Who Clinton and Trump were really talking to last night

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We’re officially here. Last night kicked off the presidential general election race – with literally more than a Super Bowl-size audience. Data show the debate is on track to be the biggest TV event of the year, with numbers confirming a 17% jump over the first debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney in 2012.

And the pressure was on. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were determined to make a lasting impression and, in some instances, change hearts and minds. With barely 40 days left to connect with voters, Clinton and Trump no longer have the luxury of time on their side to persuade every single American, and it’s time to cut to the chase.

Both Trump and Clinton were speaking largely to their core audiences to gin up voter enthusiasm, but they hoped the following key groups were listening.

Clinton

Millennials, many of whom are third party supporters

Polling confirms millennials aren’t entirely sold yet on Hillary Clinton. Consider the Democratic primary where she lost millennials to Sen. Bernie Sanders by an astounding 71% to 28%. And, it will take more than an appearance on Zach Galifianakis’ “Between Two Ferns” to connect with them.

At the onset of the debate, she dropped issue nuggets that poll well with millennials, including investing in renewable energy and offering debt-free college. Perhaps a nod to former Bernie Sanders supporters (where two recent polls have found more than one-third of voters under the age of 30 plan to vote for third party candidates Gary Johnson or Jill Stein), she also emphasized the need for the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes and “close corporate loopholes.”

Suburban, college-educated women

Trump has flipped the script when it comes to suburban women being a reliable voting bloc for Republicans (in 2012 Mitt Romney won the national white female vote by 14 points). Recent polling shows Clinton holds an eight point edge with college-educated white women – a significant leap.

Last night, her early references to equal pay for women’s work, paid family leave and affordable childcare were direct signals to working women. Clinton pointed to another concern for white, college educated women: Trump’s temperament. At the close of the debate, she arguably dropped the mic with a bold statement concerning Trump’s comments toward women, complementing a campaign ad released last week. Clinton hoped that by reminding viewers that Trump called women “pigs, slobs and dogs,” and that he said “pregnancy is an inconvenience to employers,” it would leave a sour taste in women’s mouths after they turned off the debate.

Trump

White, college-educated men

Trump needs to capture the white vote, but not at normal margins previously secured by Republican candidates. According to recent NBC polling, Clinton is up one point among college educated white men. Overall, Trump is leading with white voters by 11 points; however, the Romney margin was 20%, so to steal a Trumpism – this nine point difference is heuuuuge.

Last night, Trump was speaking to white voters who can’t quite stomach Clinton and need to be convinced of his allegiance to traditional Republican values. His references to Ronald Reagan, reducing taxes by 20% for businesses and shrinking the size of government were all nods to this group. One of his strongest moments came while he explained the need of renegotiating trade deals and bringing jobs back to the U.S. – a message already connecting with white, non-college educated voters; however, it still needs to break through to white men not on board the Trump train yet.

Baby boomer Republicans in swing states

Trump had a tall order to excite the Republican base, many of whom are baby boomers voting at some of the highest rates. When it comes to battleground states like Florida, Trump must lock in these older voters. Why? Eighteen to 34 year olds are currently the largest and most diverse population group in some of these states, posing a serious threat to Trump.

To win over the minds of these voters, he underscored the reasons why Clinton’s unfavorables are so high: she is a career politician who’s been investigated for her use of a private email server while serving as Secretary of State. And quite persuasively, he emphasized her use of a private email account as “disgraceful” and “more than a mistake.” Trump also reminded viewers of her 30-year tenure in politics close to 10 times during the debate, dismissing her accomplishments as “bad experience” that have not improved the nation.

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Grassroots

Who Clinton and Trump were really talking to last night

iStock_000068192185_Large

We’re officially here. Last night kicked off the presidential general election race – with literally more than a Super Bowl-size audience. Data show the debate is on track to be the biggest TV event of the year, with numbers confirming a 17% jump over the first debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney in 2012.
And the pressure was on. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were determined to make a lasting impression and, in some instances, change hearts and minds. With barely 40 days left to connect with voters, Clinton and Trump no longer have the luxury of time on their side to persuade every single American, and it’s time to cut to the chase.
Both Trump and Clinton were speaking largely …

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Grassroots

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