Issue Free Campaign

Tom Belford has subscribed to the email list of all the presidential candidates and is amazed at the total lack of issue focus.

In order of frequency, the email communications I’ve received since February have focused on:

1. I need your money
2. I really need your money by March 31
3. Here’s the spin on my 1st quarter fundraising
4. Here’s what I’m doing this week

Given the early start to the race, I can hardly blame potentially viable candidates for staying as general as possible for as long as possible. There’s just not much upside to taking firm stances on controversial issues, since it just ensures they’ll get hammered from all sides.

Belford is right, though, about a missed communications opportunity: “the campaigns don’t seem to know the basics of what’s called CRM (consumer relationship marketing) in the commercial world. It would be so easy for a campaign to ask me online about my issue priorities and then feed me material on those issues. At least give a nod to MY concerns. CRM 101.”

Quite right. If Google can micro-target advertising based on the content of the Web page or email I happen to be looking at, surely campaigns can do the same thing with the additional advantage of email communications, survey results, and other information at their disposal. Sending targeted weekly updates on what the candidate has said, even if the issue content is innocuous and vague, would be an easy way to reinforce connections with donors and other supporters.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Boyd says:

    Aside from the fact that CRM stands for “Customer Relationship Management,” I agree. They’re really missing the boat on this one.

  2. Think it a step further. To feed me something on my issues, they have to say something about those issues. Even if they filter something like abortion between ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life’, so they know what you want to be fed, you have the problem of sending out two different stands.

    Imagine how easy it would be to game the system to get the candidate to send emails on different sides of the issue for affirmative action, immigration, public schools, etc. Then you show that they are taking both sides and their credibility is in tatters (more in tatters given the current believability of candidates).

    I agree that they could certainly be conducting polls on line. Send emails asking voters to ‘tell them what they think’ etc. Letting your supporters have a voice into the campaign (even if you trash all the data coming in) is probably the right step at this point. Don’t project out, but gather in.