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The Trump presidency and all the uncertainty it has brought had some consultants unusually hesitant to gaze into their crystal balls this year. “I think I’ve given up on predicting in the era of Trump,” one gun-shy practitioner told C&E.
Still, others were unfazed, and offered us their takes on the future of campaigns, politics, and social change in 2018 and beyond. Here’s what they told us:
Kat Murti, co-founder of Feminists for Liberty:
“In many ways, 2017 cemented social media’s role at the center of modern politics. Twitter first proved itself as a powerful electoral tool in 2008, continuing its strong showing in the 2012 and 2016 elections. However, throughout President Trump’s first year in office, the social media platform provided key insights into POTUS’s mindset on various hot topics, at times completely reversing what appeared to be the general direction of policy conversations. In 2018, Twitter will continue to be a key driver of political conversation, though the platform will need to strike an appropriate balance between responding to complaints about harassment and abusive tactics and protecting free speech and spirited discussion.
America’s first social media celebrity to become president elevated the status of bloggers, recognizing their growing influence in political journalism, and giving them unprecedented White House access. We will continue to see an overturning of the old media order in 2018, as well as an increased focus on blogging and other digital approaches amongst established media.
Meanwhile campaigns like #MeToo centered sexual harassment in the political discourse and demonstrated how the democratization of media means even the most powerful are no longer insulated from investigation and critique. 2018 will continue to elevate women’s voices and feminist concerns, though we will likely also see an increased backlash, not just amongst meninists, MRAs, and their ilk, but also among those who generally take a more centrist view.
Nationalism and populism reached a fever pitch globally in 2017, and will unfortunately continue to spread throughout the next year, unless supporters of a more cosmopolitan perspective are better able to communicate the advantages of globalization, immigration, free markets, and trade.”
Finally, the increased awareness of digital currencies such as Bitcoin means political organizations and campaigns will have to find a way to incorporate crypto into fundraising efforts, portending an increased emphasis on digital fundraising and related tools and strategies.”
Chris Talbot, founder and president of Talbot Digital:
“Republicans will lose congressional seats in suburban commuter towns coast to coast, and Democratic enthusiasm will build a wave large enough to take back the House — time to start getting to know your new Democratic reps (many of them veterans) coming to Washington. Trump will tweet about it.
Fake social media accounts, foreign and domestic, will get loads of campaign coverage and distract the media. It will be bad for Facebook and Twitter but ultimately won't change much in the election outcomes. Trump will tweet about it.
Michigan wins the Big Ten, Alabama wins the SEC, and Jim Harbaugh beats Nick Saban in the college football playoff. Trump will tweet about it.”
Brian Ross Adams, founder of Trusted Messenger Marketing:
“The #MeToo movement will hit city councils and city halls across California. Expect a lot of resignations and special elections.”
Justin Wallin is CEO of J. Wallin Opinion Research:
“Mixed-mode opinion research methodologies will publicly bare their weaknesses, such as evenly split samples (50/50 online/phone), or not stratifying respondents by voter registration date, which in turn will give pollsters an opportunity to refine and improve these tools. Solid analytics built off of quality research will continue to evolve – and we’re likely to see those who were selling that tool as ‘magic in a box’ fade away.
Politically, Republicans may have real weaknesses but don’t expect the windfall Democratic wins that are anticipated today by the DNC. A more accurate reality is that voters remain unhappy with both parties and the establishment in general (wow, that Congressional disapproval number).
Fair warning to Freedom Caucus and Bernie-crats that this doesn’t mean solely a revolution against the establishment that will inevitably tilt in their favor. It means voters want things to be accomplished by Congress. Those representatives who refused to compromise may lose their closes allies if Congress becomes viewed as incapable of ‘getting things done.’ In the meantime, big accomplishments (including tax reform, regardless of what polls show about the tax bill today) slide the scale in the Republicans favor.”
Michael Sabat, founder of @Mssg:
“More than 50 percent of the congressional and Senate campaigns will have a messaging component >SMS or Facebook Messenger. More than 80 percent of the campaigns with a messaging component will be victorious.
2. The midterm elections will put Democrats in control of the House and the Senate.
3. A non-career politician will announce that they are running for President in 2020, before the end of 2018.”
Ian Patrick Hines, founder of Hines Digital:
“The most recent Star Wars film can be summarized in one of its most memorable lines: ‘Darkness rises — and Light to meet it.’ The same can be said for our politics this cycle, with the two sides of the aisle feeding off of one another to maintain balance.
In 2016, Republicans swept into a seemingly unassailable majority with all stars aligned in our direction. But permanent majorities are a myth, and stars are ever in motion. In 2017, a groundswell of Democratic grassroots energy — the ‘Resistance’ — swept the nation, bringing with it a surge in donations and voter turnout and scoring wins in Virginia and Alabama.
2018 will be the year the Republican grassroots pushes back. Republican strategists, consultants, and grassroots organizers will learn lessons from 2017’s ‘Resistance’ and rise to meet the wave of Democratic enthusiasm that seeks to flip the Congress.”
Quentin James, partner at 1828 Media:
“2018 will be the year the Democrats finally invest millions of dollars in turning out their base of people of color, young people and progressives to win in places like Georgia, Wisconsin, Florida and Maryland. The 2017 victories in Alabama and Virginia are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the potential of a blue wave in 2018.
The Republicans will give up control of Congress, and the Mueller investigation will devastate the Trump administration's ability to pass any major legislation in the meantime. New leaders will emerge on both the left and right, with mainstream conservatism eventually distancing itself from the emergent white supremacist Bannon-wing of the party and younger, more diverse Democrats will take control of their caucuses and committees."
Justin Gargiulo, founder and CEO of VoterTrove:
“The adoption of drip email campaigns accelerated rapidly in the 2016 cycle. In 2018, consultants and campaigns will begin to realize value from a holistic approach to automation across different types of voter outreach.
We have yet to reach the tipping point cycle for down-ballot, self-serve digital/data platforms, and we won't in 2018.
Campaigns will chase peer-to-peer voter outreach after the success of the Jones campaign in Alabama. Despite the availability of easy-to-use platforms, smaller campaigns will struggle with strategy and execution. Larger campaigns will have more success with implementation of peer-to-peer, but will also seek new ways to control message with internal content."
Josh Nanberg, president of Ampersand Strategies:
“First, Democrats will reject the idea that we need a ‘national message,’ and instead build majorities one district at a time. Candidates who fit their districts and run to represent their constituents will see successes in surprising places by being true to their values and focusing on issues that resonate locally. Those who focus their campaigns exclusively on President Trump’s tweets, the Russia investigation, or other issues that don’t address voters’ real concerns about their families, their finances and their futures will have trouble breaking through the noise.
Second, our candidates are going to look different this year. They’ll have different cultural and professional backgrounds. They’ll be new to politics.
We already know that women are putting their names on ballots in record numbers, and groups like Indivisible have become candidate incubators. The number of candidates who have already filed to run for everything from township commissioner to United States senator before we even flipped the calendar to 2018 is stunning. And they aren’t the usual crop of lawyers and party people, either.
As consultants, we’ll have two dual challenges as a result of all these factors. We’ll have to be better coaches, keeping this new crop of candidates from chasing shiny objects and running campaigns that look like five-year-olds playing soccer. And we’ll also have to be better listeners, providing candidates with advice that will help them win while staying true to who they are and why they were inspired to run this year. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that the ‘tried and true’ advice we’ve relied on in the past just doesn’t cut it anymore.”
Cheryl Hori, founder of Pacific Campaign House:
“Campaigns will finally invest in digital like they do finance, communications, and TV.
As recently as 2014, many campaigns still considered digital a low priority and relegated it to a lowly subsection of the communications umbrella that included a website and a handful of social media posts every week (if they were really on their game). SAD!
Fast forward to 2017, and campaigns ranging from the local to federal levels know that having a strong digital program is no longer a luxury — it’s a necessity.
No other campaign department can produce detailed metrics, while simultaneously raising funds, persuading voters (on a hyper targeted 1-1 level), and building a grassroots movement as efficiently and cost-effectively as digital.
Any campaign that wants a fighting chance in the midterms will bet the farm on digital.”
Chris Faulkner, senior national strategist, Majority Strategies:
“In 2018 and beyond you will see the rise of General Consultants again. Campaigns will continue to lean more towards being medium agnostic and need the help of creative messaging experts than are comfortable working across different advertising channels. This change will give cause for a lot of discussion on compensation models for consultants and you will see some leaning more towards traditional advertising agencies.
Also, consultants everywhere will be driven nuts this cycle with clients who don’t understand why they can’t ‘get earned media coverage like Trump’ did in 2016. Which is mostly for the same reason why people could not ‘raise money like Barack Obama online’ in 2008 … because you are not that person. (deep sigh).”
Kendall Tucker, CEO of Polis:
"After the #MeToo campaign, the Women’s March, 'Rocket Man,' the excitement surrounding Alabama, and Covfefe, we expect to see higher than usual engagement and turnout rates for a midterm election. What this means for groups looking to be involved and make a difference in their local congressional races is that data analytics and targeted outreach will be key. Knocking on doors and texting voters have outsized impacts on voter turnout (as compared to TV or phone outreach), so we recommend learning as much as you can about the 'new' and the 'old' forms of outreach if you want to win in November.
Also, and not related, we predict that the Patriots will win the Superbowl, the U.S. will win the Olympics and yet another year will go by without humans landing on Mars."