Who Scares Democrats More Than the Koch Brothers? Nate Silver.

Fear is a tool when it comes to fundraising, and Silver’s analysis seems to work.

National Journal
Scott Bland
Add to Briefcase
Scott Bland
March 11, 2014, 5:29 p.m.

For the last few months, Fiv­eThirtyEight ed­it­or-in-chief Nate Sil­ver has been largely ab­sent from the polit­ic­al fore­cast­ing scene he owned in the 2008 and 2012 pres­id­en­tial elec­tions.

But that hasn’t stopped the Demo­crat­ic Sen­at­ori­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee from send­ing at least 11 fun­drais­ing emails fea­tur­ing Sil­ver in the sub­ject line over the past four months, even as Sil­ver was build­ing the found­a­tion for his new web­site that’s launch­ing Monday and was not writ­ing reg­u­larly.

It’s all part of a di­git­al fun­drais­ing game that will in­crease in in­tens­ity as the elec­tion draws near­er, as can­did­ates, polit­ic­al parties, and oth­er groups bom­bard their email lists with mes­sages de­signed to draw con­tri­bu­tions.

One of most widely used tools is fear. Many of the emails seek to con­vince sup­port­ers that the polit­ic­al situ­ation is dire enough that it re­quires ac­tion, and that’s where Sil­ver comes in.

The last time he wrote about the Sen­ate land­scape, all the way back in Ju­ly 2013, Sil­ver said Re­pub­lic­ans “might now be close to even-money to win con­trol of the cham­ber” in 2014. He also cited North Car­o­lina as “the closest thing to the tip­ping-point state in the Sen­ate battle,” and called Demo­crat­ic Sen. Mary Landrieu’s seat in Louisi­ana “a true toss-up.”

Demo­crat­ic Sen­at­ori­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee emails fea­tur­ing Nate Sil­ver.

That’s scary stuff if you’re a Demo­crat­ic sup­port­er, es­pe­cially com­ing from an ana­lyst whose ac­cur­acy made him a house­hold name in the past few years. And the re­peated name-drop­ping has prob­ably opened some wal­lets for Sen­ate Demo­crats.

“There’s a lot of test­ing, par­tic­u­larly for sub­ject lines, to see what has the best open rates,” said Taryn Rosen­kranz, a Demo­crat­ic di­git­al fun­drais­ing con­sult­ant un­af­fili­ated with the DSCC. “Us­ing that name over and over sug­gests it’s suc­cess­ful, and people are open­ing and giv­ing.”

The DSCC de­clined a re­quest for com­ment.

In­deed, email fun­drais­ing is akin to a sci­ence in polit­ics, in which cam­paigns and party com­mit­tees test sub­ject lines, mes­saging, lay­outs, the time that email is sent, the num­ber of links, how many mes­sages are sent — any­thing to in­crease the amount of money col­lec­ted. Just a small per­cent­age in­crease can lead to big money when so­li­cit­ing a large list.

There are plenty of oth­er themes in the past few months of DSCC emails, in­clud­ing alarm­ing one-word sub­ject lines such as “cata­stroph­ic,” “dis­astrous,” and “doomed.” A few oth­er in­di­vidu­als (be­sides Sen­ate can­did­ates) have been fea­tured fre­quently, too. For ex­ample, one of the non­profits af­fil­i­ated with the con­ser­vat­ive bil­lion­aire Koch broth­ers, Amer­ic­ans for Prosper­ity, has already spent about $30 mil­lion on ad­vert­ising against Sen­ate Demo­crats, and the Kochs ap­pear prom­in­ently in email so­li­cit­a­tions.

The DSCC has ref­er­enced the Kochs to shake money out of donors in no few­er than 77 fun­drais­ing emails in the past four months. But Sil­ver has the con­ser­vat­ive money­men beat in one im­port­ant met­ric. Only one DSCC email in that time fea­tures the Kochs in the sub­ject line — per­haps the most crit­ic­al part of the mes­sage be­cause it must in­duce sup­port­ers to open the email be­fore they can ac­tu­ally give money. Sil­ver was cited far more of­ten.

Sil­ver rose to prom­in­ence by pro­ject­ing the 2008 elec­tion res­ults, and he then joined The New York Times, where he gained a big­ger plat­form and en­joyed an­oth­er suc­cess­ful year of polit­ic­al fore­cast­ing in 2012, cor­rectly pre­dict­ing the win­ner in all 50 states in the pres­id­en­tial elec­tion. He has since moved to ES­PN, where he is re­launch­ing Fiv­eThirtyEight as a quant­it­at­ive news site cov­er­ing not only polit­ics but also sports, eco­nom­ics, and oth­er sub­jects.

Rosen­kranz said she wasn’t aware of any oth­er Demo­crat­ic cam­paigns or com­mit­tees lever­aging Sil­ver’s renown in the same way as the DSCC. But with Sil­ver’s new site launch­ing on Monday, a new Sen­ate fore­cast may be in the near fu­ture — and per­haps more emails, too.

“He’s a trus­ted source of in­form­a­tion,” Rosen­kranz said. “People don’t have a lot of time to read email … so you’ve got to cap­ture their at­ten­tion in some way.”

What We're Following See More »
NEXT THURSDAY
Trump Transition Team Meeting with Silicon Valley VIPs
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Donald Trump's "transition team will meet next week with representatives of the tech industry, multiple sources confirmed, even as their candidate largely has been largely shunned by Silicon Valley. The meeting, scheduled for next Thursday at the offices of law and lobbying firm BakerHostetler, will include trade groups like the Information Technology Industry Council and the Internet Association that represent major Silicon Valley companies."

Source:
WHAT WILL PASS?
McConnell Doubts Criminal Justice Reform Can Pass This Year
1 hours ago
THE LATEST
ALSO FIRED UNATTRACTIVE WAITRESSES
Trump Did Business with Cuba
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

Today in bad news for Donald Trump:

  • Newsweek found that a company he controlled did business with Cuba under Fidel Castro "despite strict American trade bans that made such undertakings illegal, according to interviews with former Trump executives, internal company records and court filings." In 1998, he spent at least $68,000 there, which was funneled through a consluting company "to make it appear legal."
  • The Los Angeles Times reports that at a golf club he owns in California, Trump ordered that unattractive female staff be fired and replaced with prettier women.
POST-DEBATE SURVEYS
Clinton Holds Lead in Five Battlegrounds
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

In some of the first state-by-state surveys since Monday night's debate, Hillary Clinton has the edge in five battlegrounds, according to polls by Public Policy Polling. In four-way matchups, Clinton leads Donald Trump 46%-40% in Colorado, 45%-43% in Florida, 44%-42% in North Carolina, 45%-39% in Pennsylvania, and 46%-40% in Virginia. Gary Johnson doesn't top 7% in any state. Voters in all five states thought that Clinton decisively won the debate.

Source:
TIME TO SPLIT
House Passes CR, Sends Bill to President’s Desk
15 hours ago
THE LATEST
×