Dec 7, 2022 - Politics & Policy

New campaign tool: Monetizing friends

Illustration of an older style telephone receiver with holes forming the word "VOTE"

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Democrats have activated a novel organizing tool ahead of Tuesday's Georgia Senate runoff: thousands of Georgians paid to plug Sen. Raphael Warnock in conversations with friends and family.

Why it matters: The tactic, known as relational organizing, helped propel key Democratic wins in the 2022 midterm elections, and those employing it hope to ramp up the tactic ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

How it works: Relentless, a Democratic firm, says it's paid 1,455 Georgians to contact more than 58,000 potential voters.

  • They get $200 each to contact, on average, between 40 and 50 friends, family members and acquaintances to encourage them to vote in the runoff.
  • It's running the program through a super PAC called Relay, which just started ramping up its operations in Georgia late last month.
  • The effort is designed to target low-propensity voters to boost Democratic turnout.

Between the lines: The thinking is that voters are more likely to respond to appeals from people they know and trust than to generic political advertising or canvassing.

The Warnock campaign itself is also running a paid relational organizing program this cycle.

  • It's offering supporters $500 to "encourage people you know (friends, family, neighbors, etc.) to vote early and to make a plan to vote on Election Day."
  • The Progressive Turnout Project, a Democratic super PAC, has extended its relational organizing efforts into the runoff as well.

The big picture: Data from general election contests are still coming in, making it difficult to gauge how successful the tactics were in other key Senate races this year.

  • But the operatives running the relational organizing programs say they're already building a model for future elections.
  • "What's happening right now will be setting the stage for the presidential," Zoë Stein, Relentless's co-founder, told Axios in an interview.

Democrats employed the tactic in a host of key races this cycle.

  • The Progressive Turnout Project says it spent over $2 million deploying more than 2,000 organizers in Arizona, Ohio, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Georgia. It has more than 850 active ahead of the Georgia runoff.
  • Its "Community Mobilizers," as PTP calls the organizers, made more than 150,000 voter contacts this cycle, the group told Axios.
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