CLEVELAND— The chasm between Team Donald Trump and the consulting industry at large was evident Tuesday in Cleveland as delegates gathered nearby for day two of the Republican National Convention.
Matt Braynard, Trump’s former data chief, clashed with fellow digital strategist Zac Moffatt and GOP pollster Chris Wilson during a panel discussion hosted by Politico that also featured Republican strategist Mindy Finn.
Braynard repeatedly bashed the consulting industry, which he said forms the “consultant bubble” around a candidate and shields him or her from new ideas.
Moreover, Braynard disparaged the idea that the right needs an answer to Act Blue, which has raised more than $1.2 billion for Democratic candidates since 2004. He argued that “a fundamentally competent campaign operation” can set up its own merchant account to process payments. “It’s not that hard,” he said.
Wilson and Moffatt disagreed. “We do a disservice to ourselves” by dismissing Act Blue, Moffatt said, diplomatically. “It’s a distinctive advantage.”
Moffatt also pushed back against the idea that campaigns should look to do things like build a payment processor when instead there should be a digital ecosystem they can tap into. “Every cycle we reinvent the wheel,” Moffatt said.
Braynard, though, took a dim view of the idea that a campaign should feel the need to support vendors as if the relationship was mutually beneficial. He pointed out that Act Blue takes fees out of the money it raises when that money could go to voter contact or other campaign needs.
Moreover, Braynard noted that the Trump campaign felt no loyalty even to work with Republican vendors. He said that through its data vendor, L2, the Trump camp had used voter models from HaystaqDNA, the data analytics firm founded by the Obama campaign's former targeting director, to build “psychological profiles” of potential Trump voters who had not been registered previously or cast ballots regularly.
Braynard suggested they didn’t used a Republican data analytics firm because the campaign was targeting beyond the GOP voter file. In fact, he said, Trump’s team debated internally whether they even needed a campaign organization because he was able to get so much media exposure by just calling into a Sunday news show.
“What more can we do in terms of voter persuasion? Not much. Practically, we did no persuasion. It was all about turning out these people who we determined who could support our candidate,” he said. “We did not pay much attention to the likely voter universe.”
Braynard estimated their targeting improved Trump’s vote totals by 1.5-3 percent.
Now, Braynard, who was let go from the campaign in March, said that Trump would continue to target the “millions of unregistered adults” in states like Ohio, Iowa, New Hampshire and Maine in the general election. “It’s really going to come down to spending money to go after that,” he said.
Moffatt, meanwhile, bemoaned the size of Trump’s data and digital operation compared to the team of 50-some engineers the Clinton campaign has assembled.
“It’s a lost opportunity for us as a party,” Moffatt said, without naming Trump’s campaign specifically. “We are still relatively small next to the competition [in terms of] investment in human capital.”
He added: “That should be your legacy, win or lose, that you leave your talent behind.”