Donald Trump Is Banking on Big Rallies, Not Big Data, to Win the Presidency

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Donald Trump will once again star in his own reality show as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee — saying he'll bank more on huge rallies than data-driven voter targeting in the race to November.

Trump told the Associated Press he's got no plans to spend major money on the sort of microtargeting that served as a cornerstone of President Barack Obama's 2008 and 2012 wins.

Read more: 2016 West Virginia and Nebraska Republican Primaries: Donald Trump Wins Two More States

"Obama got the votes much more so than his data processing machine," Trump said in the Tuesday interview. "And I think the same is true with me."

Trump's arena-filling campaign events became a sensation early in the primary cycle, standing in notable contrast to the more intimate approach favored by not only some of his GOP rivals, but Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. 

"My best investment is my rallies," Trump said during the AP sitdown. "The people go home, they tell their friends they loved it. It's been good."

The former "Celebrity Apprentice" star's staunch belief in his power to translate personal appeal into votes has been questioned before.

Trump attracted big crowds in early-voting Iowa, but analysts attributed his loss to Ted Cruz in the state's GOP caucuses in part to the Trump campaign's failure to transform rally turnout into actual votes and overcome Cruz's savvy ground game.

"Having Eventbrite names and email addresses isn't campaign data. It's nice, but you need voter files," a source who worked with the Trump campaign told Politico after the Iowa loss.

Still, Trump's subsequent win in New Hampshire and a string of other state primaries suggested his ground game evolved as the campaign continued and, coupled with his flare for crowd-pleasing performances and heavy media coverage, produced a stronger strategy than his foes might have hoped.

Trump's massive rallies have also presented problems for his rule-breaking campaign: Clashes between his supporters and demonstrators resulted in some negative optics, and large-scale protests forced him to cancel a major Chicago rally in March.

Billionaire Trump may not be anxious to plunge funds into the sort of granular voter tracking and turnout modeling that Obama used in his two White House runs and Clinton is now using in hers.

But the AP noted the "Republican National Committee has invested heavily in data operations, eager to avoid another defeat to a more technologically savvy Democrat. Trump could make use of that RNC data if he wished."

Trump is scheduled to meet with House Speaker Paul Ryan, who's been reluctant to back the GOP's presumptive pick, and other top Republican leaders in Washington on Thursday.

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Celeste Katz

Celeste Katz is senior political correspondent at Mic, covering national politics. She is based in New York and can be reached at celeste@mic.com.

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