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Political Climate Barometer

Political Climate Barometer

Iowa is often referred to as a political barometer, since its voters often signal what messaging is effective in the rest of the country. Iowa is also considered a barometer in a more literal sense— the state produces some of the most dangerous tornadoes in the mid-west. As unrelated as they seem, successful campaigns and destructive tornadoes are born through similar means. They begin with an eerie stillness, followed by a clash of opposing temperatures, resulting in a vortex of force. The storm itself is easy to identify, but like any successful campaign, the ‘calm before the storm’ is the most crucial indication that something big is coming.

This was certainly the case for Donald Trump, the current frontrunner for the GOP nomination. Some argue that Trump has poised himself for a presidential run since he first spoke at the New Hampshire primary in 1987; others claim that his celebrity persona supersedes his political ambition. Before Trump announced his candidacy in June, polls certainly suggested the latter opinion. According to a Quinnipiac Poll in March, 76 percent of Americans said they would “probably not” or “definitely not” vote for Trump.

So how has Trump transformed his campaign into a political force of nature? It began in April with a Tele-Town Hall® to voters in Iowa. During the hour-long call, Trump fielded questions on everything from health care to border security to the terrorist group ISIS. While speaking on these issues, Trump hammered both President Barack Obama and the current crop of Republican White House hopefuls, whom he framed as hapless politicians. Trump held subsequent Tele-Town Hall® events before publically announcing his candidacy in June.

There are two primary reasons why the Tele-Town Hall® platform works for Trump. First, our “Q&A” feature allows his candor to shine. Trump has been lauded during debates for his ability to cut through ‘politically correct’ messaging. This is certainly true for his Tele-Town Hall® events, where Trump’s off-the-cuff speaking style engages listeners and energizes his base. Second, communicating through the telephone strips away the vestiges of his celebrity persona. We have come to associate Trump with various images and catchphrases from his television appearances. Tele-Town Hall® serves as the perfect platform to break this mold. There are no images to convolute his message, no editors to package his statements. The result is simply a candidate speaking with his voters.

There are still 13 months until the election, but the ‘calm before the storm’ is quickly coming to an end. Trump’s rebranding model serves as a strong example for other candidates to give pause and review. As we look to the Iowa Caucus in February, campaigns should take heed to incorporate Tele-Town Hall into their strategy. It can make the difference between the perfect storm and losing momentum altogether.

John Shepard, Associate