MSNBC's Ruhle Goes After Kooky People Buying Trump Campaign Merchandise

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MSNBC Live host Stephanie Ruhle had bad news to report about the Trump campaign on Tuesday. No, they haven't done anything nefarious or illegal, rather they've been wildly successful in their digital strategy, specifically in terms of merchandise sales and that was enough for the alarms to start going off at MSNBC. Teasing the segment, Ruhle cautioned viewers about the success of the merchandise, "I warn you, it is bad news for Democrats."

Upon returning from commercial, Ruhle listed some of things one can buy on the Trump's campaign website including "Where's Hunter" t-shirts and autographed fine-point markers and while "many call it idiotic and embarrassing," Ruhle urged people to take such sales more seriously, "The president' re-election campaign can use this data and cross reference this this with Facebook data, so they can then learn who this hard core base is, but who their friends, family, and community they are, have. This is all important commercial data. Massively valuable, massively expensive and they're getting it for free." Ruhle quipped this "is how the president figures out exactly who loves him in the way, as he puts it, people who would support him even if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue."

 

 

 

 

Sara Fischer of Axios agreed that behind the seemingly laughable idea of selling Sharpies, this is evidence of a solid digital strategy on behalf of the campaign, "And as you note in that piece with Monica Alba, that merchandise is not just able to bring in money for the Trump campaign, although it does that, but it brings you valuable data, credit card data, data about your address, your friends, it can then be linked to Facebook as you mention, that the campaign will use it over and over again until the end of the election cycle to target you."

Ruhle then turned to former Rep. and DCCC chair Steve Israel and, with concern, asked, "President Trump romped all over [Hillary Clinton] in terms of the digital campaign. Are we seeing that all over again?" Israel did not actually answer the question, but did take a subtle swipe at Clinton, "He did romp all over her in terms of the digital campaign."

Ruhle then moved to attacking the people who buy such merchandise and tried say that this is all evidence of a war on the press, "But this is more, Sara, than just buying a MAGA hat. According to a source we spoke to on this story, this type of merchandise is sold to people that believe that we are all fake news, who would be happy to take any sort of fake news conspiracy theory and spread it among their friends and family. How important is that for the Trump campaign, ‘cause this merchandise is more than a Make American Great Again hat."

Fischer agreed, saying this is Trump's way of building narratives, whether about the Bidens or his own ability to, "determine if a hurricane path is moving to a state or not" and to fire up his base.

After being asked what Democrats should do in response, Israel then implored his fellow Democrats to get with the digital program. "Look it’s clear that the Democrats have to get on game in terms of their digital strategy for persuasion, for turn out," while also remembering, "the important thing is where are they doing it, how are they doing it?"

Ruhle ended the segment the same way she began, by warning viewers, "So, before you laugh at the next Hoaxus Pocus T-shirt from the president, realize what it’s actually doing for him."

Here is a transcript for the October 29 show:  

MSNBC
MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle

9:41 AM ET

STEPHANIE RUHLE: Trump branded plastic straws, a Where's Hunter t-shirt, following the embarrassing Sharpie-gate, autographed fine-point marker, and a  Stop the Witch Hunt Halloween poster. All of this is viral, news-driven merchandise that can be found on the Trump 2020 website. Many call it idiotic and embarrassing for the Republican Party, but here’s the thing- it doesn't just raise money and fire up the president’s base, this glib gear has a way more important function. A new report out by Monica Alba and myself details how the Trump campaign is using these online purchases to collect big, big data.

Let me help you understand this. When the president goes out and sells "Where's Gunter" t-shirts, true conservatives, classic conservatives aren’t rushing out to buy it, it’s President Trump’s hard core base. A base that buys these products and shares their name, address, and phone number. The president' re-election campaign can use this data and cross reference this this with Facebook data, so they can then learn who this hard core base is, but who their friends, family, and community they are, have. This is all important commercial data. Massively valuable, massively expensive and they're getting it for free.

I want to bring in two important people on this suggest. Sara Fischer, media reporter at Axios and Congressman Israel, back with me. Sarah, digital strategy and data collection is something that the Trump campaign dominated in 2016. Are we making a huge mistake when we laugh about some of the more ridiculous things they sell on their website? Because at the end of the day, that is how the president figures out exactly who loves him in the way, as he puts it, people who would support him even if he shot someone on 5th Avenue. 

SARA FISCHER: I think that’s exactly right, I would not laugh off these efforts. At the end of the day, the more gimmicky the product makes, that is probably more effective. People are following Trump, especially as you noted, his very adamant base and they want to get on board with whatever the latest craze or saying is that he gives off at a speech or a rally. So, the crazier it is, even if it’s a Sharpie pen that he was using to draw on a fake boundary on a map, the more likely it probably is to sell. And as you note in that piece with Monica Alba, that merchandise is not just able to bring in money for the Trump campaign, although it does that, but it brings you valuable data, credit card data, data about your address, your friends, it can then be linked to Facebook as you mention, that the campaign will use it over and over again until the end of the election cycle to target you. 

RUHLE: Congressman, you raised money for the Democratic Party for years. You know despite all the amount of money Hillary Clinton had, President Trump romped all over her in terms of the digital campaign. Are we seeing that all over again?

STEVE ISRAEL: He did romp all over her in terms of the digital campaign. He also went to Kenosha County, Wisconsin and Erie County, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania-- 

RUHLE: Okay then, let’s talk to--

ISRAEL: Let's talk about the digital. You, that piece just pulled the curtain on the importance of digital strategies in campaigns, committees, and elections. When I chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee data was gold.

RUHLE: And expensive

ISRAEL: It was like an expensive and we would mine that data as if we were mining for gold. Why? As you said, every little bit of data, means more data. As you said the home address, it’s an e-mail address, it’s a phone number, a cell phone number, it’s also who you’re talking to, it’s volunteer recruitment. You have that data and you can use that for a voter turnout strategy, remind people to go out and vote. You can use it for persuasion strategy, “We know you bought a Trump hat, we also know you have a Facebook friend, we want you to talk to that Facebook friend, we want you to talk to the Facebook friend to make sure they’re going to vote for the president,” and you recruit volunteers, and you can sell that data if you want.

RUHLE: But this is more, Sara, than just buying a MAGA hat. According to a source we spoke to on this story, this type of merchandise is sold to people that believe that we are all fake news, who would be happy to take any sort of fake news conspiracy theory and spread it among their friends and family. How important is that for the Trump campaign, ‘cause this merchandise is more than a Make American Great Again hat. 

FISCHER: Totally, it’s about driving intent at the same time. Look, a big part of the campaign strategy is going to ensure that his core base comes out again next year and amid headlines and news cycles with impeachment, what the Trump campaign needs to drive home is a feeling, an emotion, a sense of belonging into an exclusive club behind a person they really care about, and every piece of merchandise helps them do that, it helps reinforce the narrative that the president is trying to set right now, that the Bidens are doing something wrong and it is reinforcing that the President of the United States is the one who can determine if a hurricane path is moving to a state or not, even though we obviously have FEMA to acknowledge that. This is part of a more emotional campaign, as you note, to get people riled up ahead of the election and it is bigger than products being sold. 

RUHLE: What on earth, do Democrats do on the other side, congressman? 

ISRAEL: Well look, I’m not sure there’s merchandise that the Democrats can sell, although I’ve seen my fair share of it. I love this bumper sticker “Any Functioning Adult in 2020,” that’s making the rounds, but look it’s clear that the Democrats have to get on game in terms of their digital strategy for persuasion, for turn out. I actually think they're doing it, the important thing is where are they doing it, how are they doing it? How do you compete with Donald Trump who is just filling all the oxygen in the digital world.

RUHLE: Well, they got a challenge out there. So, before you laugh at the next Hoax-us-Pocus t-shirt from the president, realize what it’s actually doing for him. Thank you both so much, definitely made us smarter on this subject.


 

NB Daily Campaigns & Elections 2020 Presidential MSNBC MSNBC Live Video steve israel Stephanie Ruhle Donald Trump
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