In mid-June, I signed up for the email lists of the 6 top-tier Republican presidential candidates. That list includes Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, Mike Pence and Chris Christie.
I wrote about signing up for their lists and what I learned in the process. You can find that article here.
I created a graphic breaking down what I’d learned after one week. You can find that here.
I also created a graphic summing up my findings after 7 weeks. You can find that here.
I was invited onto the Business of Politics podcast to discuss what I was seeing. You can listen to that episode here (or wherever you stream podcasts).
I also checked in with City and State FL specifically about the DeSantis campaign’s email program. You can find that article here.
Let me clarify quickly that there are MANY more Republicans running for President, but I had to draw a line somewhere and at the time, these six seemed the most likely to get on the debate stage (that has since changed, but this is where we’re at).
I also want to clarify that I was also on a bunch of their lists with other email addresses. I signed up for all 6 of these lists with a dummy email address, that included tracking info built right in. I did this so a) I could see what their lists look like to brand new folks, not folks they’ve been emailing for years and b) so I could track what they do with my email address as their campaigns proceed and (at least!) 5 of them ultimately concede.
I described how I did that in my earlier blog post. You can also find a deeper dive I did on that tracking hack here.
So now that I’ve been on each of their lists for a little under 7 weeks, I thought it a good time to do another deep dive and see what we’ve learned thus far.
Total emails received: 19
Average emails per day: .39*
Onboarding series: No
Number of senders: 2
Biggest takeaway: It took me a month of trying to get added to his list!
Donald Trump is a notorious spammer. His campaign is constantly slamming our collective inboxes screaming doom and gloom. But don’t worry, for just a few dollars you can help right the ship. And good chance, your donation will be matched 1000 times over! You just need to kick in $25 right now to save your favorite president from damnation.
So with about 48 days on the list, you might be shocked to see he only sent me 19 emails. I too was shocked. Like, legit shocked. I spoke in-depth on the Business of Politics podcast about this.
Here’s the thing: while his campaign has ONLY sent me 19 emails, the first one didn’t come in until about a week ago.
Hence the asterisk next to average emails per day. In reality, they are sending me 2.375 emails per day.
They just didn’t start emailing me… for over a month.
Why did this happen? I have no idea! I subscribed to his list numerous times (at least 5 if I had to guess). The emails just never name.
Until they did. And then, they came hard.
All the emails came directly from Donald J. Trump or Official Trump Alerts.
Not only did the Trump campaign wait over a month to start emailing me, when they did, here’s the first things I saw in my inbox.
I’m going to go ahead and dub this an anti-onboarding series.
If the goal of the onboarding series is to ease the reader in, this instead dumps them in in the worst possible way. It assumes they know exactly what’s going on with this list.
The content of those emails is bizarre and all over the place. One just that looks like a series of tweets.
This one looked more like a press release.
Clearly, none of them were written with a new subscriber in mind.
They kept up the daily update angle for a few days, and then ditched that and got right back into his more traditional spammy subject lines/preview texts.
“NEW BOGUS CHARGES AGAINST ME – ###########################”
“Re: New bogus charges from Biden’s DOJ” (who are you re: ing? Not me!)
“FW: the back-stabbing plot… – They’re coming after me, instead of the real enemy.”
You get the point. Lots of hyperbolic fear-mongering begging me to open the emails and donate.
Whether you’ve subscribed to his list or not, I’m guessing you have at some point received his emails. So I think you get the idea.
The only surprise with this was that it took over a month for them to take my email address – that I willingly gave them – to actually get me added to their list.
Curious to see if they’re going to add all my other attempts to the list, or if their CRM is smart enough to merge them all together.
I’ll keep you posted.
Overall impression of his program: 5 eye rolls (out of 5, if that wasn’t clear)
Total emails received: 131
Average emails per day: 2.73*
Onboarding series: Yes
Number of senders: 11
Mentions of Donald Trump: 1
Primary takeaway: They copy and paste emails… a lot!
Okay, DeSantis has emailed me 131 times in 48 days. Which is a lot. But you’ll notice, we’ve got another asterisk in average emails per day. And that’s because, after adding me to his list and emailing me 6 times in 3 days, they dropped my email!
I did nothing. I didn’t resubscribe, or try and reengage. I just sat tight. Eleven days later, they re-added me to their list.
And from that day on, they’ve emailed me an average of 3.38 times per day.
Which is SOOOO many emails.
I was impressed by how many senders they had… until I wasn’t.
I count 11 senders in my inbox. Which is better than Donald Trump’s list. But at a point, I’d argue that’s just too many for a single month.
Ron himself emails me. As does Team DeSantis. And DeSantis for President. Also his wife. And Calli (Head of Merch). And Jordan (Team DeSantis). Also Xavier. And Olivia. And Seth.
It’s… a lot.
Multiple senders can be a cool way to tell a story. Especially when folks are familiar with your senders. Joe Biden’s been using a ton of high-profile names on his list recently and that makes sense. Different senders might get different readers to open. But other than their moms, I’m not sure anyone cares about Jordan or Xavier or Olivia… you get the point. No offense to them, but for the average reader, it’s just too many senders too quickly.
And when you open the emails from these unique senders, they don’t have a unique voice or angle. They just feel like yet another DeSantis email.
I like the concept, but feel they have vastly overdone it.
Now let’s look at some content.
In 131 emails, Team DeSantis uses the word “woke” 128 times (!!!!).
They use CRT 123 times (without defining it once – they do spell out Critical Race Theory 2x, but neither time next to the acronym, so if you don’t know, you don’t know!).
They use DEI 128 times, again without ever really defining it.
They use the exact phrase “do not tell my children that men can get pregnant” 3 times and mention that concept in a few more emails.
My biggest takeaway: this is not a digital program with its finger on the pulse of the voters. Like his campaign, his digital program is hyper-online and can’t imagine that the vast majority of Americans likely have no idea what CRT or DEI even mean.
I like that his email calls out some of the shadier tactics currently running rampant on both sides of the aisle. He has pledged not to buy email addresses (not novel for a political campaign, but pretty stunning for a presidential candidate imho) or scam folks with BS matches or fear-mongering.
He also regularly emails with asks beyond money. Which is great!
BUT… I noticed something fascinating.
I have 22 emails trying to get me to donate in exchange for a free bumper sticker. Which is.. a lot in 6 weeks. But okay, at least he’s not trying to scare his donors.
But check this out: of the 22 emails he sent pushing bumper stickers, all but 5 were EXACTLY THE SAME EMAIL! He changed the subject line (sometimes, not even always) and then copy and pasted the exact same email over and over and over.
THIS IS NOT A NORMAL THING TO DO FOR A CAMPAIGN EMAIL PROGRAM!
And they did the same thing with their yard sign emails.
Overall impression of his program: Decent bones. Needs a lot of work.
Total emails received: 111
Average emails per day: 2.31
Onboarding series: Yes
Number of senders: 10
Mentions of Donald Trump: 1
Primary takeaway: Best email program of the bunch
I’m not a fan of Nikki Haley. But I do think she’s running the best email program of the candidates we’re tracking.
She had the best onboarding series by a mile. While DeSantis sent me one onboarding email, Haley didn’t ask for money until email 5.
And each of the first four emails had different asks and ways to get involved.
I think she, like DeSantis, has a few too many senders. But all in all, they seemed clearer regarding who was emailing and why.
Her campaign manager “Betsy A.” sends weekly campaign updates. This is something we’ve seen Team Joe do, but it’s a solid play.
It’s unclear to me why she signs them Betsy A. If it was me, I’d use her full name OR just Betsy. In my opinion, adding the A. makes it less personal, not more.
They send them using a typewriter font, which is a clever way to make them feel more operative. I actually think it’s probably harder to read these emails for some on a mobile device, but I appreciate the angle and totally get what they’re going for here.
As “Try that in a small town” has been trending, they sent an email from Haley with the subject line “Try that in a small town” all about being born and raised in a small town.
The song is clearly problematic with racist undertones. But for a Republican electorate, this is a smart strategy. Republicans clearly see the song as an anthem, leaning in is good politics. And the fact she can connect it to her personal story makes it all the better. Finding those trending moments and tying them into your campaign is huge and so important if you want to break through the clutter.
She asks her readers for questions… not novel. But then answer them in emails. Which is… fun! I actually quite like that.
Here she is calling out two of her opponents for frivolous spending.
I notice she left out the very heavily reported story of Donald Trump using campaign funds to pay his legal bills. 🤔
But still, I bet this was a solid performer for her.
She uses GIFs throughout, her weekly recap emails are quite solid, she has her kids emailing on her behalf in language that actually sounds like it’s coming from them…
Overall impression of his program: While it’s a pretty low bar, I still declare this to be the strongest program of the 6.
I think they email too much. And 107 of her 111 emails mentioned the word “woke”. But all in all, solid program.
Total emails received: 55
Average emails per day: 1.15*
Onboarding series: Sorta
Number of senders: 5
Mentions of Donald Trump: 1
Primary takeaway: Not great, not the worst
Okay, first of all, let’s dive into that asterisk.
I signed up for his list in mid-June and immediately got an email with the subject line:
Oof. That’s so bad.
But what’s worse: I opened the email, didn’t mark it as spam or do anything else to imply I wanted off the list… but that’s exactly what happened.
They dropped me completely from their list.
I re-subscribed on July 10 and 54 of my 55 emails came since then.
Bringing his daily average send from just over 1 all the way up to 2.62 emails per day.
Like I said, oof.
His emails are fine. Lots of big buttons and decent graphics.
They also use a bunch of GIFs of the candidate talking to the camera.
And plenty of red meat for the base.
I don’t think his list does as good a job of telling his story as Haley’s, but it’s probably second so far of the programs we’ve reviewed.
His emails are skimmable (a huge plus in my book!), use large fonts and are easy to read.
I’ll say that I’m confused why I have to sign-up for exclusive updates from Tim.
I get that this likely makes some folks feel special, but I would have followed the Betsy A. model from the Haley campaign and just let folks in. Maybe even made it easy to unsubscribe from that sublist. But forcing folks to do a whole other sign-up seems like the wrong call.
Overall impression of his program: It’s fine. Assuming he wants to be Vice President, this is likely working for him.
Total emails received: 35
Average emails per day: .73*
Onboarding series: No
Number of senders: 8
Mentions of Donald Trump: 7
Primary takeaway: This program is written by an AI Chatbot asking it to sound like Ronald Reagan
Am I being unfair in describing his campaign as a chatbot with the Reagan setting turned all the way up?
Here’s the last email he sent me:
The asterisk is back because he took a week to send me an initial email and then either removed me from his list or went silent on July 15th.
I tried to check some websites that track emails to see which: neither of them have anything for poor, poor Mike Pence. Lolz
So yeah, I legit don’t know if he’s ghosting me, or full on turned off his email program.
If you know, please share that info with me!
Given that I got all 35 emails in about a 2-week window, that puts his average daily send at 1.83.
His first email to me (a week after I subbed to his list) was about Obama. His second was about Hunter Biden.
I wound’t say it’s really gone uphill since then.
Overall impression of his program: Even his campaign seems bored by their program.
Total emails received: 57
Average emails per day: 1.1875*
Onboarding series: No
Number of senders: 11***
Mentions of Donald Trump: 34
Primary takeaway: He almost immediately sold my email!!!
Okay, Chris Christie is a fascinating case study when it comes to Republican politics.
He undoubtedly helped Donald Trump get elected in 2016. He worked hard for him throughout the campaign and the transition, despite Trump openly mocking him for his weight.
He was part of Trump’s 2020 debate prep team when Donald Trump knowingly infected everyone on his team with COVID. Christie almost died.
He then turned on Trump. Hard.
He’s clearly not running to be President (I mean the more he talks about Trump, the more the Republican electorate hates him), but rather to settle the score.
And that’s something to behold in a presidential election.
Now let’s talk email. I signed up on the 14th. The first email came from him on the 22nd. So a week later.
Then something interesting happened: he sold my email to his Super PAC (or somehow gave it to them). Which is shady AF!
They are called Tell It Like It Is PAC. And of the 57 emails I’ve gotten to the email address I used to sign up for Christie’s list, 49 came from them. 49 out of 57!
The Christie campaign has only sent me 8 emails in 7 weeks. They’re outsourced their entire program to their PAC.
I’ve never seen anything like that.
The emails he does send are not good.
Here’s an example:
It’s just… ugly. There’s no personality to it. It’s copy-and-paste content that could have come from anyone.
Like Christie, his PACs email are very interested in getting him on the debate stage and going after Trump.
He’s the only candidate going directly after Trump.
It’s pretty clear that’s his primary goal in the race. And that’s how it feels in the inbox.
And good for him I guess. Trump almost killed him. And he did so knowingly!
Overall impression of his program: Christie is outsourcing his digital program to a PAC. So it’s kinda hard to take his digital program seriously.
I hope this was fun. I’m working hard to read all these emails and track all these programs… so you don’t have to!
The least you can do is follow me on social media. 😂🤣😂
I have a political podcast you might enjoy. It’s called Hello Merge Tag: Where social media and politics intersect. Listen to all episodes at HelloMergeTag.com or wherever you stream podcasts.
I also have lots of other blog posts you might enjoy. Find those here.
Keep in touch y’all!