As the 2020 campaign wound down, President Donald Trump held rallies across the country to fire up his supporters and get them out to vote. Many saw the rallies as a sign of big enthusiasm for Trump, but the data suggest the visits did not produce the desired impact for the president.
Comparing Trump campaign stops over the last two weeks of the race to election results shows that in the overwhelming majority of cases, Trump underperformed his 2016 margins in the counties he visited, in some cases by large amounts.
There were 30 Trump campaign stops in that period, according to an NBC News tally, in states from Arizona to Nebraska to Pennsylvania. In five counties that Trump visited he saw better results than he did in 2016, but in the remaining 25 his margins of victory got smaller, his margin of defeat grew or the county flipped Democratic.
The numbers are important to note because they raise questions about how journalists and analysts perceive campaigns.
Crowd sizes are often held out as a way to gauge support for a politician, and sometimes they are. But during a pandemic, with a polarizing candidate on the stump, it’s possible the meaning of the rallies were misread. While the crowds were visible sign of enthusiasm for Trump, there were much bigger, and less visible, groups of people who were not at the rallies and who may have seen them in a negative light.
A look at some crucial states that were the sites of several rallies offers some evidence for an invisible, negative impact for the president.
In Michigan, Trump held five events in the last two weeks of the campaign and in every one of those counties, his 2020 margins were worse than they were in 2016. [Continue reading…]