Fifteen years ago, liberal operatives launched ActBlue, an online fundraising platform for Democratic candidates and left-leaning groups. Since its inception, ActBlue has seen steady growth each election cycle and now serves as the main fundraising platform for Democrats. ActBlue allows Democratic donors to store their credit card numbers and, with one click, donate to virtually any Democratic candidate or liberal cause. It played a significant role in the 2018 midterm, helping Democrats raise $1.6 billion from 4.9 million unique donors.
Until recently, Republicans were at a disadvantage on this front. Several different fundraising platforms existed in the GOP ecosystem, which made it difficult for donors to aid different campaigns and causes that they may have otherwise supported. In an effort to reduce donor friction in making contributions to Republicans, GOP operatives launched WinRed in June as an answer to ActBlue. Combining industry-leading technology and a partnership with Data Trust, WinRed promised to “be a platform for GOP candidates and conservative causes to power their campaigns to victory in 2020 and beyond.”
Republican groups were quick to throw their support behind the new service, with the RNC, NRSC, and NRCC all beginning to phase their online operations over to WinRed on launch day. Also leading the charge was President Trump’s reelection campaign. Brad Parscale, the president’s campaign manager heralded the platform’s launch, saying, “Trump supporters are the most enthusiastic in American politics, and with WinRed, we will have the cutting-edge technology needed to translate grassroots enthusiasm into the resources we need to win in 2020.”
One area that WinRed aims to aid GOP candidates is with their small-dollar fundraising, where Republicans have typically lagged behind their Democratic counterparts. In the 2018 cycle, seven of the 10 House members with the greatest share of funds coming from donors who gave less than $200 were Democrats. The fact that the president’s campaign is on board with WinRed could help change that, however. During the first quarter of 2019, the Trump campaign took in $3.3 million, nearly 45 percent of its funds, from small-dollar donors.
A report released by WinRed earlier this week indicates that the platform is off to a strong start. In only three months, 98 percent of state parties adopted the fundraising service, with 76 percent of Senate incumbents and 58 percent of House incumbents also jumping on board. In total, 600 campaigns at every level have requested an account. According to WinRed, they are on a path to match ActBlue’s incumbent usage rate within 6 months of launching.
WinRed faced its first real test earlier this month when campaigns and national party committees rallied around a local House Special Election in North Carolina’s 9th District. WinRed said about 12,000 donations from all 50 states and 6 territories flooded in to help lift Republican Dan Bishop to victory and raise over $300,000.
Competing against a fifteen-year-old institution like ActBlue was always going to be a challenge, but what WinRed has been able to accomplish in only 90 days shows that Republicans are up for the fight.