At un­der $5 each, Trump’s votes came cheap

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

Don­ald Trump pulled off one of the big­gest up­sets in Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal his­tory when he top­pled Hil­lary Clin­ton in the US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion on Tues­day - and he did it us­ing far less cash than his ri­val. Re­ly­ing heav­ily on an un­ortho­dox mix of so­cial me­dia, un­fil­tered rhetoric, and a knack for win­ning free TV time, the New York real es­tate busi­ness­man likely paid less than $5 per vote dur­ing his in­sur­gent White House bid, about half what Clin­ton paid, ac­cord­ing to a Reuters anal­y­sis of cam­paign fi­nance records and vot­ing data. Those fig­ures as­sume the can­di­dates spent all the funds they raised.

Trump’s cost-ef­fec­tive win has up­ended pre­vail­ing con­cepts about the in­flu­ence of money in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics and raised the ques­tion of whether a lean, me­dia-savvy cam­paign can be­come the new model for win­ning of­fice in the United States. Po­lit­i­cal strate­gists and aca­demics tend to agree, how­ever, that Trump’s per­for­mance would be tough to re­peat. A house­hold name for his lux­ury brand re­sorts, re­al­ity TV star­dom, and abil­ity to sur­round him­self with non-stop con­tro­versy, Trump held ad­van­tages that many po­lit­i­cal can­di­dates lack.

“I think this is a case where Trump had unique char­ac­ter­is­tics as a can­di­date that al­lowed him to pur­sue a dif­fer­ent type of strat­egy,” said Tony Cor­rado, a pro­fes­sor of govern­ment at Colby Col­lege in Maine. In to­tal, Trump raised at least $270 mil­lion since launch­ing his cam­paign in June 2015, a lit­tle more than a third of the money that Obama’s re-elec­tion cam­paign spent in 2012, ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent fil­ings with the Fed­eral Elec­tions Com­mis­sion. With vote count­ing wrap­ping up in the early hours of Wed­nes­day, Trump had won some 59 mil­lion votes na­tion­wide in the gen­eral elec­tion. That amounts to less than $5 per vote for the $270 mil­lion he spent. Ac­cord­ing to data an­a­lyt­ics firm me­di­aQuant, Trump gar­nered about $5 bil­lion worth of free me­dia cov­er­age dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign, more than twice the amount earned by Clin­ton, a life­long politi­cian who served as sec­re­tary of state, se­na­tor, and first lady at dif­fer­ent times in her ca­reer. me­di­aQuant adds up all the un­paid cov­er­age the can­di­dates earn in news­pa­pers, mag­a­zines and so­cial me­dia and then com­pares the sum to what a com­pa­ra­ble amount of cov­er­age, with the same kind of reach, would have cost in ad­ver­tis­ing. Trump has also fre­quently dom­i­nated news cy­cles with provoca­tive rhetoric that breaks ta­boos, in­clud­ing un­abashed in­sults tar­get­ing women he dis­likes over Twit­ter, or un­usual pol­icy pro­scrip­tions like his call to tem­po­rar­ily ban Mus­lims from en­ter­ing the coun­try to pre­vent do­mes­tic at­tacks, or to force Mex­ico to pay for a multi-bil­lion dol­lar bor­der wall to keep out im­mi­grants.

Big Donors

Trump made his self-fund­ing a sell­ing point early in his cam­paign as he fended off 16 Repub­li­can ri­vals for the party nom­i­na­tion, ar­gu­ing that by es­chew­ing big donors he was not be­holden to spe­cial in­ter­ests. But once he se­cured the nom­i­na­tion, Trump changed course and be­gan fundrais­ing in earnest, repli­cat­ing the small dol­lar fundrais­ing jug­ger­naut of an­other in­sur­gent can­di­date, Demo­crat Bernie San­ders, along the way. Clin­ton raised at least $521 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to fil­ings.

The for­mer sec­re­tary of state stuck to the more tra­di­tional cam­paign­ing model of launch­ing ex­pen­sive tele­vi­sion ads and fund­ing hun­dreds of staffers who fanned across the coun­try to work to in­crease voter turnout on Elec­tion Day. She spent more than $237 mil­lion on tele­vi­sion ads and more than $42 mil­lion on hun­dreds of staffers.

She also ben­e­fited from spend­ing by the Su­per PACs sup­port­ing her can­di­dacy, which are al­lowed to raise and spend un­lim­ited amounts of money but can­not co­or­di­nate di­rectly with the cam­paign. More than a dozen peo­ple, in­clud­ing hedge fund mag­nate Don­ald Suss­man and global fi­nancier Ge­orge Soros, wrote multi-mil­lion checks to Pri­or­i­ties USA, the pri­mary PAC sup­port­ing her cam­paign, ac­cord­ing to fil­ings.

Michael Trau­gott, a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Michi­gan, said the tra­di­tional US model for pick­ing pres­i­dents might seem odd to peo­ple in other na­tions, where cam­paigns are shorter and re­quire less cash. “The sys­tem is clearly bro­ken,” Trau­gott said. — Reuters

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