What to Expect

What to Expect: 2018 Primary Season
April 10, 2018
Ashley Burns

We are a handful of primaries into the 2018 season. While every state and each district within has its own nuances, important information and lessons have emerged from two of this year’s biggest primaries to date, Texas and Illinois.

What has become crystal clear is that campaigns need to have a data-driven, omni-channel voter contact strategy to communicate with their target primary voters ahead of Election Day. 

Reid Vineis, Director of Mobile Operations, joins me today in analyzing what we’ve seen so far, what we expect to see throughout the remainder of the 2018 primary season, and the steps campaigns can take today to set themselves up for victory.

Identify a Data-Driven Path to Victory
Hope is not a strategy.

Data must be at the center of your campaign plan. You have to know what turnout and an ideal vote goal look like to ensure victory on Election Day.

The Texas and Illinois primaries saw two different stories when it comes to Republican turnout.

Texas saw over 1.5 million voters participate in the GOP primary (up from 2014) whereas Illinois saw an estimated 30% drop in GOP primary turnout as compared to 2014

By analyzing historical primary elections, past primary vote history and enthusiasm for the upcoming election, you can build out various scenarios that account for both average and high turnout situations. This will give your campaign the flexibility to adjust voter contact strategy based on the enthusiasm in your district. 

GOP Primary Voters Are Not a Monolith
Republican primary voters are not a uniform audience where a cookie cutter, “one size fits all” messaging approach can be utilized.

Some of these voters will have strong anti-incumbent sentiments; some will strongly support the President’s agenda; while others will vote based on which candidate agrees with their stance on a specific issue. It is critical to know where the likely GOP primary voters in your state and/or district fall along these various issues.

“Our clients were some of the most successful in Texas because they had a clearly defined message and targeted the right voters. As noisy as election cycles get, the fundamentals always apply. Having a clear and consistent message targeted to the right voters on the right medium is increasingly important.”
– Aaron Whitehead, Majority Strategies State Strategist

Pairing demographic and geographic data points with predictive modeling will allow you to deliver issue-specific messages to your like target primary voters. This will enable you to identify issue- and demographic-based audience subsets across platforms – ranging from 2nd Amendment supporters and fiscal conservatives to angry/discontent GOP voters and strong immigration policy supporters.

Money is Not Always the Answer
Not all campaigns have unlimited budgets, and the Texas and Illinois primaries in 2018 have shown us that even those who do aren’t guaranteed to win.

This means it is ESSENTIAL that your campaign is talking to the right voters, at the right time, on the right platform to ensure that your campaign will have the highest ROI for every dollar spent on voter contact. 

Talk to the Voters That Matter
A primary electorate is a very specific set of people.

In these elections, we don’t need to talk to all voters, or even all primary voters for that matter. We need to talk to those likely primary voters, which is often a fraction of the entire electorate.

Digital advertising is a smart medium for primary candidates because they can have a one-on-one conversation with those specific voters without wasting resources. Additionally, by marrying your data strategy with digital and print, candidates can deliver messages on the specific issues those audiences care about.

Add in print – a USPS focus group reported they were more likely to read direct mail if its message was focused on an issue they cared about – and the net result is a highly effective and efficient campaign to a precise universe.

Get Social
In an ideal world, a primary candidate would have a face-to-face conversation with every voter. The reality is there isn’t enough time to make that possible.

This is why it’s important to increase a campaign’s reach, and social media is a great tool to do so.

We’ve seen primary candidates this cycle have great success with free tools like Facebook Live video and Twitter as well as paid advertisements to voters. A strategy that combines both organic posts and paid content will create the original content that attracts voters as well as reaching enough of your audience.

Use Every Tool at Your Disposal
Primaries often have a very short window where voters are paying attention. Using every tool you have will ensure you maximize that time and your message’s reach.

If properly run, a candidate would reach voters on every platform possible to shorten the timeframe to win their support. Too often, campaigns will end up putting all their eggs in one basket – and only invest in one or two platforms. This is a mistake.

On digital, a comprehensive campaign would include search, social, display and mobile advertising.

Learn more about how digital and print advertising work together.