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Marco Rubio’s top-flight data team sounded off on Donald Trump and his own data operation during a recent interview with Business Insider.
That team, part of the data firm Optimus, told Business Insider that there were a few things they’d be doing differently had they been working with the Republican nominee’s campaign.
“That giant Twitter list – he basically used it to hurl invectives at his opponents,” Optimus co-founder Brian Stobie said. “To people that already largely believe what he thinks. How about instead, you try and recruit those people to follow you into the field offices. You had this platform. Build a landing page and get people directed into offices.”
Fellow co-founder Scott Tranter added that the “hard part about Trump is that a lot of his stuff isn’t completely wrong,” such as his touting of his digital platforms, but he just hasn’t used them to their maximum potential.
Admitting that he would probably not listen to his advice, Stobie said he would’ve pushed him a lot harder on nailing the messaging aimed at undecided – “marginal” – voters.
“I worry that he goes to a lot of these events and says stuff and is feeling great because the crowd’s going with him, when he mentions these angry lines,” Stobie said. “I think one of the things his campaign is struggling with is that that plays well with a certain group but not to the broader electorate we need to win.
Trump needed someone to go “man, we showed this to a random ass control group of undecided voters and not good,” he added. “That said, I pity the campaign folks because I don’t think he listens to this stuff. But if I had a rational candidate, that’s what I’d do to get him off this self-inflicting harm factor.”
They both said Trump was able to soundly beat Rubio in the primary because he was able to garner more earned media than Rubio could buy – even though much of that attention was negative.
“If the media is going after a Republican primary candidate, it is like crowning him,” Stobie said, adding that there are bound to be a fleet of Trump copycats spring up in the coming years, although he doubts it will be effective on a House or Senate-level campaign.
“We’re actually in the middle of a big study right now we’re going to release afterwards where we’re going to look at the Republican electorate and understand what happened,” Tranter said. “Everyone’s heard the pejorative or the phrase ‘there are two Americas.’ You might argue that the Republican primary electorate does not see the world as we do.”
On Thursday, a bombshell report on Trump’s data team detailed their strategy to suppress the turnout of three voting blocks. The effort, according to an unidentified senior official, was aimed at discouraging three groups Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton needs to turn out at the polls – white liberals, millennial women, and black Americans – from voting.
“To be clear, saying your campaign strategy is voter suppression is equivalent to saying your stock trading strategy is insider information,” Stobie tweeted shortly after the story broke.
During the interview with Business Insider, Stobie called the race “probably over, especially when you look at early vote.”
Tranter’s answer was even more straightforward: “He won’t.”
Earlier in the cycle, when Rubio appeared to have a shot at the GOP nomination, his data team was written about as “The Moneyball campaign” by the National Journal.
According to receipts from the Federal Election Commission, either the Rubio campaign or the Reclaim America PAC spent more than $1 million on Optimus’ services in the 2016 cycle. Bloomberg described the company as “the Washington consulting firm to which Rubio has outsourced his data operation.”
Rubio’s campaign was the second client the firm ever had. Back in 2013, they were brought on to work for the pro-Rubio Reclaim America PAC, two years before the Florida Republican would even announce his presidential run.
“They didn’t make a spending allocation unless they consulted us,” Tranter said.
Tranter and Stobie said their research ran so deep, they even spent a substantial amount of time simply figuring out where to send Rubio for campaign stops, based on what an event would mean from an earned media perspective.
“Which like, no one thinks about, because earned media is worth way more,” Tranter said. “You think about the TV buy or [instead] ‘OK, now it’s time to lease that private jet because we can get one and a half extra stops in a day, times that by 10 days, that’s worth $3 million on TV. Little stuff like that, getting the extra inches.”
After Rubio’s campaign ended in mid-March, Tranter said they had the opportunity to work for both Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee at the presidential level. They decided against doing so.
But, Tranter’s “guess” is that the firm will be doing another presidential campaign for the 2020 cycle.
“Politics will always be something we do,” he said. “They allow the most freedom and iterations.”