In early May, Donald Trump asserted that data driven campaigns were overrated when running for office, and declared that since he had done just fine without one he saw no reason to start using data driven technology.
Immediately, political pundits and the consulting class pounced, declaring Mr Trump foolish, ignorant, and naïve about how modern politics is played. There were stories about Hillary Clinton’s sophisticated data operation, now run by those who designed the cutting edge technology that elected President Obama.
This past week three national polls showed Trump moving into the lead over Mrs. Clinton.
So who is right? Mr. Trump, who pooh poohs data driven campaigns, or the consultants who claim that a candidate is helpless without the shiny new toys used to sell political candidates?
The answer is both sides are correct. Customized voter data, data driven technology, micro-targeting and psychological testing are invaluable to a political candidate running for office, but they are worthless without a cogent message and a forceful rationale. Voters need to know why you want the job, and what you will do with the job it if you get the job.
And if you want to prove that to yourself talk to a few friends. Ask them what Donald Trump stands for and what he wants to do, you’ll get an answer. Your friends may not like what Mr. Trump wants to do, but they will have some notion of where he wants to take the country. Ask your friends what Bernie Sanders wants to do, and you’ll get an answer. Ask people what Mrs. Clinton is going to do that will transform a nation, and put it on a new and more prosperous path and you’ll get a blank stare.
Your message must be easily understood, easy to grasp, compelling and relevant to the environment in which you are running for office. Both Sanders and Trump have recognized that the United States is a nation in search of a new course. They have very different prescriptions, but at least they have offered one.
Mrs. Clinton does not have a data problem. She has a message problem, and none of the niche mining toys used to peddle candidates to voters are going to help her until she can offer the country a compelling reason to put her in the Oval office. Telling a nation looking for a new course that it’s her turn because she’s a woman is not a compelling message.
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Political consultant Jay Townsend works with smart, passionate candidates who want to run for office, win elections and make a difference. He has successfully helped candidates learn how to run for the U.S. Senate, how to run for Congress, how to run for Mayor and develop a winning campaign marketing strategy.
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