Day 232: 1/7/20

Tuesday brought a handful of different asks, from my story to my opinion to my money for a t-shirt. Pete Buttigieg wrote an email that could have been tailor made for me, while Joe Biden has been the only candidate asking for January debate party hosts.


For all new readers: Welcome! I am currently on the mailing lists of Joe Biden and Donald Trump, though I have previously been on the mailing lists of 28 Democratic candidates! This blog breaks down recent emails with charts and excerpts. If you already know all of this, feel free to skip to the next chart!

It took some time for the Trump emails to kick in, so I started officially tracking his list on July 7. I have been tracking Biden’s for longer, but I will start comparing them as of July 7. All of these emails are going to a new email, and I have not donated, filled out surveys, signed petitions, or otherwise interacted with either candidate’s emails.

The rules I try to follow for the various categories are laid out in The Framework.

New frontrunner, woo

Joe Biden sent the most Tuesday emails, with 5 going out to his donors. Pete Buttigieg only sent 4 emails, and Elizabeth Warren sent 4 to her donors. Bernie Sanders and Michael Bennet both restrained themselves to just 3 emails on Tuesday.

What’s this? Creative asks?

Marianne Williamson sent an email from a supporter that I actually agreed with.

I had a bit of a wake-up moment these past few days in terms of American politics.

This election brings to mind the traumatizing John Kerry campaign of 2004, during which we desperately searched for a candidate who could prevent a second Bush term. We decided to play it safe and we settled with the most ‘electable’ candidate of the pack. 

We chose Kerry even though nobody was excited about Kerry. Kerry wasn’t even excited about Kerry. Deep down we all knew that this lack of excitement would never carry him over the line. 

And it didn’t: playing it safe handed Bush his second term.

I feel that we are once again heading to such a moment with the current candidates. Sure enough, each candidate has very committed backers and fans, but there seems to be no single candidate who has united all Democrats and shot ahead from the pack. 

So if none of the candidates can generate the unifying excitement required to beat Trump, in a field of candidates where everyone is unelectable, I will no longer prematurely be swayed by the argument of electability.

Of course I will ultimately vote D in the general election, but for now I will start supporting the candidate who personally makes the most sense to me, rather than someone whose electability I’ve attempted to predict from incalculable media reports and impetuous polls.

I announce this with a feeling of apology to a candidate whom I have long admired, yet dismissed as a viable candidate based on my concerns about electability. I am supporting the person I actually believe in, rather than drinking the consolation kool-aid, or falling for a moderate Republican on a Democratic ticket, or switching to the candidate du-jour. 

Marianne Williamson, I am sorry it took me this long, but I am on board.

Jesse Houk, for Marianne Williamson for President

That second to last paragraph is something all Democrats should take to heart in this primary. Policy is decided in the primary. Throw your support behind the person you think has the best ideas. The more support they have, the more their ideas will be picked up by the party as a whole. Look at how Bernie Sanders has shaped policy talks in 2016 and 2020. In the general election, we need to unite against Trump, but in the primary, diverse voices make us stronger.

Williamson asked me to share my story with her campaign team in that above email, which was one of the “Other” asks. I did wonder how her campaign team was supposed to do anything with my story, as she had fired them all, but I let her slide. She also no longer has an editor, after all.

Pete Buttigieg had the other two Other asks. One was asking for a signature on his birthday card, and it was written by Lia, the staffer who manages incoming email correspondence. She included her own birthday message to Buttigieg, a note of support from a resident of South Bend who had become a staffer on Pete for America.

The other Other ask… well, that was tailor-made for me!

As the email team, our number one job has been running a program that keeps you up-to-date with the campaign, provides opportunities to get involved, and, yes, of course, raises money to help sustain things like our organizing and paid media programs.

We hope our emails make you feel like an important part of the campaign — because you are. Over the next several weeks, we’re going to be providing you updates from across the country as we get closer to caucusing and voting next month. We’ll continue to show how we’re using our resources, and of course, let you know how you can best help every day.

We’ve learned a thing or two about what you like to see in these emails — updates from Iowa, surveys about policy priorities, PIZZA, and photos of Buddy and Truman.

And now we’re wondering what else you’re looking for in our emails. Want to hear more from a certain person on the campaign? Need to see more behind the scenes pictures from the campaign trail? Let us know here!

As always, we’ll report back and then work hard to make sure you’re seeing the content that you want to see. Looking forward to seeing your responses!

Thanks for being here with us,

The Pete for America Email Team: Lisa, Medha, Cecilia, Zahwa, and Bridget

I ended up writing three pages back to them, and submitted it via my personal account. I hit the character limit. Whoops.

The biggest issue I had with the Pete for America emails, as I’m sure you’re all more than aware by now, is the email volume increase.

Email volume since May 21, 2019

No other candidate has changed like this. There’s been a general increase overall, but it’s most noticeable with Buttigieg because he went from the fewest emails, on average, to the most emails on average.

My response to that email wasn’t entirely negative. The Buttigieg campaign does a lot that I really like. Their emails are some of the more diverse in messaging, changing it up so I get something a little different (almost) every time. There’s frequently talk of how things are going in Iowa or a campaign event, not just the same old stump. And his campaign is almost never making me question their budgeting skills. These are all very good things to have in an email campaign.

Meanwhile, John Delaney, Amy Klobuchar, and Bernie Sanders are all asking me to fill out surveys based on what issues I care the most about for this next year. Sanders is also offering me a brand new sticker if I donate.

President Sanders
Getting ahead of himself much?
A surprising amount of not-really-on-topic emails

In addition to the usual asks for money from other candidates, Mike Bloomberg resurfaced with a new video to show that Judge Judy endorsed him! She’s no Julian Castro, but I think more people like her.

Michael Bennet gave me some bad news: the pace of donations from my little town had slowed. Last time he emailed, he had asked for 31 donations from my town. I’m not sure there are 31 people in my town who could pick him out of the crowd.

Andrew Yang is worried that he won’t be on the debate stage. The qualification deadline is this Friday, and he still needs 3 polls. The only way he’ll get there, he told the Yang Gang, is if we all give him money.

Pete Buttigieg will be on the debate stage, and he asked for money as well, to counter the attacks he’s been getting from all sides. People need to hear his message from him, not from his competitors.

Joe Biden also wanted to remind me that it was time for a debate watch party, and he needs me to volunteer to host.

Marianne Williamson told me how the next election will be won by love, not by our anger at Trump or by our reason and calm. I don’t know what that love looks like if it’s not reasonable and calm, but okay…

Finally, Tulsi Gabbard talked more about the conflict with Iran and tried to sell me a shirt. For the low donation of just $35, I could get a Gabbard t-shirt to proudly show that Gabbard was talking about wars with Iran for far longer and greater than any other candidate.

Donate $35 or more!
It’s a t-shirt.

No thank you. I need more sleep shirts, but not at that price point.

(Interestingly, I read an article today that Mike Bloomberg has priced his campaign merch so as NOT to get a profit and so they WON’T count as campaign donations. He’s really all about that “people shouldn’t support my race.”)

This is what twelve THOUSAND emails looks like.

2 thoughts on “Day 232: 1/7/20

  1. Can I get a peek at your letter. They think highly of your work, I talked with Mike about it when he and Lis were in Philly for a joint event. Someone in the handshake line was talking about email targeting and he mentioned your daily analysis.

    On Wed, Jan 8, 2020 at 7:00 PM But their emails! wrote:

    > Aimin posted: ” Tuesday brought a handful of different asks, from my story > to my opinion to my money for a t-shirt. Pete Buttigieg wrote an email that > could have been tailor made for me, while Joe Biden has been the only > candidate asking for January debate party hosts. ” >


    1. Here’s part of the letter. I’m not going to share the whole thing publicly, for personal reasons. 🙂

      Now, don’t get me wrong: the quality is still (mostly) there! Reading through every candidate’s emails has given me a lot of appreciation for the PFA email team. You try to put some substance into every email, which I appreciate. But the number of repeated emails has risen. The deadlines have become endless (and feel arbitrary). What used to be a treasured glimpse into the campaign has turned into a deluge. Some chocolate is good. Too much chocolate makes you sick to your stomach. The same is true for PFA emails.

      I worry that the email campaign is too overwhelming, especially for new people. I can only imagine how long I’d stay on a mailing list that dropped 7 emails into my inbox within the first day of signing up.

      My mother, who is a huge Pete fan, used to read only a couple of his emails. Now she doesn’t bother to read any of them. She drops him some money at the end of the month because she knows that’s when campaigns need money, but that’s about it. His overwhelming volume has turned off her ability to engage with his emails.

      And she’s not the only one. The number one complaint I’ve gotten about any political emails is how MANY come in—not just with Pete. I donated to Obama in 2011 and called it “the greatest political regret of my life” (jokingly) because of the flood of emails it triggered, for years. I felt safe with Pete’s list. I felt like this was a campaign that understood and respected that my inbox is my inbox, and it is your privilege to be in it, not your right.

      The increased email volume has, quite honestly, made me feel a little bit betrayed by the campaign. I used to feel like I was part of the family, and now I feel like I’m just another wallet. I don’t look forward to opening PFA emails anymore. I grit my teeth and click so you can get the open rate. I scroll through the email so I can get you the “time spent reading it” numbers, even though I don’t think Gmail reports those. I try to donate if the email has stirred me.

      They don’t usually stir me these days.

      So, that’s my number one issue. Email volume. I feel like fewer emails with higher quality content would actually do better. I compare his Q2 and Q4 fundraising numbers: the email strategy in Q2 was AMAZING, and his fundraising was off the charts. In Q4, his email strategy was putting people off, and he didn’t break any fundraising records despite having a larger mailing list.

      An overwhelming email strategy that most people ignore isn’t going to kill Pete’s chances. But I can’t help but feel like a “less is more” email strategy focusing on not being the LOUDEST voice in the room, but the most important, the one that doesn’t talk much, but when it does, it carries WEIGHT, would actually serve Pete and his campaign and style of politics very well. Pete’s not the loudest in the room. When he speaks, it’s important. It matters. I wish his emails were the same again.

      That being said, some people LOVE the emails. And I have ideas for other types of emails! But I think what could be powerful is an opt IN mailing list. Instead of “want only the important emails? Click here!” what about trying a “Can’t get enough of Pete? Click here for insider emails!”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s