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A few days prior to the 59th United States presidential election, Donald Trump and the Grand Old Party are facing the shambles that his term in office brought with it. Approximately 93 million eligible voters have already voted at this time, as the USA is looking forward to a historic voter turnout. According to polls, Joe Biden is in the lead. Trump’s approval ratings have been falling more or less steadily since the COVID-19 pandemic has been worsening. And now his competitor has also been ahead in the predictions of the electoral vote and popular vote for a considerable time, seemingly out of reach.

In theory, the election results appear to have been sealed. But if there is one thing Democrats had to learn painfully in the course of the 2016 election, it is that in practice the actual winner of the election has the last laugh. Although their lead is even clearer than it was four years ago, forecasts also predicted Hillary Clinton’s higher chances of winning. As well as a decent lead in the electoral vote and popular vote. Eventually, Trump became president – will it be the same old story?

The so-called “get out the vote” (GTVO) refers to a concentrated effort to register voters and increase voter turnout.

At least, such experiences raise the incumbent’s last hope in a virtually unpromising situation. In the run-up to the election, Republicans even tend to instrumentalize this intransigence and the alleged lack of meaningful polls as a narrative of Trump’s campaign. In general, political campaigns are divided into individual phases. And logically, the candidates as well as the teams working for them pursue certain strategies. Part of this is the so-called “get out the vote” (GTVO) which theoretically refers to a concentrated effort to register voters and increase voter turnout. On the one hand, according attempts can be implemented passively throughout the campaign. On the other hand, this concept stands for active voter mobilization during the last days and hours leading up to election day.

For instance, the Green Party performed a strategic masterpiece in the last 72 hours before the 2009 federal elections in Germany. For the entirety of three days, the party offered a livestream around the clock, in which Green prominent figures were interviewed on site or via video call. Coupled with the offer to answer every single question from potential voters instantaneously. The medial impact paid off, as Greens achieved their best election result to date on a national level and, for the first time, a double-digit vote. Be it immense endeavors as in this example or common methods such as sending hand-signed postcards or easing access to the ballot box, Trump’s negative portrayal of the election so far was neither.

A massive final effort on the home straight is thus particularly crucial for the current president.

A massive final effort on the home straight is thus particularly crucial for the current president. After all, it is Biden who has been promoting early voting for weeks. A comprehensible strategy, since the challenger and his supporters cannot allow themselves to be lulled into a false sense of security. Otherwise they may face a rude awakening after the election, despite several positive signs beforehand. In stark contrast, Trump was trying to denounce the absentee ballots as well as the general validity of the election as a whole. Meanwhile GOTV activities have been a key element in Biden’s campaign. A strategic measure that seems to be rewarding in light of the voter turnout so far, which has been remarkable by US standards.

Furthermore, Democrats are outspending Republicans this year. They have managed to raise a significantly larger amount of funds, reflecting their spending in an unprecedented advantage of nearly $2 billion over Republicans. If they succeed in tactically capitalizing on this financial advantage in the all-important GTVO phase, a re-election of the incumbent becomes nearly impossible.

By now, Donald Trump presents himself as an underdog, in the final phase of his campaign.

By now, Donald Trump presents himself as an underdog, in the final phase of his campaign. While trying to appeal to even larger audiences in rallies that are increasing in size. In the hope of winning swing states and securing traditionally conservative parts of the country that are surprisingly shaky. His turbulent travels across the country and the accompanying fights on several fronts convey one thing above all: desperation. He urgently needs to ensure that his base actually goes to the polls and even then, it is presumably no longer in his hands. Biden’s lead and his campaign organization so far allow him a composed final sprint. Final mobilizations are easier to handle when you are not sitting in a sinking ship whose leaks have to be plugged on all sides. Hence both candidates continue to campaign until the very end, each in their own way.

However, it is not unlikely that a large number of Democratic Party supporters voted early and have therefore already responded to Biden’s GTVO calls. Additionally, their disagreements with their current president most certainly contributes to such a behavior. In this context, Trump probably has more room for improvement. But does he also have the time and money? His last hope is to get out the vote by mobilizing undecided and pivotal voters in order to win important battleground states. Yet it is becoming more and more apparent that he has missed this opportunity for too long.

David Bauer
David Bauer erlangte 2017 seinen Bachelor in Governance and Public Policy an der Universität Passau. Heute steht der Political Science Student unmittelbar vor seiner Masterarbeit an der Paris-Lodron-Universität Salzburg. In seinen wissenschaftlichen Arbeiten befasst er sich vorrangig mit (Rechts-)Populismus und der Analyse von Parteiprogrammen.

    Sources:

    Green European Foundation (2014). Campaign Handbook. A user’s guide to campaigning. Available at: https://gef.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Campain_Handbook.pdf.

    New Organizing Institute (2012). Campaigning to Engage and Win. A Guide to Leading Electoral Campaigns. Available at: https://www.washcodemocrats.com/uploads/5/6/1/4/5614289/campaigning_to_engage_and_win.pdf.

    Siders, D. & Cadelago, C. (2020). Biden flips script on Trump in campaigns final week. Available at: https://www.politico.com/news/2020/10/26/biden-and-trump-role-reversal-432347.

    The Center for Responsive Politics (2020). 2020 Election to Cost $14 Billion, Blowing Away Spending Records. Available at: https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2020/10/cost-of-2020-election-14billion-update.

    Further data on the election forecast:

    https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2020-election-forecast/

    https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2016-election-forecast/

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