What the Presidential Candidates' SMART Goals Look Like

3 min read
Nov 8, 2016

presidential goals

Crafting SMART goals — those that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely — is a difficult task for any leader. Consider how much more difficult it must be for presidential candidates. From passing legislation through Congress to getting buy-in from millions of voters, any presidential action hinges on myriad contingencies.

But we expect presidents to follow through on their campaign promises (even if they rarely do!). For now, we can evaluate the presidential candidates’ positions on three critical issues through a SMART lens to see how they measure up.  

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

This controversial trade deal between three North American countries and nine Asian countries was signed earlier this year. It was billed as a move to lower trade barriers while increasing environmental and labor regulations and reducing poverty.

However, both Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump have been critical of the deal. Clinton initially supported the deal, then said she changed her mind once she saw the details. She told PBS NewsHour:  

“Im worried about currency manipulation not being part of the agreement. Weve lost American jobs to the manipulation that the countries, in particularly in Asia, have engaged in.”

Trump also opposes TPP, as he noted on his Twitter feed:

Reversing TPP seems like an achievable and realistic goal, as there is considerable political opposition. The deal was signed earlier this year and is a timely topic. But in the long-term, it will be difficult for either candidate to reverse the flow of manufacturing jobs out of the country that trade deals like TPP and NAFTA have been blamed for.


A hallmark of Trump’s campaign has been immigration. He has often said that immigration is hurting the American economy and can only be stopped with a wall between the United States. and Mexico. A nation without borders is not a nation,” Trump said on his website. “There must be a wall across the southern border.”

This appears to be one of the candidate’s least realistic goals. Experts have said that the wall will cost more than $25 billion. Trump has repeatedly said that Mexico will pay for the wall, a claim that the Mexican government vehemently denies. While it is a measurable goal — a wall is built or it isn’t — it remains unclear whether a wall would reduce immigration.

On the other side, Clinton has said she wants “comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship, treats every person with dignity, upholds the rule of law, protects our borders and national security, and brings millions of hardworking people into the formal economy.

The problem with this is that President Obama has been unable to pass even a modest immigration reform bill for years because of a deadlock with Congress. This also lacks measurability — treating every person with dignity is an amorphous concept.



Both candidates say they want healthcare for all. However, they have drastically different views on the Affordable Care Act passed under the Obama administration. Clinton told Business Insider, “The Affordable Care Act isnt perfect, but the evidence is clear: its working. Sixteen million Americans have gained coverage.”

With the Supreme Court striking down challenges to the legislation, it’s likely that ACA will stay law if Clinton becomes president. However, her hopes of expanding healthcare will face Congressional opposition and budget constraints.

Trump has said he wants to repeal the law. While this is feasible, his idea for replacing the law is not specific or measurable. Newsmax quoted Trump as saying, “I want healthcare for everyone. You cant let the people in this country that are poor people, the people without the money, without the resources, go without healthcare. I just cant even imagine that youre sick and you cant even go to a doctor. How he’s going to do this remains a mystery.

Just like presidents, business leaders are expected to follow through on their goals. Those who don’t aren’t going to gain the respect of their teams.



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