Thursday, November 10, 2016

Clinton Campaign Autopsy

This is going to take several posts over the next week or so, to try and explain all the ins and outs of how a candidate who appeared to have complete control of the presidential election, completely flopped in the final hours of voting across the nation.
In the course of these posts I will examine various factors that possibly played a role in the outcome we witnessed this week, in the hopes that others who are planning on running for political office can learn where things went wrong, but to also try and illuminate problems within the DNC in such a way that those who are seeking to retake the party from the neo-liberal core, have a better understanding of their methods of operation.

Today we are going to examine polling, and the pollsters. To be fair, polling is a good thing, most of the time. It allows you to better understand your core constituencies, specifically how they feel about specific policy ideals, how they view the current political climate, and how they view you as a candidate. Long the way, people conducting polls also found out that polls can show you a trend, IE: X candidate does not do well with a specific demographic, or you do not do well within a specific demographic. It can give you a means to attack your opponent on policy, or show you that something is lacking in your policy. It can also show you that a group of people really dislike you, or even distrust you. With honest polling, you can learn a great deal, however, polling can be a two sided blade.

As it pertains to the Clinton campaign, they examined the polls, and over the course of a long career, her advisers likely became complacent. I say this, even if I do not have access to the campaigns inner workings, because it appears on the surface that no mind was paid to specific polling numbers. In a very real way, Secretary Clinton has been disliked and distrusted for many years, often while campaigning for a position, her numbers in regards to trust and likability sagged severely. While she was in office they would rebound. Now, it is likely that her advisers, say these numbers and ignored them, because they were considered normal. However, this election cycle was an anti-establishment cycle. So, they misread the information that they were getting. An apt metaphor for this would be a frog in a pot of boiling water, as the temperature rose, they were unaware of what was happening to them.

They also took for granted that many Sanders supporters would also come around to their line of thinking. Now, depending on the source of the polls, you could either say 80% of Sanders supporters would vote for Clinton, or 80% of them would not. Hit and miss polling, by obviously agitated respondents. The fact is, I doubt the Clinton Campaign had coping mechanisms to weed out the possibilities of people playing games with their polling. Look, it is a commonly known, rarely stated opinion that polls can be tinkered with in a variety of ways, people lying in response is one of the more common occurrences.

Another would be push polling as an internal method. These are tricky polls, created to lead the respondents to specific answers. Now, I am not going to say that this happened during the course of this election, the DNC postmortem report will likely tell the tale, and boy would I like to read that report, I'd put the money in my pocket that it will be an interesting read, if it is honest. Anyway, if there were internal push polls, this could have led to a false sense of security within the higher ranks of the campaign.

Making matters worse, just about every news outlet was giving the impression that the race was all but inevitable. How could this be? Well, the sampling of the polls will tell the story. Specific age groups, using a specific method of communication, at specific time periods all lead to a very similar situation as a push poll. If your target for the majority of polls exclude specific demographics, say 18-30 year old persons who have no land line while calling at three in the afternoon, you are only getting data from a specific set of people. Done repeatedly, you have inaccurate polling information.

Oh, and that inevitable thing. Yeah, that actually depresses a race. To drag out a sports analogy, nearly every NASCAR race at Daytona has “the big one,” a massive pile up of race cars, it is considered inevitable, forty cars racing in what appears to be rush hour traffic at around two hundred miles per hour, its bound to happen right? So teams make contingency plans, ride around the back of the field with four to ten other cars, just enough that you are fast enough to not get lapped, but away from getting caught in a wreck. Remember the big one is inevitable, but then you have a race where it doesn't happen. Those who were riding around the back of the field, just out of the main draft, are stuck, unable to catch back up. The inevitable belief is one that can damn you to lose the race, its damned if you do, damned if you don't. The problem with politics, unlike car racing is that there are no potential caution periods to catch you back up to the field after the pack has been thinned. In this instance Clinton and her supporters rode around the track waiting for the massive inevitable pileup of cars, and it never happened. They were comfortable with where they were running, another trademark of that style of racing... You want to be leading the race, or way back of the pack, and Clinton was leading. All indications were she was inevitable, just like the big one that never happened. Clinton and her supporters were complacent with their standing in the race to the White House, never taking into account that Trump was laying low, gathering his steam to make that drag race to the finish line. She wasn't being proactive because of bad polling and complacency.

She knew she was not well liked while running, and for whatever reason appeared to be unable or unwilling to do anything to change it. Knowing the steam the anti-establishment candidates were gathering throughout the primaries, and the possibility of it happening in the general, she continued to run a standard campaign without trying and get out in front of it. She did nothing to dispel the rumors of improprieties within the primary race, rumors of collusion with the media and her party, which was supposed to be neutral. Her combativeness with her constituency did her no favors, and the leaked transcripts, true or not did not help matters concerning her trustworthiness. More on this later.