Lucas Kunce announced his campaign to flip Roy Blunt’s open Missouri Senate seat in March of 2021. His rapid rise to national renown and social media stardom has been nothing short of meteoric.
Within a little under a year, Kunce has amassed a Twitter following of over 47,000 followers and out-fundraised the entire Republican field in Missouri, totaling $2.5 million in contributions in 2021 and $710,000 in the fourth quarter of 2021 alone.
And he’s done all of that without accepting a single dollar from any corporate PAC. His average donation sits at just around $38 dollars.
So how did Kunce pull this off? Authenticity.
These days, the writing on the wall is pretty clear. Most voters don’t want to elect politicians. They want to elect people that look like them, sound like them, and that resonate with their lived experiences. We find this to be especially true in rust belt states where voters have felt abandoned by career politicians and what they see as the Washington establishment.
Kunce and his campaign know that there’s a desire for authenticity and they’ve mobilized and centered their campaign around it. Their platform, messaging, and even the wording throughout their social media posts take the story of Kunce, a Marine veteran turned antitrust advocate, and use it to make real connections with the campaign’s supporters. (What’s an antitrust advocate you might ask – it’s someone fighting to end corporate monopolies and break up large corporations like big pharmaceutical companies.)
This path is not only working for Kunce, but charts a path forward for any other current or would-be candidate. Or really any organization trying to make a difference in the world! It serves as a reminder that we all have a story to tell that’s not only relevant, but also engaging. And honest. And doesn’t speak at the people but aims to connect with them! You just have to be sure you’re stepping up to
To understand who Kunce, a first-time candidate who started his campaign with almost name ID, pulled off this impressive feat, let’s take a look at his top 10 tweets since announcing his candidacy — ranked by engagement — to see how he did it.
Calling out the insulin cartel – 36,602 engagements
The cost of insulin isn’t determined by supply and demand. It’s really just 3 companies setting a price based on how many deaths and amputations the market will bear until people start rioting.
Free market? That’s a cartel. And we should treat it like one.
— Lucas Kunce (@LucasKunceMO) September 17, 2021
An estimated 516,000 Missourians had doctor-diagnosed diabetes in 2020. This is a politically relevant constituency that has been paying too much for insulin for far too long.
Kunce is running as an antitrust candidate. He found his niche here by tying back his platform to an issue that’s relevant — and personal! — for many so Missourians. His social copy explains this issue in a way that’s easy to understand while also matching his authentic voice. No wonder this post had over 36,000 engagements!
Taking on a GOP Rival, mark McCloskey – 33,697 engagements
This guy is the GOP frontrunner in Missouri’s U.S. Senate race.
I’m the 13-year Marine officer and economic justice advocate building a grassroots movement to defeat him.
— Lucas Kunce (@LucasKunceMO) June 10, 2021
Remember this disturbing moment from the summer of 2020? Mark McCloskey and his wife, Patricia, paraded out of their mansion to wave an assault rifle and a handgun to “protect” themselves from peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors. Since then, they’ve been featured at the 2020 RNC and McCloskey has announced his candidacy for Senate.
Kunce was a Marine who used the same type of assault weapon in service to his country, not to stifle free speech. He sums up that distinction well in this tweet.
Masculine and pro-video games? – 23,411 engagements
While Josh Hawley worked at fancy law firms, I was a Marine. Guess what me and my buddies serving in Iraq and Afghanistan did between missions? We played video games.
So I don’t know what Joshua thinks about our “masculinity” — but I’m damn proud I served with these men. pic.twitter.com/2m3uQlskQe
— Lucas Kunce (@LucasKunceMO) November 9, 2021
Kunce isn’t much interested in the ridiculous ramblings of insurrection-inciting and Putin-supporting Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, who’s very concerned about the effects of video games on male youth.
Kunce was able to come back to Hawley’s absurd claim with an authentic rebuttal that wasn’t just relatable, but also doubled down on his credentials. We think it was a pretty perfect response.
A challenge to mansion man Mccloskey – 20,986 engagements
Remember that clown who got his 15 minutes of fame threatening people with a weapon of war outside his mansion? You know, Mansion Man @Mark__McCloskey?
Well, I’m running against him for Missouri’s open U.S. Senate seat. And I want to teach him a lesson. pic.twitter.com/3UGaoXvD4p
— Lucas Kunce (@LucasKunceMO) June 9, 2021
Next, Kunce solves the age-old question for candidates in a battleground or red state. Do I shoot a gun on camera to show off my gun-toting creds, or not? Here, he takes a unique stance by rejecting the old trope of on-camera gunplay and instead challenging McCloskey to apologize to the people he threatened in exchange for a private weapons training class with Kunce himself.
He used this fun take to call out a rival and make a real statement in the process. Kunce doesn’t have to prove he knows how to use an assault rifle. He did it for 13 years on missions serving our country – not in a vapid show of support to the CPAC and NRA crowds.
Calling out politicians moonlighting as day traders – 15,215 engagements
With this tweet, Kunce joined many of his progressive counterparts in highlighting the undemocratic trend of politicians moonlighting as day traders. This is exactly the type of behavior that has turned off so many voters from politics. And Kunce knows it.
He calls out politicians on both sides of the aisle, furthering his antitrust bona fides, while also getting national press for helping to push an important issue.
Highlighting the hypocrisy of nation building – 14,023 engagements
$6.4 trillion spent on making defense contractors rich + nation building in someone else’s country never seemed to be a problem for these politicians. Now we can’t spend even half of that on nation building here at home?
Joe, that math doesn’t add up. https://t.co/QdDJngHhEy
— Lucas Kunce (@LucasKunceMO) September 13, 2021
Here, Kunce uses his background as a veteran to make a very powerful statement. The same politicians that were comfortable dumping trillions into a failed war won’t even budge on spending half that to build up our own country.
One of Kunce’s major pieces of his platform is a “Marshall Plan for the Midwest,” and he’s able to share it effectively online through his personal story and smart messaging.
kunce calls for nation building at home – 13,656 engagements
For 20 years, politicians, elites and military leaders lied to us about Afghanistan. I know because I was there.
— Lucas Kunce (@LucasKunceMO) August 23, 2021
Kunce continues this theme throughout his messaging and does so to great effect. His campaign has a clear hypothesis: Midwesterners, and particularly Missourians, have felt left behind by a government that is more worried about building overseas than here at home.
This type of sentiment has led to the rise of populist Republicans such as the orange menace himself. But Kunce, and many others like him, clearly believe it can be flipped into a message for Democrats looking to reconnect with middle-class voters who feel burned and abandoned by the Republican party.
Contrasting himself with another sleazy opponent, eric greitens – 10,312 engagements
While McClosky might be the most cartoonish candidate vying for the Republican nomination, his claim to the nomination is far from a lock. Eric Greitens, who’s most likely to be Kunce’s Republican opponent (despite his party’s best attempts to stop him), resigned as Missouri’s Governor in disgrace, after a disturbing history of intimidation, sexual assault and invasion of privacy came to light.
Missouri voters have yet to forget about his awful past, and the Kunce campaign wants to make sure it stays that way.
Easy to understand antitrust messaging – 10,054 engagements
The price of insulin has surged in recent years, placing a life-and-death medication out of reach of far too many Americans. For Kunce, an antitrust advocate, this issue to ripe for the campaign trail. And he does a phenomenal job of taking what could be a very complex issue and making it simple and easy to understand.
Companies are working together to exploit the necessary health needs of Americans, which is something that Kunce won’t stand for. Along with over 10,000 people who engaged with this tweet.
advocating for investments in the us, not abroad – 8,023 engagements
As you’ve noticed, consistency is key when it comes to building authentic relationships with your followers. Kunce maintains — and leans into — the same set of stances on issues such as antitrust legislation and building up the middle class.
His social media presence shows that although political tides may change, Kunce and his values doesn’t. He’s still the same person – the Marine vet from Jeff City who’s going to fight for the working people of Missouri, not the millionaires and the billionaires.
Throughout Kunce’s tweets, we can see a clear image of Kunce as a candidate. He’s authentic and relatable to voters in Missouri — as well as donors and social media followers across the country — and while his message is definitely carefully crafted, it never comes off that way.
And here’s the thing: any candidate regardless of budget or experience can do this too. Speak how you actually speak, say what you’d actually say, fight for positions you actually care about… and above all else, tell your story.
If you need help doing it — hit us up! This is what we do here at Reverbal Communications. Together, we’ll help you and your campaign or organization find ways to share your story with your audience in ways that engage and inspire. Maybe we can even help you capture the same lightning-in-a-bottle energy that Kunce managed to pull off to turn himself into an overnight political star.