TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Bradley Beychok, President, American Bridge 21st Century
DATE: July 26, 2020
RE: State of the Race — 100 Days
Donald Trump is in trouble. With 100 days until Election Day, Trump has never been weaker with the very voters in the critical swing states he cannot win without. The impact of American Bridge 21st Century’s efforts to target persuadable white-working class, rural, and senior Trump 2016 voters across Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan can be seen not only in the president’s erosion of support with these groups, but also in their decisive swing towards Joe Biden. But a lot can change in 100 days, however, so we are doubling down on what has proved to be a successful strategy. Our plan is to keep our foot on the gas until polls close on November 3rd.
Before American Bridge 21st Century launched our first ever major paid media campaign, we asked ourselves a fundamental question: what is the single most effective way to eliminate Donald Trump’s path to 270 electoral votes? After exhaustive research, polling and testing, we concluded that the best way to win back the White House was a targeted campaign aimed at a narrow but decisive slice of the electorate: persuadable white working-class, rural voters and seniors in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin who supported President Obama in 2012 before flipping to support Trump in 2016.
In 2016, Donald Trump won Pennsylvania by approximately 44,000 votes, Wisconsin by less than 23,000, and Michigan by 11,000, largely by running up margins with white working-class voters. Democrats struck back in 2018, winning statewide races
across these states largely by winning back some of these same voters. We realized early that replicating that 2018 performance in these three swing states was critical to blocking Trump’s path to victory in 2020.
Our research indicated that the best way to earn the support of these voters was not through flashy ads or vicious attacks on Donald Trump. Instead, the most effective tactic was elevating the voices and stories of people just like them: 2016 Trump voters who have grown tired of a chaotic, reckless president and are looking for a change. The goal was to communicate that not only were they not alone in regretting their vote, but the feeling was common and socially acceptable to give voice to.
Last November, American Bridge 21st Century laid down our first big bet. Following substantial on-the-ground outreach efforts to identify and recruit former Trump voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, we launched an 8-figure TV, radio, and digital ad campaign that features local residents telling their stories and explaining why they were abandoning Trump and supporting Joe Biden. These testimonials connected Trump’s dishonesty and divisiveness with the real-world impact his failure of leadership was having on their lives, and layered in a focus on his mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic starting in the spring of this year.
Our investment is paying off. Our ads are proving to be among the most effective in moving voter sentiment away from Trump and towards Joe Biden, according to a recent analysis from Civis Analytics. Not only does recent polling show Trump behind by double digits in these three states, but also that his support with the specific voters American Bridge 21st Century is targeting has cratered.
Recent Monmouth polling shows Trump’s lead with white voters without a college degree in Pennsylvania is half that of his 2016 margin. Further, Trump’s 10-point lead with seniors in 2016 has reversed, with Biden now carrying the group by 10 points. In Michigan, Trump’s lead with white voters without a college degree has dropped by 31 percentage points over Clinton to just 10 percentage points over Biden. The former Vice President leads with Michigan seniors by 12 points in a recent CNN poll — a 16 point swing towards the Democrats. Similarly, after Trump won Wisconsin seniors by 1 point in 2016, Biden has built up a 19-point lead in a recent New York Times poll.
After a record-breaking second fundraising quarter, we’re doubling down on this strategy, expanding our efforts to identify more persuadable targets and ensuring that Democrats match or exceed Trump’s spending in these states.
A Look Ahead
At the moment, the map looks favorable. But we recognize that the stakes are far too high for us to get complacent. As the last few months have underscored, 100 days is a long time in politics and no one knows what tomorrow, let alone October, will bring.
Thankfully, we know our message, our strategy, and our candidate is moving the needle in the places and with the voters who can eliminate Trump’s path to 270 electoral votes. Over the next 14 weeks, Democrats must continue to pour it on, keeping Trump on defense and forcing his campaign to further spread their resources across an expanding map. We must run like we’re behind until we run through the tape, and we will.