One mistake that will likely be made this week as the Presidential candidates criss-cross Wisconsin in search of primary votes is to take a look at the size of their election events and equate it to actual popularity with the voters. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump will hold rallies drawing thousands, while Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz will conduct "town halls" with hundreds of people. It would be a wrong to think that the campaigns with the huge turnouts are doing much better than those with the smaller turnouts--as each candidate is playing to their key audiences differently.
Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump need the big rallies. For Bernie, the events need to be like rock concerts to keep the attention of his predominantly young support base. His philosophy of collectivism needs a lot of people shouting at once "Yes, we should all be the same!!" to keep its power. And since the youth vote is just as likely to completely forget to vote on election day as they are to actually cast ballots, you've got to remind as many as possible as often as possible.
Trump rallies also play on emotional euphoria that comes with a large group setting. People are emboldened when they see 5,000 other people angry about the same things that they are. They begin to gain a sense of power. And if hate is their main motivator, there is an anonymity that is also provided by being part of the mob--so they cannot be singled out for backlash.
Clinton and Cruz events remain small-scale in nature at this time because they are following the manual for primary success. Meet with those that can do the most to help for you right now. The people who will make calls to other voters in the next week. The business owners that mention their support to other business leaders at the next Chamber or Rotary or Lions club meeting. And especially reach out to the big money donors who want one-on-one attention--not to stand in a long line to be part of a big, unruly crowd in the middle of the business day.
The problem that Trump and Sanders will run into if either were to win their respective nominations is that after holding huge rallies in the primary season, how do you make it look like your campaign is gaining additional support or momentum for the general election? The Clinton or Cruz supporter who went to that first little town hall in March, gets a boost in optimism attending an arena event in October with 100-times more people. Another Sanders or Trump rally at the same arena the second time around? Been there, done that.