House Republicans are counting on an innovative digital messaging strategy to lure passionate supporters of President Trump to the polls in the midterm and close a crucial enthusiasm gap with energized Democrats.
Voters who supported Trump in 2016 but are less interested in turning out this fall for traditional GOP candidates are being bombarded with digital advertising linking House Republicans to the president. The approach, road-tested by the National Republican Congressional Committee in special elections, uses advanced data analytics to identify low-propensity voters less inclined to vote if Trump isn’t on the ballot.
“There’s a reason the NRCC has had unprecedented success year after year. It doesn’t happen by accident. It’s because we’re constantly willing to try new things and innovate while others are happy doing things the way they always have,” NRCC spokesman Matt Gorman said.
House Republicans’ prospects for holding the party’s 23-seat majority have lately improved. But the House is in play.
As is typical in midterm elections, the political atmospherics are problematic for the party in power in the White House. Democrats are no less energetic about showing up in the midterm to register a vote against Trump. Republican strategists, smartly, remain preoccupied with motivating the disparate elements of their coalition to reduce the Left’s enthusiasm advantage.
To address the challenge, the NRCC moved quietly last year to launch a multifaceted communications strategy that stretches beyond the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act House Republicans talk about the most in public and emphasizes messaging designed to excite Trump’s loyal base.
The primary House Republican message is the promotion of the $1.3 trillion tax overhaul enacted in December, and tying the new law to an improving economy. Republican insiders say it is the surest path to protect Republicans in competitive House districts, where Trump’s job approval ratings are low in these areas and traditional Republican voters have resisted his provocative style.
Under the radar, the NRCC deployed other messaging specifically tailored to motivate multiple various universes of voters the party needs to hold the House majority. Chief among them is the “MAGA” universe.
The designation, used by Republican strategists, refers to the president’s 2016 campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” It describes individuals that are not just low-propensity midterm voters, but might not have even shown up in the last presidential election but for Trump.
Facebook has figured prominently. By uploading a file of targeted voters into the social media platform, the NRCC is able to guarantee with near-certainty that its ads are reaching the specific individual voters. The Trump presidential campaign leveraged Facebook to identify and turn out voters, and the platform has been especially useful in reaching “MAGA” loyalists.
The peer-to-peer smartphone app is another tool the NRCC is using. Volunteers working on House GOP campaigns can upload the voter file to the app, and then send individual text messages to targeted voters with messaging and an encouragement to go vote. These types of apps, used by Democratic campaigns as well, comply with Federal Communications Commission regulations.
The digital ads themselves vary in format. Using video clips produced by the NRCC videographer to get a message across — the fancy term is “motion graphics” — is a big part of the committee’s advertising strategy.