Politico has a great piece breaking down the numerous failures of the Clinton campaign in Michigan. Here are a few things the campaign did wrong, to put it mildly:
- Emphasize a “one-size fits all” strategy that ignored and often shunted aside on-the-ground volunteers and local experts.
- Routinely turn away volunteers because the campaign’s data suggested that campaign literature and lawn signs didn’t translate to votes. (Incidentally, this helps explain the lawn sign disparity that pseudo-data scientists like Bill Mitchell used to predict the election, and lines up with what I heard from Clinton campaign employees in Michigan.)
- Tell SEIU workers to stay in Iowa, which everyone knew Clinton would lose, because they wanted to try to trick Trump into investing resources there. Meanwhile, desperate Clinton campaign staffers in Michigan begged for help.
- Emphasize celebrity and social media over person-to-person interaction.
- Transfer money to states Clinton would either definitely win (like Illinois) or definitely lose (like Louisiana) to avoid a scenario in which Clinton won the presidency without winning the popular vote—the irony!
- Run everything through Brooklyn. After Clinton’s campaign was informed that urban turnout was way down in Michigan, the campaign still refused to do anything, saying their projections still had Clinton winning the state.
First, a necessary caveat: No one factor explains Clinton’s Electoral College loss. All of the evidence suggests that a number of factors—Russian hacks, James Comey, racism, sexism, historic unpopularity, historic ineptitude—contributed to her narrow losses in several key states. But the Clinton campaign’s failures in Michigan will be studied by political scientists for decades.
Clinton’s failures also should serve as a lesson for the Democratic Party going forward. The party’s on-the-ground infrastructure across the country is in abysmal shape, which is one of the biggest reasons Democrats have less power than they’ve had in nearly a century. The “one size fits all” model of campaigning championed by the Clinton team lost the presidency, yes, but it’s been a total disaster for Democrats at the local, state, and congressional level.
After Barack Obama’s two wins, Democrats thought that big data was the key to the future, but Clinton’s loss emphasizes that winning campaigns now is not so different than it was 50 years ago: You have to show up.