Trump Tapes Sealing the Deal for Clinton
A couple of weeks ago, we took a deep dive into the slogans, attacks, and movements that have driven the 2016 campaign. Based on our analysis at GW’s PEORIA Project, we found there were nine. Based on this past week’s news, we need to add a tenth: #TrumpTapes.
Hashtags are not campaigns in and of themselves. #NeverTrump remains a rallying cry for people who do not support the Republican nominee but failed to find a candidate in time to stop him. Despite a recent poll showing #NeverTrump independent candidate Evan McMullin in second place in Utah, there are 49 other states where he is not a favorite-son. McMullin is not going to stop Trump from winning.
But the Trump Tapes just might.
They distill the bad impression people already had about him, a reputation built over several decades. Donald J. Trump was never going to be a paragon of male enlightenment. The public cheating on wives. Tabloids. Howard Stern. Now, Billy Bush. This week: the sexual harassment. These are the hardest impressions to change if you’re running for office. With less than a month to go it’s just not going to happen. Cries of conspiracy will only work with is supporters: not the voters he needs to persuade to vote for him.
Our analysis of Trump Tapes as a hashtag was surprising. As of October 12, 864,597 posts have included #TrumpTapes, #TrumpTape, or the words next to each other. As you can see below, most of them were on a single day, October 8, since the news broke on a Friday night many had not heard about it until later in the weekend.
Here is how this compares to the others on our 2016 list based in order of the most posts in a single day:
- Black Lives Matter — 884,446 posts on July 8, the day of the Dallas shootings
- Basket of Deplorables — 627,069 on September 10, the day after Clinton called half of Trump’s supporters a basket of deplorables
- Trump Tapes — 522,656 posts on October 8, the first full day after the release
- Never Trump — 275,328 posts on February 27, the day Jeb Bush suspended his campaign
- Delete Your Account — 242,831 posts on June 9th, the day Clinton’s campaign put out a tweet directed at Trump to leave Twitter
- I’m With Her — 216,317 posts on July 28, the day Clinton accepted the Democratic nomination
- Feel the Bern — 177,476 posts on July 29, the day after the DNC
- Make America Great Again — 109,219 posts on September 16, when Trump appeared on The Dr. Oz Show
- Crooked Hillary — 88,100 posts on July 15, the day of the attacks on Nice, France
- Lock Her Up — 69,609 posts on July 28, the day Clinton accepted the Democratic nomination
While the Basket of Deplorables hashtag was included in more Twitter posts on its boom day, it’s important to note that the news broke during the day and many of Trump’s supporters co-opted the hashtag after the attack as a way to ridicule Clinton. From our read of the tweets with Trump Tapes, his supporters are definitely not using it in that way.
While there was relatively little holdover through the next few days beyond October 8 — it is flattening out as an active hashtag — the effect on the campaign trajectory is very significant.
How about the impact on the polls? Remember, Trump hasn’t led Clinton since July 30. In addition, it’s important to note that Trump was not ahead of Clinton before the tape was released. She was ahead by 3.2% according to the RealClearPolitics four-way polling aggregation. Clinton’s advantage reached 5.5% on October 12 and remains there, after a little movement, on October 12. This represents a new baseline for the race and it’s pretty close to outside the margins of error for most polls.
Therefore, something fundamentally has changed about the race since the release of the Trump Tapes. First, it represents the first time in a month that he’s consistently under 40%, suggesting that some of the #TrumpOnlyBecauseItsHillary vote may be collapsing. Clinton hasn’t polled below 40% since July 30.
Second, the Trump Tapes were a crucial part of the second debate, especially the first half hour where Clinton dominated and Trump seemed to have, ironically, low energy. Trump rallied later but final scientific polls had Clinton winning.
Third, the Trump Tapes have opened the door for others to speak out about their frightening personal experiences with him, which reinforce and extend the narrative beyond the initial release. If the first debate was about Alicia Machado and the second was about the Trump Tapes, the final one will very likely include some of the stories coming to light this week.
It’s not going away and none of this is going to help Trump. It’s already become an off-ramp for many Republicans running for reelection this year. Fighting with members of your own party is not a recipe for electoral landslide. Hate-tweeting the GOP Speaker of the House, even though he has repeatedly said he is voting for you isn’t helpful.
Continuing to rail against the media for covering women who have come forward based on your remarks in the second debate, isn’t helpful either. It guarantees it will remain a topic in the third and final debate on Wednesday.
Will we look back on this moment and say, that was the end? We still have three weeks and one debate left. As we’ve learned, anything is possible in 2016. But our sense of it, with the polling and social media data we have today, is that we will look back on October 7 as the moment Twitter and celebrity, the hands that fed Trump’s rise, belatedly bit back.
If you enjoyed this article, click the💚 below so other people will see this here on Medium. Follow me on Twitter @michaelcohen. You can follow our research on our website or on Twitter @PEORIAProject, which is funded by a generous grant from Mark R. Shenkman. To learn more about the Graduate School of Political Management visit our website or follow us on Twitter @GSPMgwu.