HomePoliticsDeSantis' flashy, risky strategy: Don't try to fool small donors - UnlistedNews

DeSantis’ flashy, risky strategy: Don’t try to fool small donors – UnlistedNews

In the months leading up to the 2020 presidential election, Roy W. Bailey, a Dallas businessman, received a series of text messages from the Donald J. Trump re-election campaign, asking for money in persistent, almost desperate terms.

“You have forgotten me?” messages read, Bailey recalled. “Have you abandoned us?”

Mr. Bailey was familiar with the Trump campaign: he co-chaired his finance committee, helped raise millions for the effort and personally contributed several thousand dollars.

“Think about it,” Bailey said recently of the frequency of the messages and the pleading tone. “That’s how out of control and crazy part of this fundraiser has become.”

Ultimately, he abandoned Trump: Now he’s raising money for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose campaign has vowed to avoid the kind of online fundraising tactics that angered Bailey and have rippled across both parties. particularly the Republican Party, in recent years as candidates they have tried to amass small donors.

No bogus deadlines, Mr. DeSantis has promised donors. There are no wildly implausible promises that affiliated campaign committees will match sizable contributions. And without tricking donors into making recurring donations.

This strategy is one of the subtle ways DeSantis’ team is trying to contrast him with Trump, who has often cajoled, blamed and occasionally misled small donors. Although his campaign has not directly denounced Trump’s methods, on the day DeSantis declared he would run for president, his website prominently promised to avoid “smoke and mirrors,” “fake matches,” and “lies.” in the bottom of it. lifting.

For the DeSantis campaign, the no-cheat vote is risky. Trump, the most successful online Republican fundraiser in history, has shown that such tactics work. But Generra Peck, DeSantis’s campaign manager, said that approach hurt the long-term financial health of the Republican Party because it risked alienating small donors.

“We’re building a movement,” Peck said last month in an interview at DeSantis’ campaign headquarters in Tallahassee.

So far, it’s hard to know if Mr. DeSantis’s approach is working. His fundraising slowed after he began his campaign in late May, and campaign officials did not provide figures that would have shed light on his success with small donors.

The battle to raise money from average Americans may seem quaint in the age of billionaires and super PACs, who have taken outsized roles in US elections. But campaign cash remains, in many ways, the lifeblood of a campaign and a powerful measure of a candidate’s strength. For example, GOP presidential contenders must meet an individual donor threshold set by the Republican National Committee to qualify for the debate stage, a barrier that is already causing some candidates to engage in witty contortions.

To highlight what it bills as a more ethical approach to fundraising, the DeSantis campaign has dedicated a giant wall inside his modest office to scribble the names (first name, last initial) of each campaign donor, dozens of thousands of them. until now.

It is an intensive effort. During business hours, campaign staffers, as well as Mr. DeSantis himself, in one case, constantly write names on the wall with red, blue and black markers.

“We want our staff to look at that wall, remember who supports us, remember why we’re here,” Ms. Peck said.

DeSantis’ advisers argue that being more transparent with donors could be a long-term way for Republicans to offset the clear advantage Democrats have built up in online fundraising, thanks in large part to their ActBlue online platform. , founded in 2004. A Republican alternative, WinRed, didn’t take off until 15 years later. A higher proportion of Democrats than Republicans said they had donated to a political campaign in the past two years, according to a recent NBC News pollwhich means the GOP has a less robust pool of donors to tap into.

“One of the biggest challenges for Republicans, across the board, is building the small dollar universe,” said Kristin Davison, director of operations for Never Back Down, the main super PAC supporting DeSantis.

The truth-telling approach to deadlines and goals has been tested by other campaigns, including those of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who built an enduring network of grassroots donors in his two presidential runs.

Mr. DeSantis’s campaign said last week it had raised $20 million in his first six weeks as an official presidential candidate, but how much that came from small donors won’t be apparent until later this month, when the campaigns file disclosures for the second quarter.

The campaign did not respond to a question about how many small donors have contributed so far. He had set a goal of recruiting 100,000 donors by July 1, but by the end of June, the wall had only about 50,000 names, according to a fundraising email.

And while Mr. DeSantis’s team vowed to be transparent when it comes to small donors, senior advisers in the governor’s office have faced accusations who improperly pressured lobbyists to make donations to his campaign.

Eric Wilson, director of the Center for Campaign Innovation, a conservative nonprofit focused on digital politics, said the DeSantis campaign was smart to avoid online pressure tactics, which he likened to a “dopamine arms race.” that burns the donors and turn off voters.

“They can be effective, but voters say they don’t like them,” Wilson said. “You can’t make all food with sugar.”

Wilson said he had also seen other campaigns attempt more honest communications: “You’re starting to see a recalibration.”

For example, the campaign of former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley saying in May that Mr. DeSantis had mimicked language used in Ms. Haley’s fundraising emails.

The ways in which campaigns reach potential small donors online grew out of traditional telemarketing and mail-in fundraising. Before email, campaigns sent fake telegrams, letters stamped to look like they were handwritten, surveys and other tricks to attract donations.

In the age of email and smartphones, it is easier to reach a large number of potential donors, but the risk of bombarding and overwhelming them is greater. It can also be more difficult to induce people to open messages, let alone contribute. The subject line must be compelling and offers must stand out, which can lead, for example, to dubious promises that campaigns will somehow “match” any contributions made, a practice that has been widely criticized.

The Trump campaign sends about 10 emails a day, in addition to text messages. His campaign has escalated false match promises to the point of absurdity, telling donors that his contributions will be matched “1500%.”

A Trump campaign spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

The tactics are not limited to Republicans. Democratic groups have also been criticized and mocked for vague promises of “300 percent matches” in their fundraising campaigns.

For its part, the DeSantis campaign said its strategy was designed to build long-term relationships with small donors, rather than dry them out as quickly as possible.

The DeSantis campaign has adopted a “subscriber-only” model, allowing donors to join so-called TV town halls with Mr. DeSantis (“You’re part of the team,” the governor told listeners during a call from the June 12), gain early access to merchandise and receive weekly “insider” updates. It’s the carrot, not the stick, a model that campaign officials say has been embraced in parts of the business world.

The Trump campaign has clearly taken notice.

On Friday, in an apparent round of fundraising, the Trump campaign announced a new donor initiative and said it would build a “big, beautiful wall of donors” at its New Hampshire headquarters.

“And I don’t mean scrawled on the wall with a crayon like other campaigns do,” the campaign email, which was written in Trump’s voice, read, “but a heavy, respectable plaque with the names of our greats.” donors. finely engraved inside.

All for a donation of $75.

patricia mazzei contributed reporting from Miami.


Sara Marcus
Sara Marcushttps://unlistednews.com
Meet Sara Marcus, our newest addition to the Unlisted News team! Sara is a talented author and cultural critic, whose work has appeared in a variety of publications. Sara's writing style is characterized by its incisiveness and thought-provoking nature, and her insightful commentary on music, politics, and social justice is sure to captivate our readers. We are thrilled to have her join our team and look forward to sharing her work with our readers.


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