The Next Great Digital Politics Battlefield

Obama field team

We may have voted just four weeks ago, but the political world is already preparing for the next war. This time around, neither side is likely to have enough digital soldiers:

A modern presidential campaign also requires a modern digital operation, including staff and consultants with skills in online advertising, social media outreach, data analytics, email fundraising, content creation and much more. Whether they want to create a Trump-style Facebook machine or an Obama-style grassroots army, they'll need people who know how to do it – and right now those people are a limited commodity. Add in the dozens of Senate races, hundreds of House races and thousands of state-level races in which Democrats hope to compete in 2020, plus the outside organizations hoping to persuade and mobilize voters across the country, and the scale of the need becomes clear.

I can attest to the fact that capacity is a subject very much on Democratic digital organizers’ minds: the word “training” came up in nearly every session I attended at last weekend’s Rootscamp, which was itself a massive campaign debriefing/skills-transfer session. For example, a panel featuring the digital directors of the DSCC, DNC, DCCC and DLCC highlighted the work they’d done to train candidates and staff since the last election, as well as a national training apparatus the DNC is building now. Outside training groups also came up regularly in conversation, including organizations like Bring It Online that focus on specific communities.

I can’t speak directly about any similar conversations on the Right, but they’ll face the same expanded battlefield in 2020 that diluted their resources in 2018, and I imagine that the need to train staff influences their planning for the next go-round. One particular challenge for Republicans? Creating an ActBlue equivalent to help bring in dollars from conservative grassroots digital donors. To find an earlier attempt, I had to go back to articles from 2008! Surely the conservative movement can find some way to create a universal donation hub that can store donors’ information and allow for one-click transactions even for campaigns you haven’t supported before.

For more on the looming capacity battle, check out my latest column in Campaigns & Elections. And keep an eye out for new training initiatives — I’d love to hear what you’re seeing.


Written by
Colin Delany
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