Politics

An Autopsy of a Movement

By Dr. Caleb Verbois, The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College (Grove City, PA). Used by permission.

With Ted Cruz having dropped out of the 2016 presidential race, there will be a string of eulogies seeking to autopsy his campaign. At least some of those critiques may hit the mark. In particular, Cruz’s campaign strategy went awry in three ways.

First, Cruz consciously copied Obama’s micro-targeted campaign of voters. He has been repeatedly praised for a campaign that focused on tiny groups of voters in states like Iowa to learn exactly how to win their vote. But while that works in Iowa where there is time to prepare, it does not work once the primary calendar heats up. This focus on targeting winnable voters also led Cruz to worry too much about focusing on states he thought he could win. He had success, in the sense that he won most of the states he heavily focused on, but by “giving up” in other states he let Trump get too far ahead. The most recent example—giving up on the northeast state primaries to focus on Indiana probably doomed his campaign. Cruz was ahead in Indiana but after Trump’s victories in the northeast the polls in Indiana changed drastically.

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When the Truth Isn't True

Despite the fact that the US Presidential election is almost a year away, I’m ready for the campaigning to be over. In the last few months, we’ve seen our share of drama, name-calling, schism, and scandal. Same old, same old, right?

Unfortunately, no. If anything, the Republican primary has already been full of unsettling surprises, not the least of which is the disturbing popularity of a man who is anything but conservative. And it’s left many folks—conservative, moderate, and liberal alike—scratching their heads wondering, “Why is Donald Trump so popular?”

In this recent New York Times piece, Justin Wolfers argues that Trump’s popularity stems from his rhetorical style rather than what he’s actually advocating. Trump’s willingness to speak the unspeakable signals to many folks that he’s “authentic”—despite the fact that unspeakable things are often best left unsaid.

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