“I Love You All,” says Donald J. Trump
The Presidential Email Project, December 2015
Yes, he really said that. More on that in a minute.
Summary — 421 Emails in 31 Days
Iowa polls be damned, Rand Paul is a winner in my inbox. The candidate ended 2015 in first place in the email race, having sent 337 missives between June and December. Hillary Clinton ended the year in second place with 272 emails, just edging out Mike Huckabee’s 269. From there, it’s a large drop to 4th place, where Marco Rubio ended the year with 177 emails.
For those of you keeping track at home, that’s a total of 2,237 emails received since the Presidential Email Project started in June. Marco Rubio was the lucky sender of the 2000th email, which I received on December 16th.
In December, candidates shattered the monthly email record, sending a shocking 421 emails in 31 days. September had previously held the record with 350.
Rand Paul’s mind-numbing 71 emails led the way in December, followed by Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton with 59 and 49 emails, respectively.
It’s Snowing Emails
The uptick in email volume has one simple explanation: The end-of-quarter FEC deadline to disclose fundraising. FEC deadlines in June and September also drove email activity in those months. As candidates reminded me regularly throughout December, fundraising totals reveal to pundits and the general public the health of a presidential campaign. The more money you have, the more (theoretically) the public likes you.
Candidates pulled out all of the stops to raise this money. Cruz rolled out a double, then a triple match campaign for donations. Clinton attempted to scare supporters by telling them that her campaign could be outraised by Sanders (which didn’t happen). Rand Paul rolled out money bombs, and Ron Paul emailed to drum up more support for them. Jeb! Bush….well, Jeb! continued to just ask for money. 94% of his December emails asked for donations, the highest proportion for any candidate (The only December email from Jeb! that didn’t ask for money was the Bush family Christmas Card, see below.)
When the month mercifully ended, 75% of total emails had asked for donations. That figure was up significantly from 62% in November and beat the previous record of 72%, set in September. Additionally, seven candidates had set personal records for most emails sent in a month: Paul (71), Cruz (59), Rubio (44), Bernie Sanders (32), Carly Fiorina (24), Martin O’Malley (22) and Ben Carson (20). Finally, December 31 set a single day record of 47 emails, beating out the 43 that were sent on September 30.
A Campaign Christmas
The blizzard of finance emails in December was so thick that they mostly obscured the holiday season. I had expected the month to be full of red and green emails, filled with Christmas trees and snowmen. For the most part, that dream never materialized.
Let’s start with merchandise. While I enjoyed reading emails peddling Make America Great Again Hats, Christmas Albums by Candidates’ Wives, etc., these pitches never reached the fever pitch that I expected. Most campaigns sent a final deadline for merchandise to appear by Christmas, and then stayed quiet on these goods until the post-Christmas sales began. Merchandise emails actually made up a lower percentage of emails at any point in December than they did during the post-Thanksgiving rush for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
The issue of saying, “Merry Christmas” vs “Happy Holidays” also did not surface as often as I anticipated. Rick Santorum and Ted Cruz both railed against “Happy Holidays” in late November, but only Santorum called it out in December emails.
“[W]ill you donate $25 to send a strong message in the midst of a liberal elite mindset that wants us to deny that this holiday is about the birth of Jesus?…Will you support me in choosing to say ‘Merry Christmas’?” — Rick Santorum
But when emails were heavily Christmas-themed, oh what emails they were. I received virtual Christmas cards from Rubio, Cruz, Jeb!, Chris Christie and John Kasich. On Christmas day itself, I received just three emails. Santorum wished that “the peace and presence of God” filled my family and me with joy. Huckabee sent a Bible verse (Luke 2:10–11). Bernie Sanders tried a different tactic: “Did you get what you want from Santa?” asked the subject line. The email sent me to the Bernie store.
Here Lies Opinion
Donald Trump really did send an email containing the line, “I love you all.”
Opening presidential emails day after day has not produced a lot of laughs. Cramped hands? Yes. Defeated sighs? Yes. Resignation to the dysfunction of our nation’s money-first political system? A defeated sigh, and then an emphatic, “Yes”. But laughs have been hard to find.
This email made me laugh. Out loud, in my apartment, by myself.
I laughed because if I have learned one thing from reading 2,237 emails over the past 7 months, it is that none of these candidates loves all of us in the electorate. Trump hates Muslims. Bernie hates Billionaires. Rand Paul hates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Most people hate President Obama and everybody hates Hillary.
These politicians want us to hate because a hatred of “them” — whoever “them” is — begets a fear of what would happen if “they” win power in the election; our candidates know that that fear will drive us to the ballot box. So campaigns set out to manipulate us into hating “them.” They remind us that “they” let the Federal Reserve run up debt, that “they” might make changes to Social Security, or that “they” might out-fundraise us this quarter.
Despite The Donald’s claim, love, in fact, has been noticeably absent from my inbox. There has been little talk of bipartisan cooperation, and almost no suggestion of progress by any tactic except bulldozing the other side. There has even been little discussion of what different groups stand to gain from a candidate’s election; most emails describe what a group will lose if the candidate doesn’t win.
Maybe politics has always been this way. I hope that this will someday change. But for now, the idea that any candidate loves us all, or even some of us, is, unfortunately, laughable.
- Ted Cruz was very busy in December. His campaign sent 59 emails, an 84% increase from November’s 32 notes. One of those 59 notes, advertising Cruz’s triple match program, stated that “$25 x 3 > $75.” (I’ll just drop this here.)
- Only six candidates emailed regarding the San Bernardino shooting in early December: Graham, Huckabee, Pataki, Paul, Rubio and Sanders. This number is surprisingly low.
- As predicted, Rand Paul became the first candidate to cross the 300 email threshold, on December 19. Congratulations, Rand, your prize is that I’ll read your emails for another month.
- Chris Christie had the best subject line of the month: “Jeb Endorses Christie in NH.” I clicked on the email in shock, to find that New Hampshire State Senator and Majority Leader Jeb Bradley had endorsed Christie. Well played, team Christie.
- Team Christie also sent an email with the subject line “Momentum Explained.” Confusingly, it did not contain any references to mass or velocity. (Joke Explained)
- Bernie Sanders brought back Ben and Jerry, the founders of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, for a second email lesson about the difference between corporations and people. This second time, they made sure to ask for a donation.
- A new email scourge, “The Redundant PS” ran rampant through emails. The Redundant PS occurs when a candidate writes a message, closes the email, and then writes a PS that includes the same information as the body of the email. Lindsey Graham started these in the fall, but they have since spread to many other candidates. Cruz and Rubio are the most frequent abusers.
- Speaking of Lindsey Graham, he dropped out of the race with a note and video message on December 21. “While we have run a campaign that has made a real difference, I have concluded this is not my time,” he wrote. George Pataki did not email to say he was suspending his campaign.
- The Cruz campaign made a very large ask, inquiring whether I (a California resident) would deploy to Iowa to volunteer for the Caucus. I’m not sure whether this shows a desperation for volunteers or just bad email targeting.
- Taking a page from the Rubio and Jindal campaigns, I received offers from Jeb! Bush and Martin O’Malley that they would stop emailing if I donated money. The price of silence for each candidate was $25. The NPR comedy quiz show “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me” actually covered the Bush email.
What is the Presidential Email Project? I’ve subscribed to the email lists of every 2016 presidential candidate. I read every email and track the topics covered, key phrases mentioned and other interesting statistics. Every month I’ll report on trends that I’m seeing. You can read more about my methodology here, as well as articles for November, October, and September. This is the sixth post in the series. More writing from my day job here.