Trump’s use of provocative statements and tweets was an effective use of the latest technology in campaigning, said Kim Alfano, president and CEO of Alfano Communications and a leading Republican media strategist.
“His style is an entertainer’s style” rather than one of a traditional political candidate, Alfano said. Trump made “extreme and exciting statements” almost every day, attracting attention even if he later softened some of those stances.
In the end, Alfano said, he connected directly with voters, as if he were having a personal conversation with them. "He's tapped into a world of people that don't watch cable news all day or that don't read the newspapers cover to cover,” she said.
Plouffe said he had underestimated “the power of Trump’s message, the breadth of his appeal and his ceiling,” or the maximum voter support possible, which Plouffe had thought was 45 percent.
A detailed analysis of individual voter behavior won’t be possible until precinct-by-precinct numbers are available, which Plouffe said could take another six months. The polls and voter data analysis leading up to the election missed the mark in some ways, he said, and experts will be reviewing the numbers for a long time to come.
“When your models are right, you make great decisions in a campaign,” Plouffe said. “In this case, all of the models were wrong,” including those used by the Trump and other Republican campaigns.
Russell agreed that for most of the campaign, he and fellow Republicans “were just hoping to hang on” to congressional seats and were not optimistic about Trump’s chances. A month before Election Day things felt “bleak,” he said, but he sensed a shift in the final couple of weeks.
Palmieri noted that Clinton won the popular vote but that some states the campaign had expected to win, such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, went for Trump and gave him the win in the Electoral College. The campaign, she said, failed to re-create the Obama coalition he mobilized in 2008 and 2012.
“At the end of the day, more people voted for her [than for Trump] but not in the right places,” Palmieri said.
Plouffe said Clinton may have had a problem with turnout, but he also cited her higher popular vote and the relatively small shifts in voter behavior that could have changed the result. He said he is eager to see final data from all precincts.
“You move 80-90,000 votes around [geographically], and you’d be talking about President-elect Clinton,” he said.