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All Politics Is Local, But How Do You Localize an Issue? Different Tactics in the Clinton and Sanders Camps

One of the big stories coming out of the political world this week was Bernie Sanders’ upset win in Michigan—a state which most pundits expected to go pretty substantially for Hillary Clinton. Stories as recently as Tuesday—the day of the Michigan Primary—predicted that “Michigan should have been fertile territory for Bernie Sanders” populist and protectionist message, but he’s expected to lose the Democratic primary there today by double digits. Obviously, this wasn’t the case.

How did they get it so wrong? The thesis of that story, and the attitude of many pundits, was that where the former Secretary of State had been so successful was in her abilities to hyper-localize her campaign messaging, explaining how a Clinton presidency would address issues like the water crisis in Flint, gubernatorial failings, and voter ID laws. The saying goes that all politics is local, so how did she miss the mark so badly?

Even though Clinton is talking more about local issues, it’s important to take a look at how the Sanders campaign has also localized things. Sanders’ main campaign themes of class inequality resonate astoundingly well with Michigan voters, many of whom have seen their livelihoods dry up and economic situations worsen as a result of Clinton-era trade policies. It turns out that glomming on to the issues affecting specific localities was not as effective a strategy as bringing national issues down to the local level and demonstrating a contrast in values between the two candidates. Future office-seekers and any organization looking to make an impact locally would be wise to take note.

Andrew Ricci is a Vice President at LEVICK and a contributing author to Tomorrow.

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