The Pros & Cons of Using Trump in Your Campaign Message

As of August 2017, Donald Trump has become a deeply unpopular president. His approval rating is now consistently under 40%. Unable to get anything done in Congress – despite controlling both houses – Republicans are also facing a major enthusiasm gap.

But how much should Democratic campaigns focus on the president in their communications? The answer is less clear cut than you might think. We weigh the pros and cons of using Trump in your campaign message.

Pros

  • According to Rasmussen, strong disapproval for Trump exceeded 50% in July, mostly among Democrats. Using Trump's image can be a good way to motivate the base to come out and vote on Election Day. "Send a message to Trump" is a good message for progressives.
  • Attacking Democratic primary opponents who hold any views that align with Trump's can give your primary campaign a shot in the arm and move the needle in your favor.
  • In general elections, Republicans who align themselves with too closely Trump will lose independent voters. So, if you have a Trumpian Republican you're facing, you should exploit that in your mailers, ads, and press conferences.

Cons

  • Many voters understand that Trump is not a typical Republican. While anti-Trump messages will work well with progressive Democrats and people of color, they are likely to fall short of expectations with other voters, especially if the Republican in the race distances him or herself from the president.
  • There is a law of diminishing returns when you try associating a Democratic primary opponent to an unpopular Republican. We have seen it many times in the past. While it can give your campaign a shot in the arm, sustaining those attacks will make them less and less effective because (frankly) voters don't find them very believable.
  • Traditional Republican voters like the ones we discussed a few weeks ago (wealthier, more educated, suburban) might not like Trump, but that doesn't mean they're ready to vote for a Democratic Congressional candidate. They will see through it if you try to get them to vote Democratic with an anti-Trump message.

If you have questions about using or avoiding Trump in your campaign, reply to this email and let us know! We're happy to be a resource to you.

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