Things are truly heating up in the political arena ahead of the Iowa caucuses and primaries that start in just a few weeks. For Democrats, that means the name of the game is buying as many cell phone numbers as possible. Trying to compete with the Trump campaign and his base, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) ponied up six figures to buy “tens of millions” of cell phone numbers to up their voter outreach, they told The Daily Beast.
This is the first time the DNC has purchased phone numbers in bulk during a presidential election cycle, signaling they’re trying to compete with Trump’s well-funded re-election “machine.” The Republican National Committee communications director Michael Ahrens told The Daily Beast that the RNC has been spending “well over seven figures” on this since 2012, so “Democrats are way behind.” Now, Democrats are taking a new approach in the 2020 presidential race.
Monopolizing voter outreach is a practice that’s been in place for years and years — first, in email, and then via calls and texts. When the political realm realized that cell phones are where the real game is at, the race to gain voter data became an imminent party battle. For the midterms in 2018, the DNC bought as many phone numbers as it could, but so did the Republican party. Those numbers were given to state parties as a master voter file so that candidates could use it for grassroots outreach to target voters. This time around, after watching the intense efforts of Trump's campaign in 2016, the DNC stakes are even higher.
How does having more cell phone numbers on hand help the Democrats exactly? Well, plain and simple, it helps them reach more voters. “Making sure campaigns and state parties have access to reliable cell phone numbers and data helps them reach more voters, more efficiently, especially those who are younger or tend to move around a lot,” Nellwyn Thomas, the DNC’s Chief Technology Officer, told The Daily Beast. “The more efficient we can be in our outreach, the more likely we are to win, and this technology will help more volunteers and campaigns have better conversations with voters about why it's so important to elect Democrats in 2020.”
But, this outreach effort isn't necessarily translating well with all voters. Even Trump’s campaign manager called their road to victory an “unstoppable machine,” thanks to his already strong base. Republicans now see this as an act of desperation in trying times.
While leading candidates like Warren and Sanders are certainly out there campaigning and hosting rallies, it makes sense that the DNC would be concerned they haven’t racked up as much power as the Trump campaign--which has been hosting rallies for years, even while he’s been President.
Although they did collect numbers back in 2016, then they were only concerned with securing voters in battleground stakes. Now, they’re aware they have to up the ante with reaching people in all states through phone calls and peer-to-peer texting. After all, that’s what secures donations, awareness, and ultimately, people showing up to the polls. Along with this, the Democrats are hosting the last three debates in early voting states like New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina in February hoping to snag voters and come out on top.