My Republican Convention Diary – Day 4

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By Lord Ashcroft

 

One feature of the campaign that everyone seems to agree on is that the battle is between the two most unpopular candidates of modern times. Among Trump supporters, the proportion saying they have an unfavourable view of Hillary Clinton is in the high nineties; the same is true of Trump’s unfavourable among Clinton voters. Meanwhile, “undecideds hate them both”, according to the experienced campaign pollster Greg Strimple, who came to speak to our group of international visitors.

This goes well beyond the usual disdain for politicians and the pervasive view that “they’re all the same.” The big question is how this will affect turnout. Will turnout match the level of anger, as our Trump insider suggested yesterday, or will non-partisan voters “be so disgusted that they sit on their hands?” (more…)

My Republican Convention Diary – Day 3

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By Lord Ashcroft


The reporters, commentators and political professionals we have spoken to in Cleveland have been remarkably open in admitting they were wrong about Donald Trump’s chances. “I was speaking at a meeting last August, and I told them there was absolutely no way Trump would be the nominee,” one experienced campaign consultant confessed.

For once, no-one has blamed misleading polls. Instead, between them, they cite four main reasons. One is that they simply did not believe the polling numbers they were seeing, or decided there was a ceiling to his support, which he had repeatedly broken through. Secondly, they felt his lack of a traditional campaign infrastructure would restrict him against the experienced election winners he was up against. Thirdly, they assumed that given the calibre and record of the other candidates, Republicans would surely choose one of them over the wildcard Trump, if only to give them more chance of winning in November.

And finally, they assumed that Trump would simply implode after one gaffe too many (more…)

My Republican Convention Diary – Day 2

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By Lord Ashcroft

 

One of the things about Donald Trump that bemuses commentators and exasperates Republican campaign professionals is that, as one analyst put it to us, “he is running something that looks nothing like a campaign.” For one thing, he has raised nowhere near as much money as Hillary Clinton, and will probably be outspent by hundreds of millions of dollars by November. “If he’s worth as many billions as he says he is, he should spend some of it,” one frustrated operative grumbled.

For another thing, he has no ground operation to speak of – no troops on the ground knocking on doors in the states he needs to win: “Ground organisation matters. It can’t buy you ten points but it can get you two or three. It only matters if it’s close, but the Democrats have invested in it and Trump hasn’t.”

For a third thing, Trump is running no TV ads (more…)

My Republican Convention Diary – Day 1

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By Lord Ashcroft

 

An American political convention makes a British party conference look rather like a village fete. This year’s Republican National Convention is taking place in Cleveland, Ohio, in the twenty-thousand seat arena that is home to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the city’s world championship-winning basketball team. I am among the fifty thousand people visiting for the event, along with 2,472 delegates and the fifteen thousand members of the media, who comprise the biggest international press corps outside that of the Rio Olympics.

Cleveland itself inspires mixed views. Some like to refer to it as “The Mistake On The Lake”, or to remind you that the Cuyahoga River which runs through it was once so polluted that it caught fire (more…)

How the United Kingdom voted on Thursday… and why

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By Lord Ashcroft

 

The UK has voted to leave the European Union. On referendum day I surveyed 12,369 people after they had voted to help explain the result – who voted for which outcome, and what lay behind their decision.

 

The demographics

  • The older the voters, the more likely they were to have voted to leave the EU. Nearly three quarters (73%) of 18 to 24 year-olds voted to remain, falling to under two thirds (62%) among 25-34s. A majority of those aged over 45 voted to leave, rising to 60% of those aged 65 or over. Most people with children aged ten or under voted to remain; most of those with children aged 11 or older voted to leave.

(more…)

Why I’m for Brexit

By Lord Ashcroft

Forget the hysteria. Leaving the European Union would not put a bomb under the British economy or end Western political civilization as we know it. But nor would it mean another £350 million a week being spent on the NHS, and staying does not mean eighty million Turks will be arriving at Dover. For voters struggling to make sense of the referendum campaign, this sort of thing has hardly helped (more…)

Voters’ butterflies, the post-Brexit budget, and the Totnes Question: my final referendum focus groups

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By Lord Ashcroft

 

My final round of referendum focus groups, in St Austell and Bromley, found that if the two sides of the campaign are feeling the pressure of the tightening polls, they are not the only ones – the voters are nervous too: “I swing so much between the two. I have actually got butterflies;” “In most elections nothing really changes, but with this one you know in your gut that something big is going to happen. There are going to be major changes and that is quite frightening (more…)

Migration, TV debates, our “special status”, and the Money Saving Expert: my referendum focus groups in Cardiff

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By Lord Ashcroft

My penultimate round of focus groups with undecided voters took place in Cardiff, where many people’s perplexity over the decision at hand was not turning not into enlightenment but exasperation. Among the many words people used to describe the contest so far (“unreliable”, “unrealistic”, “uninformative”, “not that interesting”, “unnecessary”, “a quagmire”, “a lot of bullsh*t”), by far the most common was “confusing”.

The campaign “is not helping one bit. It’s just, ‘this is going to happen’, ‘no it’s not’.” (more…)

Tory wars, Clarkson, Corbyn, Sadiq & Dave, the TUC and immigration: my latest referendum focus groups

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By Lord Ashcroft

 

This week’s focus groups with undecided referendum voters took place in Leamington and in Muswell Hill, North London, with only three weeks to go until the big day. “That will be the actual decision, will it?” It really will. “I don’t think it’s been highlighted that much, considering it’s such a big thing.” “In the paper I always see this ‘Bee-arr-exit’. What does it mean?”

Given the dearth of coverage, what arguments have people noticed from the Leave side? “The amount of money we pay into the EU. It’s a huge figure. If we leave we’ll be £30 billion or £300 billion better off (more…)

Turkey, migrants, the Euro-army, the price of freedom and the Neutrality Paradox: my referendum focus groups in Leeds

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By Lord Ashcroft

 

This week’s focus groups with undecided referendum voters took place in Leeds, where people were doing their best to stay on top of events (“I’m not OCD about it but I like to know what’s going on”). Participants had noticed that recent news had been dominated by migration, including the rise in net migration to 333,000.

For some, this was worrying (“it’s scary when you see it written down”). Others thought it was surprisingly (more…)