As someone who has worked over a dozen political campaigns at all levels in his life, I am a self-professed campaign nerd. I am always interested in seeing how campaigns evolve, how they innovate and how they respond to not just the situations they find themselves in, but how they use the tools at their disposal. Watching the US Presidential election unfolding to our south, it’s especially interesting given the resources those campaigns have at their disposals and the high stakes of the campaigns.
With the amounts that they raise and spend on those campaigns there, it’s always interesting to see what it is they do to not just engage voters, but make the best of what the campaign delivers them. Last night we all got a great example of the kind of big story that can deliver all kinds of fodder to a campaign, with the big story from the New York Times that confirmed a lot of what we already felt deep down:
Yeah, it was no shock that Donald Trump’s taxes were a problem and it’s nice to get that confirmed by the good work of the Times. But while this story does add colour and detail to a fact that most people suspected since he first ran for office, you could argue that those details alone might not change the conversation by themselves. The cynic in me would agree, but that’s where it falls to campaigns to do their work. Those details provide great content to move votes, and it didn’t take long for Joe Biden’s team to take advantage. Here is what they’ve done so far:
First off, that ad is devastatingly effective. Its one thing to point out that Trump paid so little in tax in 2016 and 2017, or the fact that he didn’t pay any tax in 10 out of 15 years, including in one year where Trump himself complained about Barrack Obama paying an over 20% tax rate. But where details like that really start to hit home is when you can connect them directly to peoples lives. The fact that everyday workers, like teachers, firefighters and nurses, all of whom make far less than Trump, pay so much more, is striking. It’s also so effective because of the vast chasm between the numbers.
It’s not like these people paid a bit more than him, they paid a Hell of a lot more. And as the Times piece pointed out, it was those same people who effectively paid for the $72 million tax return he got a while back. That just screams an injustice and unfairness that strikes a chord with people, especially when Trump himself attacks others as supposedly being the problem. In the year that Trump paid $750 in taxes, Joe Biden and his wife paid $3,742,974. Kamala Harris? She paid $516,469. We didn’t need the New York Times to tell us this fact because these two actually disclosed their taxes paid, another striking comparison to make here. But while those facts are very striking, how else can a campaign drive home the point about Trump’s hypocrisy here? Well Team Biden is getting creative:
I love the idea of the calculator, showing how much more you paid then Donald Trump in 2017. Not only does it drive home the point, but it really personalizes the effects of this story, helping people make a direct comparison to what they paid compared to Trump. It’s an effective tool that could help them drive some vote. And after that we’ve got the campaign swag, which to me is one of the more interesting developments in political campaigning these days. Thanks to companies who make items like those t-shirts on demand with relative ease, it makes it much easier for campaigns to produce cool campaign swag like those “I paid more income taxes than Donald Trump” t-shirts, stickers and buttons. It’s also an interesting way to raise some money as a campaign, something that frankly Donald Trump himself has done with great effect. So I find it interesting that it’s basically Trump himself whose provided the fodder for such a potentially effective approach and I’ll be interested to see how many shirts and buttons they sell.
Finally, while this is an important campaign and there is so much on the line, I believe that it’s still important for campaigns to be able to have some fun while getting their point across. When I see the campaign swag, that’s exactly what comes to mind; yes, it’s effective and makes a great point, but it’s also fun. There is no reason why we can’t have fun, even in the darkest of times. There’s no shock in the fact that Donald Trump did his best to avoid paying takes, but it can be fun to say “Hey, I contributed more than that joker.” I’ll be curious to see if the Biden team continues to have such impressive responses to issues like these as they arise because the campaign geek in me find this impressive. I know I may be alone in that but hey, so be it. We’ll see what else they come up with as this campaign continues.