Donald John Trump, the 45th President of the United States? Not if Democrats, and plenty of Republicans, can do anything about it.
For Democrats, the work starts now. We have plenty of evidence that they're taking the idea of a Trump in the White House seriously. Now, liberal organizations, officeholders and activists are drawing up battle plans to deny him the presidency. As they go into action, opposition research and polling will provide the warheads for a barrage of TV ads between now and November.
Anti-Trump activists won't just fight over the airwaves, though. They'll certainly use the data-driven power of digital advertising to target specific voters and demographic groups. By matching a message to a recipient's predicted political leanings, groups will try to rev up folks not inclined to support Trump, preparing the ground for GOTV operations in the fall.
For example, liberal groups are assembling examples of Trump's perceived sexism, with his years of appearances on reality TV and talk radio providing plenty of grist for the mill. Watch for ads using this content to target women, perhaps with different variations based on age, income, location or past voting history (upscale Republican women may be a particularly receptive audience, for instance).
Other digital ads could dampen the Trump-mentum among working-class white men. The Donald's past business practices and current policy prescriptions create plenty of opportunities to use the words "con" and "fraud", and activists can employ online ads to test many different stories and ways of framing them. The goal? To drain off enough of his potential support to push down his margins among those voters. His hardcore fans seem immune to such appeals, but their neighbors might just need a little nudge to keep them off the bandwagon.
Meanwhile, Republicans will likely continue their #StopTrump campaign all the way to the convention in Cleveland. But their SuperPACs and other organizations seem to focus almost entirely on TV ads, although Our Principles PAC got some press for using a different approach. Still, their recent attempt at a Trump takedown failed spectacularly. By contrast, Democrats can try messaging that their conservative counterparts couldn't touch, and they can also reach out convincingly to voters to whom the GOP doesn't speak. The big question is whether or not it’ll all work.
A Tale of Two Digital Campaigns
When it comes to internet campaigning, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio present a sharp contrast. Cruz went all in on data and voter modeling, creating a score system for voters in Iowa and other early states. He placed a big bet on psychographic profiling of Facebook users, even hiring a firm to "scrape" information from the social network and use it to create data snapshots of potential supporters. Many credited his Iowa victory to data-driven decision-making, and he's applying the same approach to the delegate-hunt now in progress.
Meanwhile, Marco Rubio's digital team focused other priorities. In particular, they embraced a content-marketing mindset. With help from Push Digital, Rubio's staff turned out a flood of blog posts and other articles posted on the campaign's own website and shared on social media. To bring people back to the site to read what they'd written, they encouraged site visitors to use the "notifications" feature in Chrome (and now Firefox).
This app alerts people automatically when a site has new content, and in a tweet sent the day after Rubio suspended his campaign, Push Digital's Wesley Donehue credited it with "driving a lot of traffic." In his words, "It's working." Still, which of the two candidates remains in the race?