US Elec­tion 2016: Why Don­ald Trump draws crowds, Hillary Clin­ton doesn’t

Some an­a­lysts be­lieve many are sim­ply re­luc­tant to ad­mit they’re on Demo­cratic side be­cause of Clin­ton con­tro­ver­sies

Fiji Sun - - Comment - CHRIS SHERIDAN | WASH­ING­TON Ar­ti­cle pub­lished by Al­jazeera Feed­back: jy­otip@fi­jisun.com.fj

It makes fans of Hillary Clin­ton very anx­ious ev­ery time I state this sim­ple fact: at­ten­dance at the Demo­cratic can­di­date’s ral­lies is medi­ocre at best. The pic­tures have told the story over the past six months. Re­pub­li­can Don­ald Trump is fill­ing con­ven­tion cen­tres, air­port hangars and parks. Clin­ton, on the other hand, is fill­ing com­mu­nity cen­tres and small col­leges, but just barely. The peo­ple cam­paign­ing for her - the rock stars of the Demo­cratic Party such as First Lady Michelle Obama, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and Ver­mont Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders - have big­ger and more en­er­getic crowds. More­over, as Clin­ton goes into the fi­nal week­end of cam­paign­ing, she is draw­ing on mega-celebri­ties to at­tract peo­ple to her cause by hold­ing sep­a­rate events with mu­si­cians Phar­rell Wil­liams, Jay Z and Katy Perry. There was a mo­men­tary spike this past week in Tempe, Ari­zona, where, aside from July’s Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion, she had one of her big­gest ral­lies yet.

More than 10,000 peo­ple at­tended an event where she went solo. But you could chalk that up to the fact that a Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee in Ari­zona is rare. Un­like Florida, North Carolina, Penn­syl­va­nia, Wis­con­sin, New Hamp­shire and other bat­tle­ground states, Ari­zo­nans aren’t bom­barded with cam­paign stops. Con­ser­va­tive me­dia and Trump him­self have pointed to the smaller size of the ral­lies and bring it up all the time.

“I have to say, we have ral­lies like this and we have seven, eight, nine, ten thou­sand rou­tinely,” he boasted back in Septem­ber at a stop in North Carolina. “Hillary goes out for ral­lies and yes­ter­day I think she had 200 peo­ple, maybe 300.” But some an­a­lysts be­lieve that, con­trary to Trump’s per­sis­tent as­ser­tion that there’s a “silent ma­jor­ity” in the United States who want him to win, the op­po­site may be true and that could ex­plain at least some of the low num­bers at Clin­ton ral­lies.

Proud Trump sup­port­ers

There is no doubt Trump sup­port­ers are proud to say they’re vot­ing for him. That’s been ev­i­dent since the be­gin­ning of his cam­paign. But Lara Brown, an as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal man­age­ment at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity, ar­gues size doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mat­ter. “Trump is a nov­elty and for some, to say that they went is like say­ing they went to a sport­ing event,” she ar­gues. “Trump has also reg­u­larly been go­ing to places where he is most beloved, not where the ground game is most com­pet­i­tive.”

Other an­a­lysts be­lieve many are sim­ply re­luc­tant to ad­mit they’re on Clin­ton’s side.

The con­tro­ver­sies sur­round­ing her - the use of a pri­vate email server while sec­re­tary of state, al­le­ga­tions that she gave spe­cial ac­cess to world lead­ers while in govern­ment in ex­change for do­na­tions to her fam­ily’s foun­da­tion and, more re­cently, an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion into her staff emails - have made it harder for peo­ple to show their love. “I’ve had a num­ber of stu­dents tell me that they’re re- luc­tant to be too pub­lic or too pub­licly en­thu­si­as­tic over their sup­port for Clin­ton,” says Chris Galdieri, as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at St Anselm Col­lege in New Hamp­shire. But he be­lieves the sup­port is there. “My wife re­cently took our daugh­ter to see Clin­ton at an event here in New Hamp­shire,” he says. “And met women from New Hamp­shire and other states who had brought their daugh­ters with them specif­i­cally to see Clin­ton, be­cause there’s a good like­li­hood she will be the first woman pres­i­dent.” The Clin­ton cam­paign in­sists they’ve baked the small num­bers into their strat­egy. At a stop in Win­ter­ville, North Carolina, I asked one of Clin­ton’s top aides whether she is con­cerned about the medi­ocre at­ten­dance. “We’ve gone into less pop­u­lous parts of the state for a rea­son,” said Jen­nifer Palmieri, Clin­ton’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor. “There are vot­ers in this area [North Carolina] that we want to turn out, so if you go to a place where there aren’t as many peo­ple who live there, you aren’t likely to get the crowds.” On a Fri­day con­fer­ence call with re­porters, Robby Mook, Clin­ton’s cam­paign man­ager, said they’ve had suc­cess in early vot­ing get­ting peo­ple who haven’t cast a bal­lot much in the past - so-called “low propen­sity vot­ers” - to come out to the polls. But on the same call cam­paign of­fi­cials barely ad­dressed ques­tions about re­ports that African-Amer­i­can early vot­ing is down from 2012. That’s a key group of peo­ple for Clin­ton.

At the end of the day, the vot­ing booth is where the at­ten­dance re­ally counts. “En­thu­si­asm is great, but it doesn’t pre­dict the re­sult,” says Brown.

Chris Sheridan Chris Sheridan is a se­nior po­lit­i­cal jour­nal­ist for Al­jazeera.

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