Lewd Tape Fallout: GOP Senate Campaign Arm Stops Mentioning Trump in Emails

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Image used in final NRSC email mentioning Trump campaign
Image used in final NRSC email mentioning Trump campaign Credit: Return Path

The Republican party's Senatorial campaign arm appears to have completely shut down its mentions of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump and running mate Mike Pence since a Washington Post report exposed a "Hollywood Access" tape featuring Mr. Trump boasting about lewd behavior toward women. It's no coincidence that almost immediately after the tape was revealed Oct. 7, several Republican Senate candidates running for reelection withdrew endorsement of Mr. Trump, including John McCain of Arizona, Ohio's Rob Portman, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, and Joe Heck in Nevada.

According to data provided to Ad Age by email tracker Return Path, there have been no emails mentioning Mr. Trump or Mr. Pence sent to subscribers by the National Republican Senatorial Committee since Oct. 9. By contrast, 70% of campaigns sent by the NRSC from Oct. 1-7 mentioned the candidates.

On Oct. 5 and 6, NRSC email subjects promoted Trump campaign paraphernalia. "Still want your Trump yard sign?" asked one.

Just two emails sent on Oct. 8 mentioned them, including one asking recipients who won the Oct. 4 vice presidential debate. Sent in the wee hours that morning, the email was the last one the NRSC sent mentioning the Republican presidential ticket.

"They've shifted to focusing attacks on Hillary Clinton as well as the Senate races," said Tom Sather, senior director of research at Return Path. "It definitely appears to be a direct result of that tape."

The NRSC is on pace to send around the same number of emails it's been sending in recent months, though. In August and September, the group sent 162 and 164 email campaigns respectively; a campaign represents one targeted email that may have only been sent to a select segment of the group's email list. The organization sent 92 this month through Oct. 18.

The NRSC did not respond to a request to comment for this story.

The Trump camp, on the other hand, hasn't let up at all in its email fundraising efforts, this after it was revealed in mid-June that the campaign had then yet to even include an ask for donations in any of its emails to supporters.

This month, the Trump campaign is on pace to double the number of email campaigns sent in September. Compared with 505 last month, it already sent 516 different messages through Oct. 18 -- 424 of which included donation requests. None mentioned the leaked tape.

The Clinton camp sent 775 emails through Oct. 18 compared with 982 last month.

The Republican National Committee doesn't appear to have altered its approach to email messaging since the scandal broke and continues featuring its presidential candidates in emails, according to Return Path.

The "Access Hollywood" recording, in which Mr. Trump claimed that his "star" status meant women "let" him "do anything," including "grab them by the pussy," seems to have had an impact on the percentage of Trump campaign emails that were marked as spam by recipients. According to Return Path, the average user-marked spam complaint rate for Trump campaign emails rose to 4.29 on Oct. 8 from 1.75 the previous day. Below 0.1% is considered to be a "good" spam complaint rate.

The complaint rate may have risen because some recipients were angry or offended by the leaked tape, suggested Mr. Sather.

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