Viewed through any conventional lens, President-elect Donald Trump’s candidacy was improbable from start to finish. Today, two things about his victory seem to be in sharper focus: one, that Trump’s victory might best be understood as the success of the country’s first independent president, and second, that the Trump coalition may be even more uniquely his than President Obama’s has turned out to be.
Think again about how he prevailed. There are a handful of major events during a general election that give the nominees a chance to showcase themselves, their judgment and their vision. One is the selection of a running mate. Another is the staging of the conventions. A third is performance in the debates. Hillary Clinton did better than Trump on all three tests, though Trump’s team believes the debates did not fall so decisively in her favor.
Then there are the other factors that go into producing a successful candidacy. These include resources, the operations and mechanics of campaigning, and the skill with which candidates avoid mistakes and deal with the unexpected setbacks.
Clinton raised more money than Trump. She had a larger number of paid staffers on the ground in the battleground states. She ran more television ads by far. He created needless controversies throughout the general election, while her problems were far fewer. Only in the final days did he seem surer of himself.
In other words, Trump came out the loser on virtually every aspect of how campaigns are usually evaluated. Yet today he is staffing his administration and Clinton is still absorbing the brutal shock of having lost a race she believed was hers.