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The role of presidential campaign technology in 2020: Part Two

We’re less than a year away from the Iowa primary. In order to win, campaigns will have to be smart about their hiring, messaging analytics, polling, targeting, and all the technologies that help them meet those objectives. In part one of this series, we shared general best practices in building out a campaign’s early tech team. In part two, we recommend specific   tools below that we believe can help make or break success. As an accelerator for progressive political tech start-ups, candidates and campaign staff are constantly asking us for the best technology tools to use for their campaign. While the answer depends on many factors – including budget, campaign type, geography, staff – we put together our recommendation list of “must-have” HGL tools for the 2020 Presidential Primaries. Here’s what technology we’d start using right now if we were in your shoes:

Volunteer Mobilization

Your get-out-the-vote (GOTV) operation should emphasize human contact and fuel supporter motivation through every available channel – canvassing at doors, calling & texting phones, and through social media. There’s an army of activists just waiting to be told where to go, what to do, how to help. But finding and retaining supporters can be hard, chaotic, and inefficient. MobilizeAmerica is an event and action management platform that will help you reach new volunteers, deploy them effectively, and deliver the positive experiences that will retain their loyalty. Mobilize has been embraced by everyone from Crooked Media to Swing Left and Indivisible to MoveOn to the DNC, connecting hundreds of thousands of volunteers to progressive campaigns around the country. Some of the smartest Democratic Presidential campaigns even led with their Mobilize link for supporters on their announcement day!


Need a series of last minute horse race polls that you can afford? Try working with Change Research. Change Research provides fast, affordable and accurate public opinion polling at 80 to 90 percent less than traditional polls, with the goal of ensuring that every forward-thinking candidate and campaign has access to the actionable insight they need to win. It’s worth noting that at their cost point (as little as $4,000), you can poll into specific Congressional districts in large states and can be extremely useful for delegate counting.

Message Optimization

To create a deeper and more intuitive approach to understanding the values, emotions and attitudes of your community, we recommend Avalanche Strategy. They conduct open-ended surveys with thousands of respondents to collect a representative sample, and then use Natural Language Processing to understand what will resonate emotionally for the audiences you’re interested in to create messaging that resonates, mobilizes, and wins. If you’re sitting on a library of digital ads that your campaign has produced over the course of your campaign, you should also focus your final spend on the ads that have actually persuaded your target audience. According to a recent Stanford study, most of political advertising has no impact on general election voters. Campaigns use Swayable to measure persuasion for their paid content, breaking down exactly which kinds of people respond to which content. Since launch in January 2018, customers have tested over 500 videos, deploying Swayable in over 40% of all flipped districts, 12 statewide races and 16 national groups.

Digital Relational Organizing

One-on-one personal interactions are the most effective form of volunteerism for political turnout. Before asking volunteers to knock on strangers’ doors, they should be asked to remind their friends to vote. Asking friends to contact their own friends and family is 20 times more effective than having strangers do so. For this kind of relational organizing, check out The Tuesday Company and VoterCircle. These companies’ services will empower your volunteers to find their friends in the voter file and send them effective, personalized reminders to vote through social media or email. In a close race, this can deliver a meaningful (and inexpensive!) edge.

Increase Your Digital Spending

If digital spending is not a significant portion of your spend, you should increase your allocation. In the private sector, where companies analyze their return-on-investment with precision, digital spending comprises nearly 50% of advertising budgets. By contrast, most Democratic campaigns hover around 15%. Republicans have outpaced Democrats in digital ad spending by an alarming 3x margin in 2016. And the results, especially down-ballot, reflected that gap. Americans spend almost five hours a day online; meet them where they are. Outfox.AI provides Democratic campaigns with a superb, low cost, and intuitive ad platform to best reach your people online. Think of it as a cheaper, scaled-down digital-services platform without needing humans (or another paid-media firm).

Opposition Research

You and your opponent have written countless emails, been videotaped giving speeches and off-hand remarks, and maybe even wrote an unfortunate op-ed 20 years ago in a school paper. Compiling that research is time intensive and expensive, but mining it effectively can make the difference in a close race. FactSquared has developed an efficient and affordable means to compile searchable databases on your opponent, and can even find subject matter that makes your opponent uncertain or frustrated, or catches them in a lie. It can be especially powerful for debate prep and planted questions.


One of the most important indicators of success early on in a primary is fundraising, and CallTime.AI can help you raise money smarter and faster than your opponents. CallTime.AI helps campaigns understand their donor universe and ensure that they are asking every donor for the right amount of money at the right time. CallTime.AI aggregates millions of social, political, and public data-points into comprehensive donor profiles, and then uses machine learning to analyze call and donor metrics.

We’re excited about the tech tools we’ve invested in at Higher Ground Labs and know that these tools will be critical in helping presidential campaigns build lasting tech infrastructure. If you’re working on a presidential primary (or other 2020 race) and want to learn more about these tools, email and we’ll connect you directly.