Apr 5, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Inside Trump's virtual 2020 campaign

Virtual Trump campaign

Screenshot of a virtual campaign broadcast.

The Trump campaign is now doing online broadcasts seven nights a week — filling a void in physical events and field organizing due to the coronavirus.

Why it matters: So far, these online broadcasts, which have not yet featured the president, have regularly gotten more than 1 million views across all social platforms, according to the campaign.

  • Trump's rallies were the center of his campaign and in the age of the coronavirus, they can't be done. It's not clear when Trump will be able to hold another rally, so they're hustling for alternatives.

Sources on the campaign said they are doing a mixture of live streaming and pre-recorded videos. Their plan is to broadcast every night on Trump's social media channels at 8pm ET to create the effect of a nightly show.

  • Broadcasts so far — they began on March 26 — have been linked to Trump coalitions ("Women for Trump," etc.). They feature members of the Trump family, like Lara Trump and prominent Trump surrogates including the campaign's communications director Tim Murtaugh, campaign spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany, campaign adviser Mercedes Schlapp, senior campaign adviser Katrina Pierson and pillow merchant Mike Lindell.

Behind the scenes: On a conference call on March 13, top Trump campaign officials decided they needed to move to an all-virtual campaign, according to two senior campaign officials. That decision affects more than 1,000 staff around the country, they said.

  • Trump's political director Chris Carr has worked on six presidential campaign, but he is now tasked with running his — and anybody's — first-ever virtual field operation, a senior official said.

Carr had to move entirely to virtual in 24 hours because the campaign was heading into a "national week of training." The Trump campaign does a week of training volunteers each month and ends with a national "day of action."

  • That's where they test their capacity in the field — finding out how many volunteers they can sign up to do a training session and how many volunteers will do what they've been trained to do, which is contact voters through an app, by phone, or door-knocking.
  • A senior campaign official said they made the snap decision to move away from door-to-door campaigning and do the whole week online and through teleconferences.
  • The campaign's field team made more than 3.1 million phone calls between March 13 and 21, according to senior campaign officials. That's more calls than the campaign's field team has made in any week since October 2018, just before the midterm elections, said a senior campaign official.

The stats: The campaign says it has signed up more than 275,000 new volunteers since the switch to all-virtual on March 13. A senior campaign official said this is significantly higher than normal.

  • To put that number in perspective, the official said that in all of 2016, the total number of volunteers between the RNC and the Trump campaign was about 750,000.
  • Asked why he thought the campaign had seen a boost in volunteers during a pandemic, a senior campaign official said people were at home, had extra time on their hands and wanted to interact with like-minded people.
  • The official said the campaign's goal is to have 2 million volunteers engaged for this "and currently we're at 884,857."
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