Last August, when we began talking about the email campaigns we were tracking from the Democratic Presidential hopefuls, they were a crowd of at least twenty-two.  By early January, they were down to fourteen, and as of Super Tuesday there were only four viable candidates left in the race: Biden, Sanders, Warren and Bloomberg.  And that number is now two, because Mr. Bloomberg and Ms. Warren suspended their campaigns as this piece was being written    

In the table below, we analyze the email audiences and recent thirty-day activity and performance of the top polling contenders whose campaigns extended through the South Carolina Primary on February 29th. President Trump’s activity is also included as comparison, because he continues to mail actively to his base.  The active Democratic candidates are listed in order of their current polling numbers, which may have changed somewhat by the time you read this piece.

As previously reported, the largest email audiences among the Democrats are in general owned by the strongest polling candidates, who were also the strongest Super Tuesday vote getters.  Of the surviving (pre- Super Tuesday) four, Biden, Warren and Sanders show the larger audiences; Bloomberg the smallest. Trends since January are a mixed bag. Biden’s polling eroded slightly, but his email audience remained about the same, and yet he won ten of the fourteen Super Tuesday states in play.  Sanders’ audience eroded, but his polling improved by eight percentage points, and he won four of the Super Tuesday states, including California. Bloomberg dramatically grew his email audience by over one million, and Warren grew hers by 200,000, but neither has prevailed in any primary contest. Steyer also drove strong audience growth, but has exited the race after a weak showing in South Carolina.  Buttigieg and Klobuchar had weak or no audience growth, and have now also exited the race.  

Biden, Sanders and Warren deployed the largest number of campaigns among the Democrats, and the largest number of emails.  Clearly weighting his investment toward TV, Bloomberg’s actual email send activity was relatively small. Among these top four, inbox rates were weak for all (68-82%).  However, Biden and Sanders drove strong read rates (22-25%), while Bloomberg’s and Warren’s were considerably lower (16% each). And that argument by The Guardian about Bernie’s emails being blocked by Gmail? We aren’t seeing it in our data. 

Among the candidates now out of contention, Buttigieg and Klobuchar showed far less mailing activity than Biden, Sanders and Warren, and even more dismal inbox performance:  both under 60%. But as we know, politicians are not bound by the strictures of CAN-SPAM regulations, and most tend to have sloppy list acquisition and send practices that almost always result in inbox challenges.   Nevertheless, despite his weak deliverability, Buttigieg’s read rates were strong (29%), almost twice as high as Klobuchar’s (15%).

Trump continues to show a much larger email footprint than any of the Democratic candidates, while deploying a midrange number of campaigns, and the largest number of actual emails.  He’d been using the now-ended impeachment battle as the basis for intense fundraising to support his anti-impeachment messaging and reelection campaign. While his inbox performance reflects much cleaner practices than his days as a serial spammer during the 2016 campaign, his current inbox rate (85%) still leaves much room for improvement.  Trump’s read rates remain on the high end of the range shown for this period. 

These performance metrics are critically important, because all of this messaging — not just Trump’s —  is intended as a principal fundraising driver.

  (*) Source:  Real Clear Politics Survey Composite as of dates shown

The table below shows the strongest overlaps between the candidates’ email audiences, revealing the degree to which individual candidates may truly be competing in the eyes of voters who favor more than one of them.  So, for example, Sanders has strong overlaps with Biden and Warren, and somewhat less so with Klobuchar and Steyer. These relationships also provide insight as to where certain candidates’ supporters may end up when their favorite contender drops out of the race.  So, for example, Buttigieg’s and Klobuchar’s very strong overlaps with Biden and Sanders suggest that their supporters could divide about evenly between those two candidates, subject whatever influence their Biden endorsements may have.

 (*)Reads:  21% of Sanders’ email audience is also receiving email from Biden; 23% from Warren, etc.

This story is moving quickly and far from over.  In just the next two weeks, we will have seen additional primaries in Michigan, Ohio, Florida and Illinois.  And November 3rd is still eight months away.  We’ll keep watching.

~ John