How Trump's data operation helped him win - Axios
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How Trump's data operation helped him win

Greg Ruben / Axios

According to conversations with over two dozen staffers and advertising experts involved with the data and advertising operations of both presidential campaigns, the Democratic party's data machine that worked so well in 2008 and 2012 may have ended up working against Hillary Clinton in 2016. Here's what the campaigns did:

  • Like Clinton, the Democratic campaign's digital strategy was disciplined and precise. They were methodical, using data to acutely target voters that were pegged as most likely to vote or most likely to be swayed.
  • Like Trump, the Republican campaign's strategy was unpredictable and opportunistic. They were experimental, especially on Facebook, using data to identify wider sets of potential voters, and to target broader audiences that weren't necessarily pegged as definitive or persuadable voters.

Why it matters: The Clinton campaign's data-driven media and communication tactics may have been too precise amid an unusual media climate against a non-traditional candidate. Conversely, the Trump campaign's reliance on intuition over data drove their message to people and places they would've never otherwise reached, like white, male voters in Wisconsin and Michigan — the voters that delivered his victory.

Campaign structure:

Per a former Clinton party official:

The Clinton campaign was run like a management consulting firm. The Trump campaign was run like a family business.
  • The Trump campaign's main data source came from the RNC, which worked with a third-party firm called Data Trust. The relationship between the RNC and an independent group, not a campaign, is what many from the Trump campaign credit for their electoral success. After their 2008 loss, Data Trust and the RNC began to create an infrastructure that could support any future nominee. "Our theory is Democrats created a machine designed to market one product — Obama. If we can design a system that can market any candidate, not one specific candidate, we think we can leapfrog the competition," Data Trust advisor (and former Reince Priebus chief of staff) Mike Shields said about their strategy.
  • The Clinton campaign's main data hub was split between the DNC and the campaign itself, not a third-party that could cultivate data across cycles. Groups like Catalist, Civis, Organizing for Action and the DNC all housed different pieces of the data at different times that Obama used to target voters in 2012. Sources say the Clinton campaign worked with the DNC to cultivate and model a data pool that had been fragmented after Obama's 2012 win, making it harder for the Clinton campaign to compete with the GOP's long-term strategy.

Targeting strategy: One of the biggest differences between 2012 and 2016 was the increased domination of Facebook and Google, which made micro-targeting through paid advertising on both platforms a significant part of each campaign's strategy.

  • The Clinton campaign used micro-targeting to focus on a specific group of persuadable voters, while the Trump campaign identified persuadable voters and advertised to broader, related groups.
One of biggest lessons of this campaign is you can't get by with small, targeted audiences.
— Google's Head of Industry - Elections, Lee Dunn

Mass-message testing:

  • Trump: Gary Coby, who led the Trump Campaign's advertising team alongside Brad Parscale, said that each day, the campaign tested 40,000-50,000 automated ad combinations on Facebook for $200,000-$300,000. From there, they found which messaging attracted audiences whose voter files weren't pegged as being likely to vote for Trump. Experimenting that quickly allowed them to build up enough historical data to very quickly identify trends of which ads worked and which didn't. Coby told Axios that campaign staff got so good at predicting effectiveness of certain messaging, that they could see what worked after only spending $20-$50 on a particular ad.
  • The Clinton campaign took a more strategic approach, focusing on fewer, more targeted messages, that were more likely to appeal to certain voters and refining them through surveys on video ads across the web. The campaign used technology that was able to measure specifically how messages resonated within different voter files, and drill into subgroups to identify areas for future message optimization. The technology even included ways to measure how external events affected responder bias.
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Trump says Republicans “must fight” Freedom Caucus in 2018

President Trump nodded to the 2018 midterm election on Twitter Thursday morning:

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Trump might keep controversial NAFTA provisions

Evan Vucci / AP

An administration draft proposal that has been circulated in Congress by the U.S. trade representative's office revealed that the U.S. might keep some of NAFTA's most controversial provisions, despite Trump railing against the "disaster" agreement during his campaign, per the WSJ. The recently obtained proposal reveals that the U.S.:

  • Would keep a disputed arbitration panel that allows investors to circumvent local courts to resolve civil claims, which critics argue infringes on national sovereignty.
  • Wouldn't use upcoming NAFTA negotiations with Mexico and Canada to deal with disputes over foreign currency policies or to discuss meeting numerical requirements for bilateral trade deficits.
  • Calls for allowing a NAFTA nation to reinstate tariffs in case of an influx imports that would cause "serious injury or threat of serious injury" to domestic industries.

As the WSJ points out, the draft appears to be a compromise between trade hawks, who hope NAFTA renegotiations will help set a new trade agenda; and moderates, who back the provision under the original agreement.

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Putin denies interfering in U.S. elections: "Watch my lips, no"

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he's willing to meet with President Trump at a possible Arctic Summit in Finland or the G20 summit in July. He called the US anti-Russian rhetoric "all lies" and denied interfering in any U.S. elections.

Meanwhile: House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday that "we all knew Russia was trying to meddle with our election."

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Another energy company exits the Canadian oil sands

Eamon MacMahon / AP

Now it's really a trend. ConocoPhillips announced Wednesday that it's selling most of its Canadian oil sands assets (as well as some Canadian gas holdings) to Cenovus Energy in a $13.3 billion deal. ConocoPhillips said the deal will help to "rapidly reduce debt" and lower the average production costs in its portfolio.

Joining the club: ConocoPhillips' deal comes after global oil giants Statoil and Shell have retreated from their oil sands positions in recent months, and Marathon Oil recently divested from the Alberta heavy oil projects too.

  • Reuters notes that international oil companies are pulling back from the region because "high costs and low crude prices have made it hard for large companies to make an acceptable return."
  • Development of the oil sands is increasingly consolidating into the hands of big Canadian companies.
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Trump's early report cards

An exclusive clip from next Sunday's edition of Showtime's "The Circus," a road trip to five states in five days — including an informal focus group about Trump, conducted by Mark Halperin at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire:

  • Insights from participants: "I think he's getting a heck of an education" ... "It's supposed to feel uncomfortable, and it does feel uncomfortable. And that's good. That's change."
  • Advice: "Slow down."
  • One word to describe Trump: "impulsive ... arrogant ... huge ... winner ... bombastic ... rash ... rambunctious ... change ... rushed ... unsettling .. circus."

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Paul Ryan: "We all knew Russia was trying to meddle with our election"

House Speaker Paul Ryan told CBS' Norah O'Donnell on Wednesday that Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and he sent a letter before the election warning the secretaries of state to guard their data, and to "watch out" for Russian interference.

"We all knew this before the election. We all knew, Russia was trying to meddle with our election. And we already know right now they are trying to do it with other countries," said Ryan. "I think we have a special responsibility given our capabilities to make sure we help our allies guard against this meddling by Russia in their elections just like they tried to with our election."
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Trump's edge: flipping white working-class Obama voters

Andrew Harnik / AP

The NYTimes' Nate Cohn dug through the numbers in search of how Trump pulled it off, and it all goes back to the white working class:

If turnout played only a modest role in Mr. Trump's victory, then the big driver of his gains was persuasion: He flipped millions of white working-class Obama supporters to his side.
The voter file data makes it impossible to avoid this conclusion. It's not just that the electorate looks far too Democratic. In many cases, turnout cannot explain Mrs. Clinton's losses.
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White House confirms Trump to host Xi at Mar-a-Lago

Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Luis Hidalgo / AP

The White House and Chinese government have confirmed that Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit U.S. President Trump at Mar-a-Lago on April 6-7, as Axios' Mike Allen reported earlier this month.

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The next start-up hubs

A growing number of startups are being created across the country — and they're cropping up outside of the top innovation hub cities. That's according to new data released today by TechNet and the Progressive Policy Institute.

Why it matters: Political and economic dynamics are forcing companies and investors to pay more attention to business activity in middle America, where many workers feel left out of the booming economies of the coastal cities (think San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, New York and Boston.) Following the recession, start-up formation stalled outside of the big tech hubs like Silicon Valley. But activity has picked up over the past two years, with midwestern cities gaining momentum.

Data: TechNet / Progressive Policy Institute Report; Map: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

The findings:

  • Almost half (48%) of new start-up growth is happening outside of the 35 largest metro areas.
  • Top 10 emerging start-up hubs: Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Denver, Salt Lake City, Portland, Dallas, Raleigh-Durham, Worcester and Philadelphia.
  • Cities to watch include Nashville, Cleveland, New Orleans, Minneapolis, Detroit.
  • In 2014, companies in their first 5 years created 2.2 million jobs, while firms older than 5 years created 450,000 jobs.
  • New startups could create one million new jobs per year nationwide.

"Start-up activity has burst out of the tech hubs and is really spreading across the entire economy," PPI's Michael Mandel, who conducted the study, told Axios. "You're starting to see the new green shoots come up in a lot of areas."

What to watch: Local and state level officials are looking for ways to encourage more start-up growth in midwestern regions, including tax incentives for homegrown companies and helping boost access to capital.

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Trumpcare sightings have become the new Elvis sightings

Giphy

They want us to believe Trumpcare is dead — but if that's true, why do we keep hearing talk about a bill that BEARS AN UNCANNY RESEMBLANCE TO TRUMPCARE????

  • Bloomberg got the Twitters all worked up yesterday with a report that the House could try to vote on the bill again next week. It cited two Republican lawmakers, but House Ways and Means Committee chairman Kevin Brady said: "I don't think there's any truth to that. None." AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, tweeted: "Now seems like an appropriate time to remind folks to be careful what they read."
  • There's also a members-only meeting among Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans, but I'm told it's not anything to get too excited about.

Bottom line: Maybe we will find out sometime soon that there's been a breakthrough and Trumpcare is alive again, because either conservatives or moderates caved or both. But now is not the time to freak out, because nothing has changed. We'll tell you when it's time to freak out.

Watch the smaller bills: Now Sen. Lamar Alexander is pushing a bill to let people buy any state-approved health insurance if all of the Obamacare insurers left.