Souvenirs from This Summer’s Political Carnival

BY Tanner Edwards

July 25, 2019

Public Affairs

At least twenty-five Democrats – for now! – have taken the plunge and launched campaigns for the presidency in 2020.

This crowded primary is approaching a turning point, though. With increasingly difficult requirements to qualify for debates, painful fundraising realities and other laws of political gravity looming, the field should soon begin to shrink.

That pressure means we are in for a political carnival of a summer – where dozens of campaigns will be working at warp speed to stand out, thrive, and survive into the fall. In this competitive environment, a campaign’s ideas, themes, and communications tactics will have to be pretty stellar to grab the electorate’s attention.

In search of these stand-out features, I recently surfed through nearly as many presidential candidates’ websites as there are letters in the alphabet. Here are a few findings that grabbed my attention and earned my endorsement.

Elizabeth Warren’s Calls to Small-Dollar Donors

Talk about bang for your buck – Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s low-budget videos featuring her surprise calls to grassroots supporters are fun, shareable and full of great messaging to boot.

Whether filmed on the road or in the kitchen at the Warren residence, these videos accomplish much in their short run time – and stand out even in a presidential primary awash in attempts at viral footage. In her fun and nimble chats with small-dollar donors, Warren conveys a message of looking out for the average American and adds a new dimension to her campaign along the way.


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I’m relying on grassroots donors like Nell to fuel this campaign.

A post shared by Elizabeth Warren (@elizabethwarren) on

Pete Buttigieg’s Campaign Merch

Plenty of 2020 campaign stores have fun and memorable merchandise, but Mayor Pete’s wares stand out as particularly thoughtful.

Each piece seems designed to help continue introducing the mayor and to work in service of broader campaign objectives than just online fundraising. Highlights include “BOOT EDGE EDGE” apparel to help us with Mayor Pete’s unique last name, a “Win the Era” hat that nods to the generational change Buttigieg hopes to bring to the White House and a campaign bridge logo and color scheme rooted in the heartland and heralding a path to the future.

A “Chasten for First Gentleman” t-shirt pays homage to Mayor Pete’s social-media-superstar husband, reveals a team in touch with the zeitgeist and reflects a campaign leveraging every last detail in service of their brand identity.

Beto O’Rourke’s Events Page

Canvassing, rallies, house parties and the like are central to any presidential primary organizing effort. Beto O’Rourke’s campaign publicizes these types of meet-ups too – but they are just part of a broader slate of Beto-related activities taking place around the country on any given day.

Upcoming events featured on O’Rourke’s campaign website include Baseball for Beto, a pro-union protest, a run/walk for Beto, and even a Team Beto cookie exchange. Though concentrated in the states that will vote first in the presidential primary, many events take place in states that have traditionally been less important for a presidential campaign. It’s a clever way to try to build up a nationwide grassroots movement, and is very much in keeping with O’Rourke’s rhetoric on unity no matter your political tribe.

Kirsten Gillibrand’s Ask to “Do Something Brave”

It’s one thing to develop an affinity for a candidate, but quite another to be inspired to take concrete action on their behalf. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s website works to mobilize supporters not just through the traditional “Volunteer” and “Donate” buttons, but also through a prominent “Do Something Brave” option on her website header.

At the link, supporters are presented with a variety of action items to help power the Gillibrand campaign. The “Team Gillibrand Starter Kit” is particularly memorable, and features ready-to-share descriptions of Sen. Gillibrand’s key policy positions, suggested hashtags to be used in support of the senator and sharp graphics right-sized for major social media platforms.

The effort here is savvy – seeking to tap into the nostalgia and power of the Women’s March and other post-2016 progressive political activism, channel it in favor of Team Gillibrand, and do so in a way that is crisp, substantive, and ready to easily pass along to friends and followers.

Though a field of two-dozen candidates is dizzying, the fight for staying power is clearly sparking innovative themes and communications tactics among the primary contenders. Whether this work translates into electoral success remains to be seen. But in the meantime, the summer’s political carnival is sure to carry on, full of souvenirs for communicators observing the ways these campaigns are standing out in the crowd.


BY Tanner Edwards

July 25, 2019

Public Affairs