This past week has set a new record for total emails! 175 emails came in from 19 campaigns for an average of 9.2 emails per campaign, or 25 emails a day.
With all of these emails, you’d think something huge had happened in the world, like the U.S. nearly starting a war with Iran (1 email), or maybe something huge on the campaign trail like the Clyburn Fish Fry in South Carolina (1 email) or maybe even the FEC quarterly filing deadline (24 emails) or the debates (83 emails).
Huh. Looks like we have a clear priority.
Tim Ryan made sure he was still the bestest emailer in the race with 18 emails this past week. Cory Booker was the second most prolific, at 16 emails, while Joe Biden came in third with 15 emails.
Interestingly, Wednesday and Thursday were the busiest days this week, instead of the usual Thursday/Friday end-of-week bump. There were 31 emails on each Wednesday and Thursday. I suspect this has to do with the huge topic of discussion: the debates. The first debates of the primary season happen exactly one week from last Wednesday and Thursday, and many candidates were reminding me when they were one week out from their appearance. Most of the candidates were able to get their debate date correct, though Marianne Williamson did offer a contest where I could win tickets to her debate on June 29 (2 days after she was due to debate).
The popular topics lined up with the big end-of-month events. Many campaigns were asking me to watch the debates, host a watch party for them for the debates, tell them what I wanted them to talk about in the debates, or show my support for them in the debates by giving them money. If they weren’t talking about the debates (or even if they were), the other big topic was the FEC end-of-quarter fundraising deadline. The campaigns will all be required to file their financial information with the FEC, and that information will be available publicly. The news cycle will undoubtedly cover who raised how much and judge the campaigns based on the amount of money they brought in, the average donation, and the number of donors.
Some candidates, like Kamala Harris, focused solely on these numbers. Out of the 10 emails she sent this past week, 8 were asking for a donation and 2 were advertising her merch. A merch purchase counts as a donation in the FEC’s eyes, so all of her emails this past week were about bringing in more money. She tried a variety of tactics to pull in the money, including pointing out that other candidates like Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden have raised millions already, that Trump has over $100 million in the bank, and that they’re at risk for falling behind in their crucial fundraising goal, and my donation could be the difference between them coming out on top and falling to the middle of the pack. Unlike the start of this tracking, Harris didn’t offer any charts being updated to show her progress or any concrete money or donor goals. All she told me was that she needed more.
In contrast, Bernie Sanders also sent 10 emails, but only 6 were asking for a donation and 1 was pushing merch. Not that 70% of communication about money is much better than 100%, but Sanders at least brought up some discussion of issues. He had two surveys covering debate issues and asking what I wanted him to talk about, including one with supposedly live results displaying in the email, while his final email of the week was also the only email that mentioned Trump’s dangerous actions toward Iran and offering a petition to tell Congress to pass legislation to stop military actions without Congressional approval. While reading this, I told Bernie that he was in Congress, so he’d probably do a better job of telling them to stop than my signing a petition would. Still, A bunch of signatories could help his voice.
Several candidates this past week went for the good old “split your donation” strategy. Both Amy Klobuchar and Steve Bullock emailed me about Roy Moore tossing his name into the Senate race in Alabama again and asked for donations split between them and Doug Jones, the Democratic senator he is challenging. Michael Bennet also asked for a donation to someone else, Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire. However, unlike Klobuchar and Bullock, and unlike Bennet’s approach in the past, he did not include language about splitting the donation. He also did not include his usual Bennet branding in the email. As far as I could tell, Bennet’s email was soliciting donations solely for the Senator. I put this ask as an “outside” ask, as it did not seem to be benefiting him directly.
With a fundraising goal coming up, other candidates were giving some hard numbers for their goals, and with the June debates set, the donor amounts were a little more lax. Some candidates offered up quarterly goals, like Joe Biden or Amy Klobuchar, while others offered quarterly online goals, like Beto O’Rourke. Kirsten Gillibrand had a weekly fundraising goal, and Tim Ryan didn’t care how much you gave as long as you gave to his travel fund. Jay Inslee doesn’t have any specific deadline in place, but he’s trying to raise money to guarantee that the DNC won’t silence voices on climate change.
Andrew Yang hasn’t mentioned his own $3.5 million end-of-quarter fundraising goal, but he’s been keeping me abreast of his aim to hit the 130,000 individual donors for the Sepetember debates. With over 120,000 already, he’s confident he won’t have any issues. Steve Bullock, on the other hand, has qualified for the July debates based on polling, but he makes 21 candidates, so someone is going to lose their spot on the stage. He’s desperate to hit the 65,000 individual donors to give himself a better chance at not being the one kicked.
How much a candidate asks for is always enlightening. As always, if a candidate sends an email but doesn’t specifically ask for a donation amount, I put down 0. No number at all means they didn’t email. 0 or low, like Andrew Yang’s $0.33, means that they either didn’t ask or didn’t give a specific number at least part of the time.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the most boring candidates when it comes to how much they ask for, with each opting for the default ActBlue donation button spread of $5, $25, $50, $100, $250, or Other Amount, which averages to $86 when they ask for money. Biden at least will sometimes ask specifically for $5 in addition to the buttons, but Kamala just lets the buttons do her talking.
The biggest issue I have with donation emails is the format so many candidates use. I don’t know if it’s a DCCC-suggested template or if one candidate started using it and they all hopped on the bandwagon, but I’m sure you’ve all seen some variation of the following email:
Subject: I’m going to ask you for a favor (Please read!)
In a few minutes, at the bottom of this email, I’m going to ask you to donate $3 to the campaign. Before I ask you, I want to explain why it’s so important. I’m sorry I keep sending you these emails. We hate them too, but this one is really important.
[OTHER CANDIDATE] has been raising millions, and we need to make sure we aren’t outraised or outspent. We don’t need to raise as much as they are, but we need to make sure we have a fighting chance.
I’ve been over our budget numbers, and if we can’t bring in another 10,000 donors before midnight on Tuesday, we’re going to have to make some massive cuts to our staff and advertising. We’ll be giving [BOGEY MAN OF THE DAY] a chance to gain a major foothold in America’s Heartland.
A donation is more than just the ability for us to keep [OUR CANDIDATE] on the ground and meeting with hundreds of voters just like you where they live, in towns and cities, in pubs and on the streets. It’s also a symbolic gesture of your support for us and our message.
So please, will you chip in just $3 to help our campaign today? It’ll really mean a lot to [OUR CANDIDATE] and your support will help us be competitive next week at the debates!
[BUTTONS WITH DONATION AMOUNTS]
Thanks so much, we really appreciate your faith in our campaign!
Everybody receiving a political email knows it will ask them to make a donation. This is a universal truth. Emails that start with “I’m going to ask you for money BUT NOT YET” are especially cringeworthy. You’re going to ask. Just ask. Don’t tell me that you’re going to ask in a moment. Either start with your ask, or start with your explanation, but don’t give me a summary of your email to start your email.
This isn’t just a tactic of the desperate underdogs polling at 1% or less. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden are all guilty of the “I’m going to ask you but first I’m going to tell you that I’m going to tell you why I’m asking before I ask” email. So is Julian Castro and Cory Booker. It’s almost as if they’re writing for a word count, and it leads to some truly eye-rolling emails.
Another candidate that feels like he’s writing for a word count is Andrew Yang. He sends emails a few times a week, mostly updates on the campaign. He doesn’t often ask for donations other than the standard Donate button in the signature (which I don’t count if it’s a standard email feature not otherwise referenced). Unfortunately, Yang is not a very inspiring writer. His emails are usually long and feel like he made a bulleted list of a couple things to mention: an event he attended, someone he talked to/a speech he gave, and a point or two on what he will do “As President” or a campaign goal he is trying to achieve. Occasionally, an email from Yang gives an indication of some of the passion he feels for his platform and goals, but overall, they come across as someone trying to check a box for a school project.
Finally, after a brief respite (one day of silence on June 17), End Citizens United spammed my inbox with 25 emails, a full 7 more than even needy Tim Ryan. Perhaps my favorite for the past week was this one, with the subject line :: Adam Schiff in TEARS ::
Oh ECU. I don’t think you actually hate sounding desperate.