“By the way, what ever happened to Hunter? Where the hell is he?!” Trump asked the arena, referring to former Vice President Joe Biden’s eldest son, amid the controversy that launched an impeachment inquiry into the president and his dealings with Ukraine. “Hey fellas, I have an idea for a new T-shirt.”
Minutes later, the suggestion became a $25 reality. Before the event was over, the campaign website had a “LIMITED edition” piece of merchandise “while supplies last!” featuring the presidential query: “WHERE’S HUNTER?”
But the goal wasn’t just to sell thousands of inflammatory t-shirts. More valuable than any dollars brought in, according to aides, is the voter data associated with each item the campaign sells.
For months, the Trump campaign has been capitalizing on controversial events to attract and study donors, many of whom had never given to the 2020 team before. Critics have mocked the gimmicky sales but the campaign may be getting the last laugh.
“President Trump is a master of branding and marketing and his campaign is an extension of that. We try to reflect the President’s ability to cut through political correctness and seize on the news cycle,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said.
When plastic straw bans started to spread across the country, campaign manager Brad Parscale saw an opportunity to monetize.
“Liberal paper straws don’t work. STAND WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP and buy your pack of recyclable straws today,” an advertisement read. So far, the $15 packs of the Trump-branded straws have raised nearly $1 million for the campaign, making them the best-sellers of this kind of viral marketing machine.
That’s more than 60,000 orders, 40 percent of which were placed by new donors, according to a senior campaign official, meaning access to new voters and all sorts of information about them.
In September, after a hurricane map was altered with a black Sharpie to include Alabama, the Trump campaign decided to sell its own kind of thick black markers. For $15, supporters would get 5 fine-tip pens to “set the record straight!” for themselves, featuring — of course — the president’s gold autograph. Those haven’t sold as well as the straws, netting around $50,000, but it helped the campaign crystallize its strategy for converting outrage into retail information.
Last week, after Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said those with concern over political influence in the president’s foreign policy should “get over it,” the campaign seized on the phrasing and designed t-shirts with Trump’s signature hairdo over the letter “o.”
Buy the official Trump marker, which is different than every other marker on the market, because this one has the special ability to drive @CNN and the rest of the fake news crazy! #KeepMarkersGreathttps://t.co/eakgICM0LR
All of those examples show the lengths to which the campaign has cashed in on the culture war.
They have also been extremely beneficial for the data operation, according to a senior campaign official, who said the information gleaned from the thousands of transactions is invaluable.
Though the total amounts from these sales is a tiny fraction of the $125 million brought in by the president’s whole re-election effort last quarter, the one-two punch of effective political messaging and data collection also helps the campaign identify potential groups and demographics to better target between now and Election Day.
Obtaining phone numbers, emails and physical addresses in this volume, with this ease, is essentially gold for any presidential campaign.
Capitalizing on the “smartest dumb ideas” is also a way to identify the most loyal supporters and then seek out others who may share their key characteristics or online habits, said one digital marketing expert who asked not to be identified because they are consulting with political campaigns.
This strategy is a huge part of Parscale’s larger approach to collecting and using data. And it's a clear sign that the campaign is more focused on dominating in the digital arena than even four years ago.
Harvesting this kind of information demonstrates there is a “math to the madness” of these quick-turnaround items, according to the marketing expert.
The tchotchkes are easy and cheap to produce (all “Made in the USA”), while delivering nuanced insight into thousands of the president’s most ardent supporters, who would be critical to a potential second term victory.
The campaign can also cross-reference the information they gather from voter scores at the Republican National Committee and try to identify how many times they’ve voted in the past, for whom, and how.
Before he was elected, the president considered himself a master marketer. Perhaps the best example of this skill set is the now-iconic, signature red “Make America Great Again” hat. To date, the Trump campaign says it has sold more than a million of them, for a grand total of $25 million.
And beyond the viral, news cycle-driven merchandise, the campaign also has consistently targeted the president’s political opponents in its apparel and accessories available for sale on the website.
Just this week, the campaign unveiled special Halloween-themed items that feature House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Rep. Jerry Nadler. D-N.Y., as witches, with a superhero-type Trump flying through the air over Washington D.C. The image is a play on the movie poster for “Hocus Pocus,” with the Trump team playfully labeling the line: “HOAXUS POCUS — Stop the Witch-Hunt!”
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466d ago / 11:22 AM UTC
AARP launches ads in W.Va. urging Manchin to support reconciliation bill
WASHINGTON — AARP, the advocacy group for Americans over fifty, is launching new cable and broadcast TV ads in West Virginia urging centrist Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., to support a budget reconciliation bill that includes a major prescription drug savings policy.
The new TV ad, first reported by NBC News, is slated to run in West Virginia starting this Wednesday through at least July 5. An AARP spokesperson said it is part of a multi-million-dollar ad campaign that will include radio and print ads.
"Everybody knows Joe Manchin cares about West Virginians. And he knows too many of us are struggling to pay for our medicine. That's why he supports letting Medicare negotiate lower drug prices," says a narrator in the ad, which ends with: "Joe Manchin, keep fighting to lower drug prices."
It focuses on a priority of AARP's: allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, which Manchin has publicly endorsed. And it comes at a crucial stretch: In recent weeks, the senator has held private negotiations with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., about a bill that can bypass Republicans, who oppose the idea of allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.
“We know we have the votes to pass Medicare negotiation through reconciliation, and we are committed to pushing back whenever PhRMA and their allies try to mislead the public and block Congress from lowering prescription drug prices," said Nancy LeaMond, the chief advocacy officer for AARP.
Manchin has said he would be open to a package that includes drug savings, energy investments and tax hikes on high earners and corporations.
The recent Manchin-Schumer negotiations have been tight-lipped and the West Virginia Democrat, who scuttled the House-passed Build Back Better Act, is facing conflicting pressures on striking a narrower reconciliation deal over tax and spending policy that can bypass the filibuster. The new AARP ad campaign is designed to push back on drug industry opposition to the savings policy and aims to give Manchin political cover to support the bill.
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500d ago / 4:16 PM UTC
David Perdue lags far behind Gov. Kemp in ad spending Georgia's GOP primary
Ahead of Georgia’s May 24 primary, former Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., is falling behind in the race for the state's GOP gubernatorial nomination.
He’s spent no money on ads since April 29, according to AdImpact, an ad tracking firm. In total, he’s spent $1.2 million on ads, a relatively low amount for that race.
Perdue is backed by former President Donald Trump and is challenging Gov. Brain Kemp, who drew ire from Trump in 2020 when he refused to overturn the results of the presidential election in the state, which was carried by President Joe Biden.
So far this cycle, Kemp has spent over $5 million on ads. He’s recently pivoted his focus to the general election this fall, where Democrats are leading in ad spending by the millions, rather than spending money against Perdue.
Recent polls show that Kemp not only leads Perdue, but he also could clear 50 percent of the primary vote, meaning he would avoid a runoff election. A runoff would take place on June 21 if neither candidate clears that 50 percent threshold.
If he wins outright, Kemp will face Democrat Stacey Abrams in a rematch of their 2018 election, where Abrams lost by less than two percentage points. Abrams is already the de facto Democratic nominee, facing no challengers in the primary contest.
On top of Kemp’s ad spending, the Republican Governors Association has spent on his behalf, pouring over $4.6 million on the airwaves to back Kemp.
But Abrams and her allies are far and away the leaders in ad spending in the race so far. Abrams’ campaign has spent $7.8 million on the airwaves and Fair Fight Action has spent an additional $6.6 million on ads supporting Abrams.
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500d ago / 2:30 PM UTC
Midterm Roundup: A busy primary night
Ben Kamisar and Bridget Bowman
Tuesday's primaries across the country featured some key races in places like Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Oregon, Idaho and North Carolina. In Oregon, President Joe Biden's endorsement doesn't seem to have helped Rep. Kurt Schrader. Though the race hasn't been called yet, he's trailing his challenger, Jamie McLeod-Skinner by over 20 percentage points.
And in Pennsylvania, former President Donald Trump's endorsed candidate for Senate, Mehmet Oz, hasn't run away with it. The race is still too close to call, and former hedge fund manager David McCormick is trailing Oz by only 0.20 percentage points.
Here are some other key results from Tuesday’s wild primaries, with NBC News’ projection in parentheses, as they stand now:
Here are some other key results from Tuesday’s wild primaries, with NBC News’ projection in parentheses, as they stand now:
Kentucky-03 (Democratic): Morgan McGarvey 63.3 percent (winner), Attica Scott 36.7 percent.
Idaho-02 (GOP): Mike Simpson 54.6 percent (winner), Bryan Smith 32.7.
North Carolina-01 (GOP): Sandy Smith 30.7 percent, Sandy Roberson 26.1 percent (race has not been called).
North Carolina-13 (GOP): Bo Hines 32.1 percent (winner), DeVan Barbour 22.7 percent.
North Carolina-13 (Democratic): Wiley Nickel 51.7 percent (winner), Sam Searcy 23 percent.
North Carolina-14 (Democratic): Jeff Jackson 86.4 percent (winner), Ram Mammadov 13.8 percent.
Both districts include parts of Allegheny County, the home of Pittsburgh, but the two offer very different terrains for Democrats.
Not long ago, this entire area was Democratic. In the 2000 presidential race, Democrat Al Gore carried Allegheny County by 16 points, while carrying Beaver by 9 points. But 2020 showed how the map had changed. Joe Biden carried Allegheny by 20 points, but Donald Trump carried Beaver by 18 points.
What happened? Pittsburgh, still considered the “steel city” by many Americans, has morphed into a medical and tech center. About 43 percent of the 25-and-over population has a bachelor’s degree. But many of the suburbs around the city, like those in Beaver, are still rooted in the area’s industrial past; about 26 percent of adults in Beaver have a bachelor’s degree.
The emerging differences are clear to see on the ground.
Last week in Pittsburgh, we met with Jasiri X, the co-founder and CEO of 1Hood, a community organizing group in the city. His concern is whether Democrats are doing enough on the issues that Black voters face on a day-to-day basis.
“2018 was this very pivotal year for Pittsburgh,” he said. “We had a very high profile police killing of a young man named Antwon Rose. ... We also had the Tree of Life massacre later on that year."
"It began to be like, ‘OK, well, protesting by itself isn't enough," he continued. "Can we move to come together to actually create and change laws?’” He says that these voters haven’t seen the return on their investment and want Democrats to push harder on progressive policies instead of being “passive.”
An hour drive away from the city, in the far northern reaches of the northwestern Pittsburgh suburbs — the United Steelworkers Local 1016 held a meeting in Wheatland, Pennsylvania. There, we heard a very different message of what the country needs: Trump’s new brand of union workers were more worried about issues like the emerging Supreme Court decision on abortion.
United Steelworkers District 10 Director Bernie Hall studied his crowd of union leaders closely, taking stock of what political questions arose. A Biden voter himself, he was worried about candidates increasingly going to “extremes.” If the Supreme Court can overturn a law like Roe v. Wade from 1973, what about the 1935 Wagner Act that said employees have a right to establish a union?
“We’ll have dozens of these [meetings] across the state,” he said. “I'm concerned that people aren't getting facts in general, not only about President Biden but just about the political process and issues that face our country.”
In Aliquippa, after the local steel mill shut down, nature is slowly reclaiming empty homes and many of residents of this hard-hit African-American community are well beneath the poverty line.
Aliquippa Mayor Dwan Walker (D) urged Democrats to unite the rural voters and urban progressives. The way forward in Western Pennsylvania, he says, is to remind people the area is the birthplace of the unions.
“There’s 72,000 Democrats [here that are] ‘light blue’ [Reagan Democrat]” he said. “But they’ll vote Republican just based off the message. The message just has to be claimed.”
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501d ago / 4:01 PM UTC
Oz and McCormick backers have dominated ad spending but pro-Barnette group made late push
Groups backing businessman David McCormick and television doctor Mehmet Oz alone make up 88 percent of all ad spending in Pennsylvania's GOP Senate primary, data from the ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics shows.
But a late push by a powerful ally of Republican activist Kathy Barnette meant that she and her allies actually outspent the pro-Oz effort in the race's final week.
Overall, the pro-McCormick effort has spent $32.8 million on ads through Tuesday, with $16.9 million coming from the Honor Pennsylvania super PAC and $12 million from McCormick's campaign alone (two other super PACs added another $3.9 million).
While Oz's campaign spent $13.2 million, more than McCormick's campaign, he had a far smaller, $4.3 million push from super PACs, bringing the pro-Oz ad spending total to $17.5 million.
And Barnette's campaign, which has spent just $210,00 on ads, was boosted by a $2.1 million, last-minute ad buy from Club for Growth Action.
While Pennsylvanians have been inundated with ads for McCormick and Oz for months, that late push by the Club, coming amid Barnette's late surge, made her competitive with her rivals on the airwaves for the final week. The pro-McCormick effort still led the pack with $4 million spent over the last seven days, but the Club's spending pushed the pro-Barnette effort into second place for the final week with $2.2 million in ad spending, followed by the pro-Oz $1.4 million.
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501d ago / 3:19 PM UTC
Where is Trump’s endorsement power on the line in Tuesday’s primaries?
Trump has endorsed 25 candidates in Tuesday’s primaries in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Idaho, with a handful of races testing the former president's power over the GOP.
All but six of those endorsements are incumbent lawmakers who are typically favored to win their primaries. Trump has backed eight candidates in North Carolina, eight in Pennsylvania, six in Kentucky and three in Idaho.
The most closely-watched tests of Trump’s endorsements will come in statewide contests, particularly in Pennsylvania. There Trump has backed celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz in the open Senate race, but conservative commentator Kathy Barnette has surged late in the race as she tries to capture grassroots enthusiasm. Trump made a last-minute endorsement in the governor’s race, backing controversial state Sen. Doug Mastriano over the weekend after Mastriano emerged as a frontrunner.
Trump has also weighed in on North Carolina’s open Senate race, backing GOP Rep. Ted Budd over former Gov. Pat McCrory and former Rep. Mark Walker. Budd has also benefited from $11.8 million in outside spending from Club for Growth Action, which has launched ads attacking Budd’s opponents, according to the ad tracking firm AdImpact.
In Idaho, Trump has backed Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin in a primary against GOP Gov. Brad Little. Trump didn’t mention LIttle in his statement backing McGeachin in November, when he described the lieutenant governor as someone who has been “a true supporter of MAGA since the very beginning.” Little has outspent McGeachin on the airwaves, spending $945,000 to McGeachin’s $215,000, per AdImpact.
Trump has also weighed in on a handful of notable House races. He backed controversial GOP Rep Madison Cawthorn in North Carolina’s 11th District. Cawthorn’s opponents, including state Sen. Chuck Edwards, have painted Cawthorn as an attention-seeker who hasn’t prioritized his district.
The GOP primary in North Carolina’s 13th District will also test Trump’s endorsement after he decided to back law student Bo Hines in the competitive, open seat race. Club for Growth has spent nearly $1.3 million boosting Hines, who faces self-funding attorney Kelly Daughtry, veteran Kent Keirsey, and former Rep. Renee Ellmers in the primary.
In Pennsylvania’s 8th District, Trump has backed political consultant Jim Bognet to take on Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright. Bognet lost to Cartwright by nearly 4 points in a district Trump would have won by 3 points had the new congressional map been in place in 2020. Bognet faces former Hazleton Mayor Mike Marsicano, who is also a former Democrat, in the GOP primary.
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501d ago / 2:32 PM UTC
Outside group launches $6 million ad campaign supporting Ron Johnson
One Nation, a super PAC with ties to the conservative Senate Leadership Fund, is launching a $6 million ad campaign to back Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., today.
The group’s first ad will run for eight weeks in Wisconsin and highlights Johnson’s efforts to curb inflation.
“Gas, groceries, rent. Everything costs more. Senator Ron Johnson is fighting back,” a narrator in the ad says.
The narrator adds, “The D.C. liberals' spending spree is out of control. Jacking up inflation on Wisconsin families. Wiping out wage gains and making it harder for families to make ends meet.”
Johnson is running for a third term this year and while he faces no significant primary challenge, Democrats are eyeing his seat as one they can flip in November. So far, there are three main candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for Senate — state treasurer Sarah Godlewski, businessman Alex Lasry and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.
Wisconsin’s primary election is August 9.
So far, Lasry has spent the most on ads of any candidate, spending $5.6 million on the airwaves, according to AdImpact, an ad tracking firm. Johnson himself has spent over $5.1 million on ads.
Godlewski and Barnes trail, with Godlewski having spent $1.9 million on ads so far and Barnes having spent under $100,000 on ads.
Barnes, however, has racked up significant progressive endorsements, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., planning to campaign for him soon, according to NBC News’ Shaq Brewster.
One Nation, however, will be competing against an anti-Johnson outside group, Opportunity Wisconsin. The group hasn’t explicitly backed any of the Democratic candidates, but they have been running ads against Johnson since early this year.
The commercials allege Johnson used loopholes in legislation he supported to make money for himself. So far, the group has spent the most of any candidate or group on the airwaves, spending $6.4 million.
Like One Nation, Opportunity Wisconsin is an advocacy organization that does not have to disclose its donors, though the group’s website claims they’re, “made up of a diverse group of leaders who span the urban/rural divide and live and work in communities and industries through Wisconsin.”
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502d ago / 6:52 PM UTC
Barnette says she won't support "globalist" candidates if she loses Pa. GOP primary
Republican Kathy Barnette, who has been surging in the final days before the Pennsylvania GOP Senate primary race, threw cold water on the idea of her backing rivals Mehmet Oz or David McCormick if she loses the primary election.
"I am not a globalist, both of them are. They have very strong ties to the World Economic Forum. I've heard McCormick several times espouse the glowing benefits of ESG scores --environmental social governance scores. If you just look at who they are, Mehmet Oz is not only an American but also Turkish as well. That's a very important distinction," Barnette said during an interview with SiriusXM's Breitbart News Daily.
When asked subsequently if she'd back the eventual GOP nominee if she loses Tuesday, Barnette replied: "I have no intention of supporting globalists."
"I don't think we have room to just vote for any old warm body with an 'R' next to their name. I think we can do better than that."
During the interview, Barnette went onto criticize Oz and McCormick as not authentic conservatives, as well as criticizing the idea that they're electable because they have deep pockets to loan to their campaigns.
"I have been an America First individual long before I decided to run for this race. And now, these two particular men, because it's convenient, because we have this seat open, they are now presenting themselves as Trump, card-carrying members of the Patriot Party," Barnette said.
"That's not how they've lived their life prior to stepping into this role."
In recent interviews with NBC News, both Oz and McCormick raised questions about Barnette's candidacy.
"He's not been transparent. And every time she answers a question, she raises a lot more," Oz told NBC's Dasha Burns last weekend before saying he would support her if she wins.
And Monday, McCormick criticized Barnette for losing her 2020 congressional bid.
"I've gotten to know Kathy on the campaign trail, I respect her personal story. She's been tested, she was tested 18 months ago when she ran for Congress and lost by 20 percentage points," McCormick said.
—Dasha Burns contributed
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502d ago / 5:54 PM UTC
Poll: Democrats are becoming more progressive, while most Republicans want Trump to lead GOP
Ahead of a slew of notable primary races taking place over the next two weeks, the latest NBC News poll finds that the Democratic primary electorate has become more progressive since 2020.
It also shows a majority of Republican primary voters wanting Trump to continue leading their party.
Now neither development should be that surprising to anyone who follows politics. But it’s instructive to see them backed up by numbers.
Per the poll, 63 percent of Democratic primary voters say they prefer a candidate who proposes larger-scale policies even if they cost more and might he harder to pass, versus 33 percent who prefer a candidate who proposes smaller-scale policies that cost less and might be easier to pass.
That’s a jump from Feb. 2020 — during the height of the Democratic presidential primary season — when 53 percent wanted candidates proposing larger-scale policies, versus 41 percent who wanted candidate with smaller-scale policies.
As for Republican primary voters, 55 percent believe the party should continue to be led by former President Donald Trump; 33 percent say he was a good president but it’s time for new leaders; and 10 percent say he was a bad president, and it’s time to move on.
On a separate question, however, 34 percent of Republicans in the poll identify themselves as more supporters of Trump, while 58 percent consider themselves more supporters of the party.
The NBC News poll was conducted May 5-7, 9-10 of 1,000 adults — including 750 on their cell phone — and it has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points.
The margin of error for the poll’s 259 Democratic primary voters is plus-minus 6.09 percentage points, and the margin of error for the poll’s 247 Republican primary voters is plus-minus 6.24 percentage points.
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502d ago / 4:53 PM UTC
Fetterman won't appear at campaign's primary night event after last week's stroke
Pennsylvania Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman won't attend his Senate campaign's primary-election night event on Tuesday after suffering a stroke late last week.
In a press release Monday, the campaign said Fetterman's wife and "other special guests" will deliver remarks, while Fetterman himself "will not be in attendance on Tuesday as he will remain in the hospital resting and recovering."
Fetterman Sunday that he had suffered a stroke Friday, but he said that he didn't suffer "cognitive damage" and insisted he is "well on my way to full recovery." The Democrat is considered the frontrunner in the Democratic primary bid, where he's running against Rep. Conor Lamb and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta.
On Friday, I wasn’t feeling well, so I went to the hospital to get checked out.
I didn’t want to go – I didn’t think I had to – but @giselefetterman insisted, and as usual, she was right.
In Pennsylvania, Mastriano rises to top of GOP field despite little ad spending
State Sen. Doug Mastriano has established himself as a frontrunner in the GOP primary for Pennsylvania governor despite being vastly outspent on the airwaves.
Mastriano’s campaign has spent just $332,000 on ads ahead of Tuesday’s primary, accounting for just over 1 percent of the $22.7 million spent on the governor's race by the total GOP primary field, according to the ad tracking firm AdImpact.
Mastriano, who has championed former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, has been the target of a $1.1 million ad campaign from Pennsylvania Patriots for Election Integrity. The group has knocked Mastriano for supporting a 2019 law expanding mail voting in the state (which Mastriano has said he would reverse if elected).
Trump’s endorsement in the final days of the primary race came after he encouraged his supporters last month to reject former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, calling McSwain a “coward” for not investigating election fraud.
Half of all ad spending in the GOP race — $11.1 million — has bolstered McSwain. But Commonwealth Leaders Fund, which has spent millions supporting McSwain, announced over the weekend that it is instead backing former Rep. Lou Barletta in an attempt to consolidate behind one Mastriano opponent.
The group’s decision comes after two other candidates, state Sen. Jake Corman and former Rep. Melissa Hart, dropped out of the race last week and endorsed Barletta, whose campaign has spent $967,000 on ads.
Aside from McSwain, the top spender in the race has been former Delaware County Councilman David White’s campaign, which has dropped nearly $5.7 million on ads so far. The conservative Club for Growth Action has spent $801,000 on an ad campaign opposing White.