Handicapping the GOP Email Race

We all know how rich Donald Trump is cash-wise. He avoids no occasion to tell us about it. But here’s how rich he is marketing-wise: While most of his rivals have been forced to feed at the RNC trough for names of likely voters to pad their email lists, Trump’s campaign managers have been able to build a sterling list of voters and donors from the thousands of people who have packed stadiums and auditoriums on the Earned Media Candidate’s nationwide tour. Funny thing is, the campaign has barely started tapping into this singular asset.

“Someone in our shop raised the tantalizing question of whether changes in the candidates’ polling data could be seen in their email performance,” says John Landsman, director of strategy and analytics at eDataSource, which tracks more than 25 million brand emails a day. “So far the short answer is no.”

Trump’s list includes less than half a million names, far behind Ben Carson (4.5 million), Ted Cruz (3.6 million), and Marco Rubio (2.4 million), according to eDataSource. But today’s Real Clear Politics national combine poll puts Trump way ahead among Republican voters with 35.3% and Carson dropping like a stone at 9.7%. Cruz (20%) and Rubio (11%), meanwhile, mirror their email list positions in the number 2 and 3 slots.

The Donald trumps his political competitors for deliverability at 95.3%, but close behind at 92.9% is Chris Christie, who registers under 5% in the national poll. Yet national polls can be deceiving in a game that’s played out state by state and, these days, issue by issue. Christie’s 92.9% inbox percentage and 41% read rate is most likely indicative of his campaign’s laser-like focus on New Hampshire, where he is currently fourth in the polling, with 11.3%, according to Real Clear Politics.

While Trump mailings have been few, Cruz’s handlers are the master-blasters of the GOP hopefuls, sending 141 campaigns in the 30 days ending mid-December, according to eDataSource. Cruz’s inbox performance is weak at 60% and his read rates dropped from fourth to sixth place during that time, but this could be a case of bad news as an indicator of sound strategy. The Obama campaign set down best practices for email political marketing in 2012 with large amounts of campaigns focusing on individual issues and localities to segment voter groups and personalize follow-up emails.

No matter how you slice the mailing list, prospects are looking dim for Carly Fiorina. Her list has plummeted from 2.8 million in mid-October—when she rose to number two in some polls following a strong debate showing—to under a million today. To make matters even worse, only slightly more than half of her emails get delivered and a paltry 17% get read.

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