From Sanders, A Different Kind of Campaign Plea: Can We Crash on Your Couch?

Dec 1, 2015

E-mail solicitations from political campaigns tend to follow a pretty well-worn formula:

1.    An informal subject line that's easy to mistake for something a friend might have sent. (“Needed to reach out” “FW: The rumors are true!”)

2.    A form letter that begins as if you’re on a first name basis (“Sam – Have you heard?”), and…

3.    After no more than four sentences an urgent plea for cash (“Can you click here and contribute $10 before it’s too late?”)

But in the past few weeks, Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign has been putting out emails which are, if not quite revolutionary, at least something of an evolution.

Take today’s email. It follows the standard formula, but the plea for help is slightly tweaked: “Willing to be a host family for a Bernie organizer? Send an email.”

There are two things going on here. First, as we get into the final months of the New Hampshire presidential primary, many campaigns are bursting at the seams. The Sanders campaign now has 67 staffers – many of whom are from out of state – and over 5,600 volunteers. Those (likely) enthusiastic (mostly) youth have to sleep somewhere, and the guest bedrooms of in-state supporters are much more reasonable than paying for rent or hotel rooms.

At the same time, the Sanders campaign has been using its email list for non-fundraising purposes of late: an email looking for stories about opioid addiction and a solicitation for messages of support for the Claremont Planned Parenthood clinic.

In an email, the campaign's New Hampshire spokesman, Karthik Ganapathy said the campaign doesn’t “think of people on our list as just faceless dollar signs. We're trying to engage and grow a community of supporters in substantive conversations about real issues.”

Even so, the Sanders email list doesn’t do too badly when it comes to amassing dollars. Looking back to October, the last time fundraising numbers were made public, the Sanders campaign had raised only $2 million less than the Clinton camp, almost all of it from small donors.