By Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida
TALLAHASSEE — A top Florida campaign strategist for President Donald Trump credited outreach to a broad swath of voters and sophisticated use of data as playing key roles in Trump’s win Tuesday over Democrat Joe Biden in the state.
Trump senior adviser Susie Wiles, in a three-page memo Thursday, said the campaign focused on reaching out to “non-traditional Republican voter groups,” including conservative Jewish voters, parents of children who attend charter schools, Hispanics and Black voters in targeted counties. At the same time, she said the campaign worked to bring back voters who helped Trump carry the state in 2016.
“Focusing on the Trump voter from 2016 was a priority,” Wiles wrote in the memo. “Often these voters were not members of a Republican Club — sometimes not Republicans — and not drawn to GOP ideology but rather to President Trump as a brand. Re-engaging them was important and proved critical to GOTV (get-out-the-vote) and voter contact efforts.”
At the same time, Wiles described data as “king” and said the campaign “built margin through hyper-targeted voter registration, messaging, persuasion, and Get-Out-The-Vote efforts.”
“We targeted strategic demographic groups that are not traditional Republican supporters with messaging that was uniquely tailored to them,” Wiles wrote. “These targeted messages leveraged the president’s position on issues or amplified negatively our opponent’s position on an issue of importance to targeted voters.”
The memo offers a glimpse of behind-the-scenes efforts that helped Trump carry Florida by more than three percentage points, after pre-election polls showed the president and Biden in a toss-up race for the state’s 29 electoral votes. Trump defeated Biden by about 373,000 votes — more than triple the margin of his 2016 victory in Florida over Democrat Hillary Clinton — and carried 55 of the state’s 67 counties.
After Tuesday’s results became clear, heavy attention focused on Trump’s performance in Democrat-rich Miami-Dade County and particularly his performance among Cuban-Americans and other Hispanics. Biden carried Miami-Dade by nearly 85,000 votes, according to unofficial results. But that was a far cry from Clinton’s 290,147-vote margin in Miami-Dade in 2016.
In part, Republicans pounded a message about Democrats being “socialists,” a description that hurt Biden among groups such as Cuban-Americans and Venezuelan-Americans. While Republicans maintained their longstanding dominance in rural and mid-sized counties statewide, Wiles said in the memo that Trump had a net gain of 224,331 votes in heavily Democratic Miami-Dade, Broward and Osceola counties.
Also, Wiles pointed to outreach efforts that she said totaled about 27 million voter contacts through phone calls and door-knocking. She contrasted that with what she described as a Democratic strategy to focus on a “pony express absentee voter request campaign,” which allowed a “superhighway clear of all traffic for Trump Victory Florida to have historic participation.”
She said data allowed the campaign to tailor messages to specific groups.
“The team integrated data into every mode of communication — digital, mail, texting, canvassing and phones,” she wrote.
During the campaign, Trump held a series of raucous rallies in the state, while Biden held smaller events as Democrats pointed to a need to take precautions against the spread of COVID-19. Wiles wrote that the rallies played an important role for the Trump campaign to reach voters.
“Additionally, Trump rallies are way too frequently dismissed as a gratuitous celebration for the base. Not so,” she wrote. “While the Trump base loves a rally — a cross between a Rolling Stones concert and a church revival — rallies are a tool to talk to voters the campaign would likely not be able to reach otherwise. Statistics tell us that on average 25%-35% of attendees at a rally are not Republicans and/or not registered to vote. Attendance at a rally, while free of charge, requires registration, which enables the campaign to determine a way to contact the attendee and allows that contact to include voter registration, if needed, and messaging for persuasion. There is no more effective tool to reach these voters and potential voters.”