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Eye On Candidates
December 29, 2015

Trump Campaign Banks on Media, Not Organization

Businessman Donald Trump has so far been able to promote his candidacy for the Republican nomination through free media coverage, rather than having to dig into his personal fortune to run advertisements or otherwise garner support. It looks like that is about to change, with an ad campaign costing at least $2 million a week being planned. Fox News has the details:

Trump puts focus on NH voter turnout

With 42 days until the contest in the Granite State, the Republican presidential front-runner on Monday night sought to answer skeptics who question whether he can turn massive number of supporters who show up at rallies into voters on election day….

Trump’s lead in New Hampshire primary polls is double the percentage of the second place candidate, according to the RealClearPolitics average. But even he, who pats himself on the back for low campaign spending and a self-funded campaign, told the crowd, “We’re going to spend a lot of money in the next few weeks. I don’t want to take any chances.”

Earlier in the day, unnamed Trump sources said the real estate mogul is set to launch a $2 million a week television advertising blitz. The first round of ads will reportedly be positive, communicating his policy positions, but the tone could quickly shift if Trump feels he is being unfairly targeted by opponents. 

Trump’s advertising buy is large, but one question being asked is whether it will be enough to offset what may be his biggest weakness: his campaign organization in the early states, which seems to have impressed few, as a Fox News article also reporting on Trump’s ad spending plans noted:

Journalistic skeptics also question whether Trump is doing what it takes in the ground game and whether his voters, some of them new to politics, will actually show up. The New York Times recently reported that “Mr. Trump has fallen behind in the nuts and bolts of organizing. A loss in Iowa for Mr. Trump, where he has devoted the most resources of his campaign, could imperil his leads in the next two nominating states, New Hampshire and South Carolina, where his get-out-the-vote organizations are even less robust.”

In the early caucus state of Nevada, says the Wall Street Journal, “the Trump campaign has just four aides working out of campaign offices in Las Vegas and Reno. And they are playing catch-up with other campaigns.”

Trump advisers dispute such reports, citing the hiring of 17 paid staffers in Iowa and 15 in New Hampshire.

Trump has managed to defy predictions that his unorthodox campaign and free-wheeling, controversial rhetoric would sink his candidacy. Conventional wisdom also suggests that a big media campaign in the early states counts less than a strong organization that can identify supporters and motivate them to turn out to vote in caucuses and primaries.

The question for Trump now is whether he can keep defying the conventional wisdom and win both states with a media blitz that overcomes his organizational deficiencies.