President Donald Trump‘s re-election kickoff rally in Orlando will generate millions of dollars in earned media for a man who probably doesn’t need it.
But even billionaires need campaign funding to win the presidency these days, and the Trump-Mike Pence ticket this week stands to collect millions of dollars’ worth of an invaluable currency: data.
The capacity at Amway Arena, home to Tuesday’s rally, is just 20,000, but the Trump campaign reports more than 100,000 requests for tickets through its online portal.
That’s 100,000 Florida names, 100,000 Florida emails, and 100,000 Florida phone numbers the campaign will use over the next 17 months to solicit funds, shape opinion on public policy, and convince infrequent voters to show up on election day.
Furthermore, both Republicans and Democrats have learned how to harvest this kind of data to cross-reference names and numbers to individuals’ voting histories, social media habits, and even religious preferences.
That makes it much easier for campaigns to hyper-target individuals, successfully motivating them to vote, open up their wallets, or — in some cases — stay home on election day if they’re unlikely to vote for the campaign’s preferred candidate.
Basically, modern-day campaigns are doing everything Cambridge Analytica was doing, except the campaigns (by-and-large) purchase and collect their data legally, without deception. The same tools Trump is using were used by President Barack Obama, and they’re being mimicked by the two dozen 2020 hopefuls trying to replace Trump.
It also explains why Mitt Romney, who hasn’t campaigned for president since 2012, has resisted shutting down his presidential campaign account.
Former candidates often hand over any remaining campaign assets to the national party, for use in future elections. But Romney, a frequent and outspoken critic of Trump, has maintained control of his 2012 mailing lists, ensuring he gets final approval on which campaigns gain access to the data.
Tuesday night in Orlando, tens of thousands of people will give Trump their attention.
But whether they are ardent MAGA-hat-wearing loyalists or simply curious Floridians interested in seeing the celebrity-in-chief, to get in the door, they’ll have to first give the President something more personal than just their attention.