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Topics: 2018 Elections, Congress, Case Study, The Prosper Group

Early Start & Hard Work Win the Day in One of Nation’s Top U.S. House Races

The Challenge
 

Congressman Will Hurd (TX-23) is no stranger to tough races.  
 
In 2014 – as a political newcomer – Will Hurd and his team took on and defeated a well-funded and entrenched incumbent, Democrat Pete Gallego, in a hard-fought race.  
 
In 2016, Congressman Hurd faced a rematch race (and won again) in this uber-competitive district, despite being targeted aggressively by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and outside liberal groups. But his victory was secured by a MUCH smaller margin in Round 2 – 1.3% in 2016 vs. 2.1% in 2014. Additionally, Hillary Clinton won the district over Donald Trump in 2016 by a three-point margin. 
 
The Hurd campaign team anticipated a challenging mid-term election environment in 2018, and this contest did emerge as a “Top 5” U.S. House race – with Congressman Hurd outspent 3 to 1 and a huge influx of out-of-state money directed to his Democratic opponent (nearly 85% of the opponent’s funds came from outside of Texas). 
 
It is also worth noting that this district is geographically massive - larger than 29 states and covering more of the U.S. border with Mexico than any other district – which presents additional logistical challenges in terms of executing outreach and get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts.  
 
The Hurd for Congress campaign recognized the need for an aggressive digital strategy as it entered the 2017-18 election cycle, and hired The Prosper Group to serve as the campaign’s digital partner in January 2017.
 

Strategy & Tactics
 

The Prosper Group set out to develop a comprehensive, methodical digital strategy designed to set the Hurd campaign up for success in November 2018.  
 
Among our first critical steps was to conduct an extensive website audit, rebuilding the campaign’s new site from the ground up to better reflect his brand, mission statements, and crucial calls-to-action.
 

 

We also immediately began work building the campaign’s social media presence, with a focus on delivering unique, compelling, and often interactive content that complemented Congressman Hurd’s personal approach and style – smart, direct, humble, often casual (but serious), and focused on solutions and results over partisan politics.
 


This initiative yielded powerful results, nearly doubling the campaign’s Facebook following over the course of the cycle from 11,974 followers to 21,546 followers - making a direct impact on the campaign’s ability to effectively share its message, and maximizing get-out-the-vote efforts during early voting and throughout the final push to Election Day.
 


Another area of focus early on was laying the foundation to build a larger, more engaged email list in order to drive online fundraising efforts and keep supporters up to date on campaign news, events, and additional opportunities to volunteer, attend town halls, or directly help the campaign’s efforts on social media.

This email list-building and optimization success also yielded numerous dividends; from small-dollar fundraising to event promotion (most notably, the Congressman’s DC2DQ town hall tours) to executing on the campaign’s county-by-county GOTV plan.

The results: We added 4,538 new emails to the campaign’s list. Altogether, The Prosper Group’s online efforts raised $53,484 for Congressman Hurd‘s 2018 re-election effort.
 


The Congressman’s DC2DQ fall town hall road trip – held mostly at Dairy Queen locations across the district - helped him reach thousands of voters directly with his message and gave constituents the opportunity to engage, give feedback, and ask questions over the course of dozens of stops across the massive 23rd District.

2018 was not Congressman Hurd’s first rodeo, as they say - this was the fourth DC2DQ annual road trip. While other elected representatives across the country had constituents picketing and demanding town halls, Congressman Hurd’s consistent willingness to engage with those he represents rightfully helped the campaign score a significant amount of earned media stemming from these events. 
 
The Prosper Group helped maximize event attendance and coverage of local tour stops, through microtargeted and geo-customized advertising, promoted event schedules, RSVP requests, and engaging in social pressure tactics to drive attendance. 
 
In addition, we were able to capitalize on unique fundraising opportunities (such as a “You are the fuel behind Team Hurd!” appeal) and create compelling social media content, including nearly real-time daily web video wrap-ups to share with the wider online audience that was not able to attend one of these events in-person.  
 
The Prosper Group went so far as to embed one of our Client Strategists within the campaign to film, produce, and edit key moments on video, direct traffic on graphic production with the greater team, and assist the campaign in executing a rapid-fire social media strategy, utilizing and deploying content in real-time.
 


Results

In the end, Congressman Hurd secured his closest re-election victory yet – a 1,150 vote (0.5%) margin over his Democrat opponent, 49.2% to 48.7%. A third-party candidate earned 2.1% of the vote. 
 
It is worth noting, again, that Hillary Clinton won this district by 3% over Donald Trump in 2016. Hurd was 1 of only 3 Republican Congressional incumbents to retain their seat in a district won by Clinton in 2016. Additionally, in the overlapping U.S. Senate race, Democrat Congressman Beto O’Rourke outperformed Senator Cruz by five points in Texas’s 23rd District. 
 
Congressman Hurd’s strong polling performance in advance of Election Day resulted in the DCCC pulling money and resources from this previously “Top 5” race during the closing months of the election. 
 
Every vote counted! The early digital play by Team Hurd and The Prosper Group empowered them to successfully identify, engage, and ultimately turn out supporters - making a direct impact on the bottom line to secure a major win on Election Day.

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