The general-election campaign is happening today. And Donald Trump is running unopposed.
Presidents who have recently won reelection seeded their victories not in the final sprint before Election Day, but by executing a two-year campaign to exploit a contentious primary on the other side, reconnect with their base of supporters, and define the election as a choice, not a referendum. I served as the national press secretary on President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, when we used that strategy to great effect. Now I’m watching President Trump executing the same strategy that powered Obama to reelection, while the Democratic organizations that could answer him have left an open playing field in the battleground states where the election will be decided.
The Trump campaign launched at the start of 2019 and hasn’t paused for a day. It is using the candidate’s schedule, a staffed-up campaign team, and a sophisticated digital-advertising effort to reach its target voters. The campaign has spent more than $5 million on Facebook ads, with a particular focus on older voters and women, firing up the base by attacking “fake news” and promoting its message on immigration. The advertising team has gone beyond social-media campaigns, sponsoring podcasts and creating a significant paid-media presence on YouTube. In fact, Trump is outspending Democrats six to one on video ads, the primary digital-engagement tool for voters today.