It is all hands on deck at Trump headquarters in the final push before Election Day. This differs significantly from the approach taken by challenger Joe Biden. While President Donald Trump and multiple surrogates are barnstorming America, Team Biden is busy calling more lids than most folks have in their pots-and-pans cupboard, though the former vice president held an impromptu appearance in Chester, PA yesterday afternoon. Two men, two strategies: Which tactics will ultimately win the day? Or is it too late, as the electorate is already solidly in one camp or another?
These are reasonable questions in this final stretch before Nov. 3. However, this year a few variables must be considered. In terms of early voting, more people than ever before in American history have already cast their ballots. There is no use citing the number because the needle moves upward with each passing day. So one might ask, what’s the use of rallies?
That may be the strategy of the Biden campaign, i.e., sit on a lead and hold. This thinking is the very antithesis of the Trump campaign, which uses every waking moment to get its candidate or, at the very least, its message before the voting public.
Build It and They Will Come
In the run-up to the 2016 election, the news media were mum about the size of the crowds at Trump rallies. One had to wait for Twitter pictures to even get a view of the throng. It was as if cut shots were embargoed on national television. That appears to have changed. Now the legacy media have taken up the job of playing the tattletale in an effort to portray each and every Trump rally as a COVID super-spreader.
The Trump campaign hands out thousands of masks at each event, but the president does not mandate mask-wearing at his rallies. He leaves it up to the individual to decide. The more vital question is not about masks but whether the size of a rally will amount to a hill of beans by Election Day. Last time on this merry-go-round, the Fourth Estate decried the rally size as insignificant and kept hammering the public about the preponderance of poll information. But that didn’t work out too well for them in the end.
There is no conclusive answer as to whether the size of a rally determines who wins an election. However, indicators of what might lie ahead may be determined by digging into the demographics of rally attendees. This is where Camp Biden might want to sit up and listen.
Three key bits of data tell you most of what you need to know about those who attend a rally, and it is not their gender, race, or age:
Party Affiliation – How many registered members of the other party attend your rally. These cross-over people are crucial to a campaign.
Sign Ups – How many people signed up to attend the rally? This gives the campaign a sense of what to expect in terms of crowd size and allows staff to compare it with previous rallies in the specific location.
Previous Non-Voters – How many people attending did not vote in 2016? These folks are newly found gold for any campaign.
So here are a few numbers to consider about Trump rally attendees. We would do the same for the Biden camp, but there are practically no rallies to consider.
28,278 sign ups
32.2% not registered Republican
23/5% did not vote in 2016
In Janesville, WI:
13,850 sign ups
45.7% not registered Republican
24.1% did not vote in 2016
In Carson City, NV:
15,038 sign ups
18.4% not registered Republican
30.0% did not vote in 2016
We could go on but suffice it to say there is an evident pattern. Those making the effort to go to these rallies are not simply the Trump base. There are many Democrats and Independents; thousands – and in some cases tens of thousands – are signing up in advance to attend, including a significant number who did not vote in 2016.
This should worry the Biden campaign. Perhaps that was the reason Mr. Biden popped out of his home for an unscheduled appearance yesterday afternoon and spent a good deal of that time explaining that he has eschewed rallies due to the Coronavirus.
Rally or not let’s not forget the intangibles. Does the candidate with a stronger work ethic matter? Does making the effort to ask the electorate for its vote still carry some weight? While these campaign strategies can’t be quantified, such tactics historically have had positive effects on the outcome of an election.
It’s not rocket science, folks. The answer to whether this information will ultimately matter remains uncertain, but one thing for sure: It certainly can’t hurt, and if it does help, it may change the way all candidates stump for votes in the future.
Read more from Leesa K. Donner.