With the 2018 midterm elections just a year away, a top Hillary Clinton campaign advisor visited campus to discuss lessons politicians can take away from last year's election. 

Hosted by the Duke Health Data Sciences Center, the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media Democracy and The Center for Political Leadership, Innovation and Service, an event Friday featured Jim Margolis, a former senior advisor for President Barack Obama's campaigns in 2008 and 2012 and Hillary Clinton's campaign in 2016. 

Margolis discussed what can be expected in next year's election and emphasized the importance of middle class voters in Donald Trump's election win last year. 

“For those stuck in the middle, they get squeezed from both sides,” he said. “Those at the top get benefits, and the system is rigged for them. Those at the bottom are the ones that get the government handouts, and the middle class are stuck there with no one looking out for them."

He added that the 2016 election “was about risk versus change,” and that the Clinton campaign erred when decided that risk would be more impactful.   

“[The Clinton campaign] placed [its] bets on the idea that voters would be more concerned about the risk Trump posed to the country than their desire for change,” Margolis said.

That assumption turned out to be incorrect. Margolis explained that there was strong disillusion among voters about where things were in the country, and many people decided to take a chance with Trump. 

He added that much of the middle class felt that Trump was the only candidate looking out for their interests. For such voters, Margolis said, Trump embodied changed. As a candidate, his departure from traditional political strategy was the reason why his base of middle class voters stuck with him and why Republicans in Congress are now so fearful about opposing that base.

Not even Trump's limited qualifications for president seemed to budge voters' desire for change, Margolis added.  He noted that 14 million Trump supporters said Trump was unqualified to be president of the United States yet voted for him anyway.

Margolis also highlighted external factors that hurt Clinton's campaign. He discussed the issue of how fake news sparked rumors about Clinton. More content to choose from, more partisan media outlets and fewer filters added up to fewer shared facts, he said. During the election, 44 percent of Americans got their political news from Facebook, where fake news accounted for 10.6 million of 21.5 million engagements. 

“We’re literally drowning in fake news,” Margolis said. “The top result on Google for ‘final vote count 2016’ on November the 9th incorrectly stated that Trump won the popular vote, and that was from '70 News.'" 

Looking toward the 2018 midterms, Margolis argued that politicians must develop a greater understanding and connection with the middle class. 

“Presidential elections are almost always a reaction to the current president,” he said. “People want a remedy to what they already have, not a replica. Think of the big change between Bush and Obama, and then again between Obama and Trump." 

Not considering the desire for that remedy, Margolis said, was the biggest failure of the Clinton campaign. 

“The Clinton campaign connected with women, it connected with LGBT groups, but the working class didn’t feel included. If people don’t believe you see them, they won’t show up for you,” he said.