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The Trump 2020 campaign builds a volunteer army to extinguish supporters by 2020: NPR



President Trump speaks last week at a rally in Orlando where he launched his campaign for another period. In contrast to his ramshackle campaign in 201

6, his 2020 efforts depend on a large voluntary organization and sophisticated voters targeting.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images


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President Trump speaks last week at a rally in Orlando, where he launched his campaign for another period. In contrast to his ramshackle campaign in 2016, his 2020 efforts depend on a large voluntary organization and sophisticated voters targeting.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Trump rally soundtrack still contains the "Tiny Dancer" and "Memory" theme from Cats. There are still chants of "unlocking her" and "building that wall." But four years later, it's not the same shoestring Trump campaign that stumbled upon victory in 2016.

An indication of the difference came the night before President Trump's alert rally in Orlando to kick his re-election efforts. Volunteers collected at a Brazilian steakhouse in an indefinite strip mall a few miles away. In a party room with adhesive floors and ice-cold air conditioning, volunteers responded to an hour-long PowerPoint presentation with enthusiastic hoots and hollers.

They were there to learn the voter registration process and how to exploit their own social media accounts to spread the word about Trump's results.

"You are the key to victory on November 3, 2020. I mean it with sincerity. I mean it with all my heart," said campaign spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany, who was a surprise special guest on the training. "We at the campaign can only do so much. You hold the keys to victory."

Volunteers gathered in a banquet room at a Brazilian steakhouse the night before the rally for a training organized by the Trump campaign and the RNC. It was one of more than 1,000 such sessions nationwide last week.

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The training session in Orlando was one of more than a thousand similar sessions across the country that week by the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign.

In 2016, the Trump campaign did not get access to RNC's data and voluntary operations until after he secured the nomination midway through 2016. While it had been an unpleasant marriage, this time, the Republican Party and the Trump campaign in essentially the same and they work to build an army of volunteers.

"He's headliner. He's the chain leader, but there's something I want to talk about, just as important," Elliott Echols said to volunteers, referring to to Trump.

Echols is the national field director of the RNC who spoke to volunteers about the importance of organizing. It's a buzzword campaign that has been used for many years to describe on-site campaign work, build relationships with volunteers, learn about what drives spectators, and register people to vote.

The collections he explained are a great way to find Trump followers who may not be traditional Republican voters.

"They're not just Republicans coming to these rallies, guys. They're not just registered voters coming to these rallies," Echols said. "We see it in data from people who have signed up. Of course, we have over 100,000 people signed up. There are many people who have registered that we have no voter registration information about them because they are not registered."

Georgia Williams is waiting for the arrival of Trump at his Orlando rally. Those who got tickets for the rally had to provide the Trump campaign email addresses and phone numbers so that the campaign could keep in touch with them.

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Georgia Williams is waiting for the arrival of Trump at his Orlando rally. Those who got tickets for the rally had to provide the email addresses and phone numbers of the Trump campaign so that the campaign could keep in touch with them.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Each of the more than 100,000 people trying to get one of the 20,000 tickets to the rally had to give the campaign an email address and a phone number, which means that the campaign and RNC now have updated contact information probably Trump voters.

"And then we can cross referencing that the information with our data and the voter rolls to see who these people are," said Rick Gorka, an RNC spokesman. "So now you are in our system."

The collections he explains are a focal point, "an energy herd, enthusiasm that you just can't recreate." The next day volunteers start knocking on doors, making phone calls, and making sure the people they contact are registered to vote, are interested in volunteering or attending a meeting room and generally trying to pull all those people into the fold.

"Our data is only as good as the people who use it to knock on the doors," McEnany said.

"We can isolate the few million doors that will determine the election," McEnany said. "We can isolate the message. We know exactly what you know a person on 123 Avenue in Wisconsin wants to hear about. But if we do not have volunteers to operationalize it with the training, to operationalize the data, we have nothing." [19659010] As a volunteer you got a look at how the campaign's organization and data collection fit into the bigger picture. There were worries about democratic voter registration efforts in the past years and the edge gave them in close running. And there were hints on how the information they wanted to collect would help Trump's campaign.

Volunteer Adele Amico's back pain was hit by the four and a half hour drive she did to get there for the training. But when the PowerPoint presentation was over, she was energetic and ready to brave Florida heat and humidity the next day.

"They realize you have a captive audience of thousands of people, and they stand there, let's catch the information," Amico said. "So it's very cool."

She hit a picture with McEnany, and then went out to find some Ibuprofin.

The next day, she was one of about 60 volunteers in neon green shirts jumping into the crowd of people waiting to enter Trump's rally.

Florida resident Nick Balevich volunteered at the Orlando rally helping people queue fill out voter registration forms.

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Florida resident Nick Balevich volunteers at the Orlando rally, helping people in line with completing voter registration forms.

Tamara Keith / NPR

"We're here to help you," shouted Nick Balevich, the clipboard in his hand. "Is anyone here not registered to vote?"

Balevich has always been Republican. But frustrated with George W. Bush and the Iraq War, he resigned in 2008 and 2012. However, after participating in several Trump rallies in 2016, he began volunteering.

Other volunteers asked people to sign a petition to support Florida's governor Ron DeSantis on sanctuary township legislation and in support of Trump's immigration policy.

To win signed memorabilia, they must also write down their address and other contact information. It was another way for the campaign and the RNC to gather information about rallymen and their views.

"They are trying to learn which issues motivate their supporters and what the information is valuable to is sending message to turn people out to vote," said Robby Mook, who manages Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign with an emphasis on organizing.

What the Trump campaign and Republican party are doing is not new. It's an approach that was first pioneered by George W. Bush's re-election campaign in 2004. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton refined the tactic yet, but the analytical tools are more powerful than ever.

"Computing power has just gotten much more effective over the last few years, and so gathering this data at a mass level helps you create insights that can be powerful," Mook said. He called efforts to exploit all the data for a "space race" between the parties.

According to Bully Pulpit Interactive, which tracks social media advertising via campaigns, the Trump campaign reinforced its Facebook advertising spend in Florida in the two weeks leading up to the rally, including the number of ads related to immigration. Facebook ads are a cheaper and faster way for campaigns to test which messages work.

The more a campaign can learn about its followers, the more effective they can use this information to get them to vote, election day comes. And Mook says he expects 2020 not to be about persuasion, but instead it will be about turning core trailers on both sides.

"I think the campaigns will be more focused on squeezing their base a little more than they are trying to win the middle," Mook said. "And in the strategic situation, it's really really important to understand who your base is and understand the kind of people who are excited and how to get them even more excited."

And Mook says that with a massive democratic field still sorting itself, the Trump campaign has a great start in terms of organization. It's just one of the benefits of incumbency.


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