From The Hill
Donald Trump is beefing up his digital strategy as he enters the general election campaign against Hillary Clinton.
The presumptive Republican nominee has rolled out a website highlighting what he says are lies told by Clinton and, for the first time, is emailing fundraising pitches to supporters, one of the key elements of a national campaign.
“I think the early signs we’ve seen, from them activating a small dollar online plan coupled with the rollout of the microsite, tells me that the Donald Trump campaign is getting its footing,” said Michael Duncan, a partner at Cavalry, LLC, a political consultancy, who directed digital strategy for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) 2014 reelection bid.
“I’m hopeful that it’s the first of many steps towards building out a more sophisticated digital operation,” he said.
Trump’s campaign has taken a few steps in recent days to expand its digital footprint beyond the businessman’s Twitter account, which already has more than 9 million followers.
It launched a website on Thursday dedicated solely to making the case that Clinton is dishonest, a key line of attack for Trump. The site, what is known among digital operatives as a “microsite,” has its overall message embedded in the URL: LyingCrookedHillary.com.
The creation of the site followed Trump’s first-ever fundraising email, sent Tuesday, where he promised to make it “the most successful introductory fundraising email in modern political history.”
“This is the first fundraising email I have ever sent on behalf of my campaign,” he wrote. “That’s right. The FIRST ONE.”
A day later, his son followed up with an email claiming that the fundraising effort had generated a record haul. The campaign has since said only some of the money raised this week came directly from the email.
Trump also sent a fundraising appeal on Friday tied to Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.
The digital push comes as Trump takes steps to expand his campaign operation to square off with Clinton’s, which is about ten times larger than his. He fired former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski on Monday and noted a slate of recent hires the next day.
Among the additions to the Trump camp was Brad Parscale, the campaign’s digital director. Like Trump’s spokesperson, Hope Hicks, Parscale seemingly had little political experience before joining Trump’s bid as a contractor last year.
His San Antonio, Texas firm’s portfolio includes websites for “a South Texas food store with a dash of Euro-sophistication” and homebuilders, among others. Trump reportedly hired him because of work he did for business ventures like Trump Winery.
The only political donation Parscale has ever made was to Trump’s presidential campaign last year, according to Federal Election Commission records.
“The Trump campaign clearly values loyalty, and Brad has done a great job with the digital properties of the Trump family,” said Vincent Harris, a Republican digital operative, in an email.
An operative who worked for one of Trump’s opponents said it would not hurt to have “fresh blood” working in an insular world of Republican digital consultants.
It remains to be seen just how Trump will build out the campaign’s digital team beyond that. A local business journal in San Antonio reported that Parscale’s firm is prepared to hire as many as 100 workers in response to the demands of the Trump campaign. Hicks did not respond to a request for comment on the digital push.
GOP operatives say that Trump’s unconventional methods, and his ability to dominate media coverage, mean he may be able to reap the benefits of online organizing without building the massive digital operations that Mitt Romney and President Obama had in 2012.
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