the entire country. The second debate before a town hall was the height of social and political distancing with a faceoff on competing television stations, ABC for Biden and NBC and its captive networks for Trump, running simultaneously. Biden also won that night and did so in way that must particularly gall Trump, the reality TV celebrity. Biden plummeted Trump in the ratings. He had a 15.2 million audience with just one network platform compared to a mid-13 million for Trump across NBC’s multiple platforms. With a final debate upon us, the big question is likely not going to be focused on any of the candidates’ answers or whether or not they move any undecided voters, but on whether or not Trump can control himself and marginally attempt to act presidential. I wouldn’t bet the farm on his ability to do so.
Much is being made of the huge well of donor support that the Biden campaign has received, along with other Democratic candidates, allowing his to outraise Trump and sit on a much larger bankroll. Reportedly ActBlue, the online Democratic donor platform has collected $1.5 billion from July through September, besting what it collected for the entire 2018 cycle. The cash allowing him to maintain a nearly 2-to-1 advantage on the airwaves for months. His dominance is most pronounced in three critical swing states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — where he spent about $53 million to Trump’s $17 million over the past month largely on ads assailing the president’s handling of the virus as well as the economy and taxes. .
Biden is focusing on the air war, while Trump seems all about the ground game. Trump is counting on rallies and crowds to move his base, while Biden is more restrained and surgical in his targeting. Biden is winning on early voting and a push for mail ballots, while the Trump campaign is counting on Election Day crowds and long lines.
Reportedly, the Trump campaign has spent $200-$250 million to support door knocking to turn out his vote. That’s unsettling to me, and points to what I worry might be a significant tactical error. It’s hard to beat the effectiveness of door-to-door work in both persuasion and turnout. It’s also hard to beat the power of volunteer activists speaking your message. That’s true organizing with measurable results and real “touches” with the voters, where no matter how it is spun, television, social media, and mail messages are more an exercise at throwing it all up against the wall.
Biden is looking like a winner now, but if he loses, it will be because he lost it on the doors. If Trump wins, it will be because neighbors and flesh-and-blood people on front porches were able to mitigate and neutralize the horror that spews from his mouth and his anarchistic, spiteful narcissism.
Wade Rathke is founder and chief organizer of ACORN and ACORN International. You can find Wade’s recent past posts here Chief Organizer Reports. And you can link to his website here Chief Organizer ACORN/ACORN International.