The front-runners for the two major-party presidential nominations disagree on more than just policies. They even disagree on whether they need to release any policies.
Democrat Hillary Clinton relishes details, rolling out more than two dozen policy proposals on everything from repairing roads to combating the Islamic State terrorist group, many with backup material and cost estimates.
Republican Donald Trump, by contrast, is more of a big-picture guy, putting out just five proposals on issues including guns, immigration and taxes. None include price tags.
Their vastly different approaches reflect how they are campaigning for president: Clinton’s policies serve as the backbone for many of her stump speeches. Trump skips the specifics and relies on brash proclamations in speeches.
Indeed, the number of proposals serves as a backdrop for the personas they’re selling.
Clinton, a former secretary of state, senator and first lady, presents herself as an experienced public servant with a breadth of knowledge; Trump as a successful businessman who demands action. “If he came out with a litany of proposals, it wouldn’t seem to fit with his image,” said Christopher Budzisz, director of the Loras College Poll in Dubuque, Iowa.
And it’s unlikely the specific details in the proposals make that much of a difference anyway, when most voters are more inclined to judge a candidate on experience and personality.
“I go by more on a person’s values, how they conduct themselves and do they do what they say they’re going to do,” said Dave Nelson, 53, of Spotford, N.H., who recently attended Republican Ben Carson’s event at Keene State College in New Hampshire.
Clinton’s slew of detailed proposals covers such issues as college costs, addictions, family and sick leave, gun control, immigration, the minimum wage and taxes.
In many cases, her campaign has released a cost estimate, though it has not specifically said how she would pay for the proposals. She also has proposed raising taxes on the wealthy and finding ways to save government money, all of which some estimate could raise at least the $1 trillion her proposals would cost.
Now Clinton is stepping up her pledge to offer substantial proposals as she finds herself in a tightening race for the Democratic nomination against Bernie Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont.
Following the fourth Democratic debate Sunday, her campaign accused Sanders of offering “slogans, not solutions” and said his plans “lack details.”
“I’m going to tell you what I will do and I will tell you how much I pay for it, and you should ask that of everybody,” Clinton says often.
“Details matter,” former President Bill Clinton added in a tweet.
Democrat Neal Cass, 49, town administrator in Hancock, N.H., likes policy papers. He puts them together for town meetings for his job and will begin to review the candidates’ papers closer to the Feb. 9 primary.
“I’m interested in not just the sound bite, but the facts that go along with it,” he said at a recent town hall in Hopkinton, N.H., held by Democrat Martin O’Malley. “The details are important. That’s what we develop and present to the voters when we hold town meetings. We want to give them ideas and good information behind those ideas.”
Trump largely stays clear of the details, telling voters to trust that his business acumen and eye for sharp deal makers will help him “make America great again.”
He raises a myriad of issues in his speeches, from President Barack Obama’s Iran deal to Common Core education guidelines.
But he’s posted only five policy papers: on immigration, China, taxes, guns and veterans.
In one of his most contentious proposals, Trump calls for building a wall across the southern border with Mexico as well as other changes in immigration laws, including denying citizenship to U.S.-born children of people who are in the country illegally, cutting off federal grants to so-called sanctuary cities and making it a crime to overstay a visa.
“We’re building a wall. We are going to have a border,” Trump said last month in Hilton Head, S.C. “And people are going to come into our country, but they are going to come in through a legal process. They’re not coming in the way they’re coming in now, just walking in like nothing.”
Trump’s most detailed proposal is perhaps the tax plan he rolled out in September, which would end income taxes for low-income Americans, collapse the current seven tax brackets into four, reduce corporate taxes and raise taxes for the wealthy.
Matt Heinemann, 55, a Republican who was attending O’Malley’s town hall in Hopkinton with his wife, Jean, a Democrat, said he thought it was best to have written policies but understood why many candidates did not.
“Put it in writing and people will be quick to accuse you of changing your position,” he said. “Most people don’t read the whole thing anyhow, just the headlines, so I’m not sure it matters.”