House Democrats delivered another huge online fundraising haul in 2013, underscoring the gap between Democratic and Republican digital efforts as the GOP tries to make up ground in the technology of politics.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised $19.4 million online in 2013, twice what the committee raised through the Internet in 2011. That puts the DCCC in position this year to smash the record $49.3 million it raised online for the 2012 elections and continue a rare trend: Despite being in the minority, House Democrats have outraised Republicans since 2011.
“We’ve had a significant online program since the 2004 or 2006 cycle,” DCCC digital director Brandon English said in an interview. “But it’s really blown up in the last two cycles. In 2012, a lot of the things we worked on really came together.”
In 2013, the DCCC outraised the NRCC $75.8 million to $60.6 million. On donations of less than $200, the Democratic committee raised $30 million to the NRCC’s $11.6 million.
Small online donations have fueled that trend. Not only did the DCCC bring in far more small donations than the National Republican Congressional Committee each month in 2013, the Democrats’ massive email list allowed them to take advantage of key political moments and turbocharge their fundraising.
If you wanted to track Democratic political fortunes in 2013 and didn’t have a poll handy, you could do worse than look at the flow of small donations (many of them online) to the DCCC. Two of its best three months among small donors came before and during the federal government shutdown, when Democrats opened polling leads. The other big spike, in March, came when House Republicans passed Paul Ryan’s budget and he hosted his party’s fundraising dinner.
Those spikes are directly attributable to the DCCC’s online fundraising program, which allows the committee to jump on news when it happens and rustle money out of riled-up supporters. “Something happens at 3 and we can get an email out the door at 5,” English said. That’s what the committee did in 2012 when Ryan became Mitt Romney’s vice presidential nominee and delivered a nationally televised convention speech, both of which led to monster fundraising days online.
“A lot of the tactics that got brought to light in the Obama campaign in 2012, you could see in DCCC fundraising years before,” said Republican strategist Patrick Ruffini. That’s helped Democrats take over the small-dollar fundraising dominance that Republicans used to enjoy thanks to their own pioneering techniques in the 20th century.
“The kind of practices the DCCC has been doing really reminds me of Republican direct mail,” Ruffini said. “I always marvel at this machine the RNC had, and a lot of Republican organizations had, in terms of direct mail. It just worked; you start it up and it runs.”
“Democrats had to catch up, and they did it through the Internet,” Ruffini continued.
Now Republicans are working that angle harder.
The NRCC does not release its online fundraising totals, but the committee said it’s making progress compared to years past, with online fundraising up 250 percent in 2013 compared with 2011, according to Gerrit Lansing, the committee’s digital director. In 2014, the NRCC hopes to raise more than five times as much cash online as it did in the last election year.
The NRCC’s problem is that it is just starting to build up its online program, while the DCCC is reaping dividends from a decade of effort. The Republican committee didn’t start directing serious resources into building its email list until 2012 — and late 2012 at that. Even though the NRCC is now investing in that heavily under Chairman Greg Walden, it will take years to reach the online fundraising heights Democrats have achieved.
That’s part of the reason that the NRCC debuted a new website last year. Dry press releases are nowhere to be found; the focus, instead, is on shareable content that can drive people to the site, which is plastered in “contribute” and “sign up” buttons where the committee can gather email addresses.
“An element of the list-building we’ve done is a new content strategy that’s executed on a daily basis by the communications and digital department,” Lansing said. ” “¦ As a result of incoming traffic from this strategy, we’ve seen a significant uptick in daily and monthly donations just from people coming in from shared content on social networks.”
The real gain, though, comes later, when the NRCC email list grows big enough to leverage the way Democrats have. All the effort in the world can’t change that in one year.
What We're Following See More »
President Obama has said he’ll nominate John King to fill out the last few months of Obama’s presidency as Secretary of Education. King has been in an acting secretary role since Arne Duncan stepped down in December. The White House is pressuring the Senate to act quickly on the nomination.
Bernie Sanders supporters aren’t taking this whole superdelegate thing lying down. Despite a tie a blowout win against Hillary Clinton, Sanders trails her by some 350 delegates in the overall count, thanks mostly to superdelegates pledging to support her. His backers have taken to creating a MoveOn.org petition to pressure the superdelegates to be flexible. It reads: “Commit to honoring the voters—let everyone know that you won’t allow your vote to defeat our votes. Announce that in the event of a close race, you’ll align yourself with regular voters—not party elites.” So far it’s attracted 162,000 signatures. Related: At FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver notes that in 2008, Clinton had a 154-50 superdelegate advantage over President Obama when New Hampshire voted. But “by the time Clinton ended her campaign on June 7, 2008, Obama had nearly a 2-to-1 superdelegate advantage over her,” owing in part to many pledged delegates who switched their support to Obama.
House Speaker Paul Ryan today is trying to convince his large but divided conference that they need to pass a budget under regular order. “Conservatives are revolting against higher top-line spending levels negotiated last fall by President Obama and Ryan’s predecessor, then-Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). GOP centrists are digging in on the other side, pledging to kill any budget that deviates from the two-year, bipartisan budget deal.” Ryan’s three options are to lower the budget numbers to appease the Freedom Caucus, “deem” a budget and move on to the appropriations process, or “preserve Obama-Boehner levels, but seek savings elsewhere.”
“A bill headed for President Barack Obama this week includes a provision that would ban U.S. imports of fish caught by slaves in Southeast Asia, gold mined by children in Africa and garments sewn by abused women in Bangladesh, closing a loophole in an 85-year-old tariff law.” The Senate approved the bill, which would also ban Internet taxes and overhaul trade laws, by a vote of 75-20. It now goes to President Obama.
Bernie Sanders has closed to within seven points of Hillary Clinton in a new Morning Consult survey. Clinton leads 46%-39%. Consistent with the New Hampshire voting results, Clinton does best with retirees, while Sanders leads by 20 percentage points among those under 30. On the Republican side, Donald Trump is far ahead with 44% support. Trailing by a huge margin are Ted Cruz (17%), Ben Carson (10%) and Marco Rubio (10%).