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GOP Candidates Email Fast and Furious Around Super Tuesday

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by: Loren McDonald (@LorenMcDonald)
13 March 2012

Super Tuesday is the Black Friday of presidential campaigning, because a lot of states and convention delegates are at stake. It looks like Black Friday in the inbox, too, because the candidates emailed like many retailers, boosting frequency before, during and after the 10-state elections. (See all posts in the “GOP Throwdown” series.)

I observed the following highlights in my ongoing study of GOP candidates and how they are communicating via email:

1. Email Frequency Nearly Doubled
Email volume began ticking up sharply before the hard-fought Michigan primary on Feb. 28, but the pace nearly doubled in the seven days between that primary and Super Tuesday.

Email volume had been hovering around an average 1.5 campaign messages a day from all of the three candidates that still email actively: Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney.

Frequency hit a campaign-high 2.7 emails a day in the week between the Michigan primary and Super Tuesday.

Romney steps on the gas: Until Feb. 29—after the Michigan primary and one week before Super Tuesday—Romney sent fewer emails than either Santorum or Paul. (I'll discuss campaign email frequency in more depth in a future blog post.)

Following his top finish in Michigan, Romney's campaign sent seven emails in the following week through Super Tuesday, compared with six each for Santorum and Paul.

Paul goes silent: The Paul campaign had been the most prolific emailer since it began sending messages on Feb. 11, 33 days into the study. But the campaign did not send any email from March 4, ("Last Chance to Have an Impact on Super Tuesday") to March 8 ("My Status as a Candidate").

2. More Negative Campaigning
As Super Tuesday drew closer, the tone in the Santorum and Romney candidate emails turned negative, with each candidate accusing the other of being an ally of the Obama Administration.

Romney accused Santorum of trying to lure Democrats in Michigan and Ohio across the party line to vote for him as a "Kill Romney" measure.

Santorum turned the tables: "On the crucial issues of this election — from Obamacare and Wall Street bailouts to soaring gas prices under a Cap & Trade energy scheme — Mitt Romney has sided with Barack Obama.”

3. Candidates Reposition after Super Tuesday
Within two days of Super Tuesday, the three actively emailing campaigns assessed their standing in the race.

Romney does the math: The campaign sent one of the best emails I've seen to date in all the electioneering. Alternatively titled "Easy Math" and "The Math to 1,144" (referring to the number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination), the message included a simple graphic showing where each candidate stood after Super Tuesday.

The message itself is an understated evaluation of Romney's campaign strengths and reads much like a financial report, complete with effective use of bar charts.


Santorum the underdog: Although he has more delegates than Gingrich or Paul, Santorum painted himself as the "underdog" candidate with calls to action such as "I need you to join our scrappy campaign" and "Our underdog campaign can once again win big."

"I will keep fighting": Paul rejected the Romney campaign-math email with a message that reassured his supporters that he's not dropping out yet:

" ... No candidate for President has even made it one-third of the way toward the number of delegates needed to win the nomination."

4. "P.S." and "Fwd" become popular gimmicks.
Super Tuesday emails from the Romney and Paul campaigns use a popular direct-mail tactic: adding a secondary call to action in a “P.S.” below the sender's signature line. In Romney's campaign, the “P.S.” usually contains the fund-raising pitch, especially in an email message that doesn't ask for funds.

The "Forwarding" technique is a tool some email marketers use to call more attention to the subject line or make the email look as if it's coming from a friend.

Several of the candidates used this tactic earlier in the campaign, but Paul began using it after Super Tuesday. The Paul campaign forwarded the "My Status as A Candidate" email twice, once over Rand Paul's signature and once from "Elizabeth N," a campaign staffer.

In both cases, the forwarding may have indicated the campaign was doing some open-and-click analysis. "Elizabeth N's" note atop the original said, "Dr. Paul is concerned he didn't hear from you and asked me to forward you his email again."


I'll have more observations about the candidates and their email strategies and tactics in future blog posts. Anything you'd like to have me address? List your questions in the comments section below, and stay tuned!

More on the Republican candidates’ use of email:
1) Blog: “GOP Throwdown: Content Varies as Much as the Candidates
2) Slideshare: “Republican Presidential Candidate Email Marketing ‘Throwdown’
3) Blog: “GOP Throwdown Part 2: Variety Is the Spice of From/Subject Lines


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