“All hope is lost.”
“Kiss all hope goodbye.”
“W O R S T i n U. S. H i s t o r y.”
These are just four subject lines of the many apocalyptic-sounding emails sent out on a routine basis by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Political reporters, operatives, and voters have taken notice — there’s even a parody Tumblr called “Emails from the DCCC.”
Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), the chair of the DCCC, says the messages are working.
At a briefing with reporters Monday morning a month ahead of the midterm elections, Israel said he constantly apologizes “all over the country” for the mass volume of emails his committee sends to people’s inboxes.
Israel told the story of one of those mea culpas, which came during a recent trip he made to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
“I love military history and I love going to battlefields,” Israel said. “They actually help inform my judgment about political battlefields.”
He was travelling through the historical site on a bus when a man behind him tapped him on the shoulder. Israel said he turned around.
“How is this possible?” the man said to him. “You’ve been sitting in front of me on this bus for the past two hours, and I’ve gotten two emails from you.”
Though some voters clearly find the relentless DCCC email blitz irksome, it works, Israel said — to the tune of $US5.5 million from 270,000 online donations in August alone.
Israel attributed some of the success of the emails to sophisticated analytical tools that allow the DCCC to fine-tune messages based on who they are sent from and the race they are focused on.
“We have this kind of lab — this R&D lab — that’s constantly tweaking the strategies in terms of message, messenger, and frequency,” Israel said.
For example, Israel said messages sent under his name do not perform as well unless they refer to specific races while emails sent by President Barack Obama do well no matter the approach.
“Our donors have a sense that when you get an email from the chairman, it’s informed,” Israel said. “They will pay attention.
During his briefing with reporters, Israel admitted Democratic candidates for the US House of Representatives were facing a “tough national climate” and as volatile a terrain as he’s ever seen. Despite that, he said the DCCC has outraised its GOP counterpart, the National Republican Congressional Committee, by nearly $US18 million this year. This leaves the DCCC with a $US54.5 million to $US45.7 million cash-on-hand advantage heading into the last month of the campaign season, he said.
Israel cited online fundraising as a main factor in Democrats’ financial edge this cycle. He said he has “not seen” any evidence the emails are losing effectiveness over time.
Though much of his job as DCCC chair rests on projecting an image of strength to the party’s donors, Israel defended the dire-sounding tone of the emails. He said donors are primarily motivated by knowing the committee is “fighting” for their beliefs rather than by thinking wins are within their grasp. Israel also characterised the messages as “a realistic picture of individual candidates, districts, and environments.”
“My credibility as the chairman of a political committee rests on my honesty,” Israel said in response to a question from Business Insider. “So, I am not in the business of handing out rose-coloured glasses to our donors and predicting success when we have tough terrain. I believe they respect me because they know I am honest in my assessment of the landscape.”
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