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Asa Hutchinson’s Unconventional Climb to the Debate Stage
In the intense world of presidential campaigns, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson found an unexpected ace up his sleeve – a text-for-pay campaign led by college students.
The Drama Unfolds
Imagine a moment on live television as Hutchinson, the underdog presidential candidate, made a plea on MSNBC. He had until “close of business” Monday to qualify for the crucial first Republican debate. His message was clear: “Visit my website and donate.” He promised to take on Trump on stage and reveal the truth about January 6th. The outcome? An astonishing 4,000 new donors flocked to his campaign, breathing fresh life into his candidacy.
A Silent Revolution
Beneath the surface, an ingenious operation was at play, responsible for almost half of Hutchinson’s initial 40,000 campaign donors.
The $1 Challenge
The heart of this campaign was simple but brilliant – college students earned $20 for every friend or family member they convinced to donate just $1 to Hutchinson’s campaign during the summer. This novel approach was part of a broader trend among Republican contenders to meet the Republican National Committee’s requirement for 40,000 donors, a measure of grassroots support. Republican strategist Austin Barbour, a key figure in the pro-Hutchinson super PAC America Strong & Free Action, devised this groundbreaking text-for-pay strategy.
From Darkness to Light
Not long ago, Hutchinson’s prospects appeared bleak. Despite months of effort, he struggled to reach even 5,000 donors. Neither his campaign nor the super PAC had the funds for relentless donation requests. An early June text campaign flopped, and an ad featuring former President Ronald Reagan’s endorsement fell short, drawing fewer than 100 new donors despite extensive airtime. Even tele-town halls with Hutchinson as the star attraction didn’t gain traction.
The Eureka Moment
The game-changer was an idea from Barbour and Conrad Lucas, former West Virginia GOP chair. Inspired by grassroots campaigns from Barbour’s Mississippi roots, they unleashed college students on their networks, asking for $1 donations. The results were remarkable. The first dozen students recruited a stunning 607 donors in a week. A donor from Arkansas saw the campaign’s potential and chipped in $250,000. Word spread, attracting 700 individuals willing to tap their contact lists, each earning $20 for every new donor recruited.
Hutchinson’s campaign flourished, with 99 percent of donations from the super PAC’s program flowing directly to him. This surge of support secured his place on the debate stage, and some original donors were even given tickets to attend the debate.
Thinking Beyond the Norm
While other campaigns followed conventional donor-building methods, Hutchinson’s team thrived on creativity and grassroots energy, thriving with limited resources.
Conclusion: The Unconventional Wins
Hutchinson may still face challenges in national polls and fundraising, but his recent media blitz, including over 30 TV appearances in August, has revitalized his campaign. The takeaway? Sometimes, an unconventional approach can be a campaign’s secret weapon. So, keep an eye on Asa Hutchinson – he’s redefining the playbook.