Like so many conservatives, I said this a hundred times. I have a weekly dinner engagement with a brilliant businessman who was and is an ardent supporter of Donald Trump. As the political "expert", he asked me what I thought each week, and I gave the litany of reasons why the Trump campaign would "nova".
And each week I grew more wrong.
My mistake, and one I will never make again, was to look at the candidate in a vacuum...the candidate without the campaign. Odd error for a guy who runs campaigns to make, but one I made enthusiastically. It took me well into the final two months before I woke up.
It's not the candidate alone, Stupid. It's the campaign!
Hidden behind all that bluster and bombast was one of the most targeted and sophisticated retail campaigns I've ever seen. And Donald Trump owes that to Kellyann Conway, a pollster turned campaign guru who had previously worked in the same capacity for Ted Cruz in the primary run.
Essentially ignoring the popular vote, and abandoning those states that were statistically unwinnable, Kellyann charted a course to an Electoral College victory that sent the American press and the liberal establishment into apoplexy. And what was born was not simply an unpredicted victory or a radically different President.
As a pollster, Kellyann bought data from a company able to more fluidly microtarget voter behavior. Rather than target Republican and Republican leaning Unenrolled voters, who had a history of voting in elections like this one, Kellyann, with the able assistance of her data vendor forged new parameters that produced new voters. Stepping across the line painted by "best campaign practices", the Trump campaign sought out less likely voters who, if they were delivered to the polls effectively, would vote Trump at a high probability. This amounted to between 5 and 7% of the vote and was, magically, the difference between pre election polls and the final count.
And with this was born a new "Best Practice", one where campaigns use more sophisticated filtering and targeting to produce a group of emotional voters, who had often never voted before, to actually arrive at the polls and dictate an election.