Marco Rubio announced on June 22, 2016 that he would be running for reelection to the United States Senate. Rubio’s deputy campaign manager, Brian Swensen, had only 139 days to recruit, hire and train a statewide voter turnout operation while executing a modern day, data-driven campaign. Announcing in March 2015, Rubio’s challenger, Patrick Murphy, had more than a year’s head start, meaning Rubio had a lot of catching up to do.
Swensen didn’t waste any time, quickly crunching the numbers to determine just what it was going to take to win. By his calculations, the campaign needed to contact a minimum of 5.75 million voters in total through phone calls and door knocks.
Swensen knew efficiency was the name of the game and in order to properly empower his staff it was going to take the right technology to make victory possible. The criteria for these solutions were that they be easy-to-use and intuitive, minimizing volunteer ramp-up time, reliable, capable of handling a large volume activity without error, and nimble enough to adjust universes in a quick and seamless fashion.
Swensen’s research and experience with several grassroots solutions led him to choose i360’s products for the job. “Considering the limited window of time within which the campaign was operating, I was blown away by i360’s predictive dialer technology that allowed our campaign to make exponentially more calls than traditional VOIP systems would have,” Swensen remarked, referring to i360’s proprietary dialer algorithm that increases the volume of calls based on the number of volunteers logged in to the app.
The simple and easy to navigate grassroots tools meant volunteers could be trained and on the ground running in no time. This empowered campaign staff to spend more time calling and recruiting more volunteers thus improving their odds of hitting their recruitment and voter contact goals.
In addition, i360 Call’s accessibility on virtually every device, Apple or Android, tablet or computer, meant Rubio’s volunteers could make calls from anywhere, turning their 30-minute (and upwards of an hour during rush hour) commute from work into valuable voter contact time. Not the mention, with volunteers able to use their own mobile phones, tables and computers, the campaign saved considerable overhead cost associated with purchasing the equipment required by other VOIP systems.
When partnering with staff from the state party or other campaigns to make volunteer recruitment calls, Rubio volunteers and staff offered their campaign counterparts the option to use the i360 call system. Each time a staffer from a different campaign used the system, they expressed how impressed they were with the efficiency of the i360 tools in comparison to those they’d previously used.
The campaign also made smart use of i360 Portal™ and i360 Field Portal’s Volunteers Management tools, designed specifically to keep campaign managers and their political staff organized, to ensure all data collected in the field was seamlessly integrated in real-time. This efficiency enabled campaign leadership to spend less time piecing together their data and more time making strategic decisions with the clearest, fullest and most up-to-date picture possible.
Using i360 Walk™, Swensen and his team leveraged the dynamic scripting feature to construct multiple universes within each survey. This, again, saved volunteers time by giving them the ability to talk to both swing and low propensity GOP voters that live in the same household with customized scripts for each individual voter, instead of making return visits to their neighborhoods. Optimized routing and turn-by-turn directions meant that volunteers weren’t crisscrossing streets and walking miles between houses. “In my experience of having volunteers use other walk apps, there were many instances where I would lose volunteers for reasons such as the walk app crashing and all data getting lost, senseless routing in walkbooks that would cause them to feel like they were being inefficient and wasting their time, and finally just the clunky, poorly designed nature of the apps where user-experience was clearly not a top priority. Because we had a late start and rapidly approaching primary and general election, we needed the most efficient system that would maximize our volunteer engagement and i360 was that system.”
Finally another important feature valued by the Rubio team was the ability for their field staff and senior level staff to track productivity from region to individual field staffer and even all the way down to an individual volunteer. “The system helped us track volunteers whose productivity dropped beneath the averages of the rest of the team. When this was discovered, the staff knew to spend some extra time working with that volunteer to make them an even greater asset in turning out voters,” says Swensen. In addition, the team used the system to track voters and universes as they turned out daily. This further motivated staff because they could actually see the fruits of their labor materializing.
By the time the campaign was fully staffed and executing on their voter contact operation in early August, they had not only met but exceeded their initial contact goals. As polls opened on November 8, 2016, the campaign had made more than 8.5 million voter contact attempts in just over three months time including:
- 8,171,651 total phone call attempts from August to November of which a record 4 million dials were made in the final week.
- 96,826 total door knocks utilizing the i360 system, most of which were made in the final 5 days of the campaign.
Tying it all together, the team was able to hit 142% of the campaign’s voter contact goals.
The voter contact numbers achieved were not only a big component to Marco Rubio winning reelection to the United States Senate but also a factor in creating a coat-tail effect for numerous Republican candidates at the top of the ticket down to the congressional and state senate and house level. The campaign team used Rubio’s target universe and i360’s system to effectively target several swing state house, senate, and Congressional races helping numerous Republicans cross the finish line.
So what did all this look like in regards to turnout for Senator Rubio?
- Won with more than 4.8 million votes.
- Blew away his opponent with more than 700,000 (7.7%) more votes on a 52%-44% margin.
- Received more than 200,000 more votes than President Donald Trump in Florida, outperforming him in all but 2 counties.
- Won 58 of Florida’s 67 counties against opponent
In conclusion, the Rubio campaign attributes much of their success on the ground to the efficiency afforded them by the i360 suite of grassroots tools. Without i360 Call and i360 Walk, they wouldn’t have been able to contact nearly as many voters and the short time window would have been a more difficult hurdle to overcome.
Also important to the campaign’s success and something often overlooked was the volunteer experience. For the Rubio team that was of the utmost importance. “There was no question from the enthusiastic reports from my staff and from numerous volunteers I have known over the years, they loved using the i360 technology. They felt empowered and confident and I think that encouraged them to give us that extra effort to keep going and find extra time to devote to us. That’s a win-win in our book.” said Swensen.