Practitioners got a glimpse into the future when a presidential announcement bookended 2018.  It’s safe to say that the presidential cycle is starting early, and that will have a huge impact on all levels of the campaign industry for the next two years.

But what that impact will look like is open to prognostication. To get some insight into the next 12 months and beyond, we asked a group of top practitioners to cut short their winter holidays and put on their thinking caps. 

These consultants, from different corners of the industry, had this to tell us:

Kate Maeder, California-based political strategist and campaign manager:

We’ll see a record number of Democratic women running for president, so I believe we’ll inherently see more women hired at the national level. But there’s still so much more work to do to recruit, train, mentor, and hire women to become political operatives.

In 2018, we saw Democratic campaigns, especially in California, harness the power and the growing sophistication of volunteers and activists, who have been actively organizing themselves post-2016 election and The Women’s March.

As we look ahead, 2019 and 2020 campaigns must continue to build upon this energy and not ignore key community “influencers” who want to become embedded within a campaign and who bring with them their own activist network.

Billions of dollars will be spent on political advertisements, but it’s these key people who could be the difference makers in upcoming races. While a record number of women ran for office [in 2018], campaigns are still far from gender parity behind the scenes. It goes without saying that we need more women in significant leadership roles on campaigns.

Emily Gittleman, digital director of 50+1 Strategies:

In 2018, we learned that data is king. The more granular and specific we can get across all aspects of our campaigns, the better. In 2019, data will play an even bigger role; where we get our data and how we use it will only become more and more critical to our success. Hopefully, the companies that help us use the data in really specific and targeted ways will continue to pop up to meet the needs of campaigns of all sizes.

Ian Patrick Hines, founder & CEO of Hines Digital:

In 2019, conservatives are going to have to come to grips with their email deliverability problem. The online fundraising gap, often described as an “ActBlue problem,” can in many cases be traced back to bad (indeed, spammy) email practices: you won’t raise much money if your emails are sent to spam.

The good news is we know what to do: build lists based on clear consent, send emails people want to read, and honor opt-out requests. The question is whether candidates and causes will heed the warning signs and adapt.

Jordan Lieberman, general manager, politics & public affairs at a4 Media:

While we prep for a campaign season that will blow past $2 billion in digital spending, the frenzy will make some just a little too reckless. In the absence of federal regulations, state digital disclosure laws will gain some teeth and someone we know will be the test case.

2019 is the year that OTT becomes a worthwhile investment for most campaigns. The buying tools, targeting capacity, and reach measurement have only now made this workable at scale.

Convergence between digital and traditional television will accelerate and will force consultants to make some tough decisions about their business model before the 2020 cycle.

And I’ll spend the next 365 days explaining the difference between ISP authenticated IP targeting and modeled (junk) IP targeting.

Cheryl Hori, founder of Pacific Campaign House:

If we learned anything from 2018, it’s that your “typical” political ads aren’t going to cut it in 2020. The tried and true, face-to-camera, “I’ve been a Democrat/Republican all my life, but this election I’m voting for [candidate of the opposite party]” is going to take a back seat to more innovative, clever, and authentic creative—especially on digital.

While digital spending didn’t match TV spending in 2018, the number of impressions, video views and engagements were higher than ever. And with so much online clutter (read: subscription services, credit card offers, travel opportunities, etc.), only the boldest creative is going to cut through the noise and connect with everyday voters. That means we can almost certainly expect to see some of the most out-of-the-box creative in 2020 and beyond.

Samantha Reynolds, senior director of digital strategy of Advoc8:

For the Democrats, I think it’s going to be a very busy year as candidates start to announce their intent to run for president and start staffing up. There’s going to be a lot of competition for talent and a lot of opportunity for business.

For the GOP, I think it’s going to be quiet. The Trump reelection campaign will be active and starting to hire, but largely I think it’s going to be a slow year since there aren’t many elections and there will be no presidential primary. If campaigns are smart, they will focus on building infrastructure and fundraising for 2020.

Jeff Roe, founder and principal of Axiom Strategies:

In 2019, the long-awaited Mueller report will finally be concluded. I believe this report may shed light on shady actions by the president’s peripheral characters but will prove no involvement by the president himself or any collusion by the campaign. Nevertheless, liberals will howl for impeachment and force the issue into the forefront of the Democrat Party’s presidential contest.

Opposition to Trump this year will be the political equivalent of opposition to the “Bush War” in ’08. If a Democrat presidential candidate disagrees with impeachment, they won’t make it past the primary. If a candidate jumps on the impeachment bandwagon, they may survive the primary but will lose centrist Democrats and moderates in the general. Either way, I am looking forward to watching the show.

Brian Ross Adams, founder of Trusted Messenger Marketing:

Instagram Stories will be the necessary platform to give voters what they crave: authenticity.  Look for Trump to continue to dominate Twitter, Beto to explode wherever he chooses, Democrats to engage in the ultimate online troll war with each other and continued Russian interference.

Ultimate Prediction: Trump/Pence versus Beto/Harris

Ultimate Winner: Beto/Harris

Check the Irish gambling sites for up to date odds.

Laura Packard, partner at PowerThru Consulting:

We live in a world where the more provocative the content that politicians and campaigns say, the more small dollars they’ll raise. So we’ll see people on all parts of the political spectrum doing their best to have a viral moment, and it will just ramp up through 2019.

Will Ritter, founder of Poolhouse:  
Nothing but immigration and infrastructure gets done. No reasonable primary challenge to Trump will materialize.

I can tell you [the presidential] Dem nom won’t be Warren, Harris or Booker. Their traditional process-y rollouts and balanced, consultant-created talking points are painfully misreading the electorate.

Beto O’Rourke is the guy to beat.

Tom Edmonds, founder of Edmonds Associates:

I predict that Sajid Javid, a Tory and the current Home Secretary, will be the next UK Prime Minister, the nation’s first Muslim to hold the top job. But unlike the current Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who is also a Muslim, Javid will not be “soft” on immigration or “anti- Trump.” Sorry, Boris. 

Justin Wallin, CEO of J. Wallin Opinion Research:

There’s going to be civil war among congressional Democrats. It’s not just progressive versus moderates, you have three factions among Congressional Democrats.

  1. A small number of red state moderate Democrats who are frustrated at watching the Democratic Party embrace socialism.
  2. The Pelosi old guard establishment liberals.
  3. The young far-left progressive socialist activists.

This becomes a big challenge for moderate Democrats who are in swing seats. In California, you have a number of new Democratic members of Congress that won by promising to be an independent voice. Because of California’s top-two election system, you could see challenges not only from strong Republicans but also from the far left.  

The most likely target: Orange County Congressman Harley Rouda. A former registered Republican, Rouda has contributed more than $10,000 to Republican candidates, including a $1,000 check to John Kasich’s failed 2016 presidential campaign. It’s not going to take much for Rouda to face a progressive primary challenger in 2020.

Tracy Dietz, CEO of DonorBureau:

In 2019, the University of North Carolina will win the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, Democrats will impeach Trump, further dividing the nation and setting up an epic win for Republicans in 2020.

James Norton, founder and president of Play-Action Strategies:

1.  Former Vice President Joe Biden will formally enter the 2020 race for president, providing Democrats a comparatively moderate option for a party that is being severely pulled to the left.

2.  At least one major Republican will announce a challenge to President Donald Trump amid strong speculation that he may not run for re-election and a desire to reestablish conservative principles within the GOP.

3.  Cybersecurity breaches will continue to plague the public and private sector with attacks continuing to come from frenemy nation states. Congress and the White House will continue to struggle with establishing a clear policy to stop the bleeding.

4.  The White House and Speaker Pelosi will find resolution on the major Immigration issue DACA, providing millions of illegal immigrants legal status to remain in the United States. Trump will also receive more money for border security priorities.

5.  Speaker Pelosi will successfully manage the liberal wing of her party, allowing for a string of accomplishments in the House of Representatives.

Chris Turner, president and CEO of Stampede Consulting:

GOP smart people will crack the code on reengaging with and appealing to “Whole Foods Republicans,” higher income, college degree’d urban and suburbanites who buy organic, have Instacart deliver groceries at least once per week and pick up ready-made holiday meals at the Amazon-owned grocer.

In other words, voters who may not like the mood of the country, but aren’t down with Dem socialist policies that would turn the U.S.A. into Venezuela. The breakthrough will actually be found in deciphering “who” is delivering our message, “how” it’s delivered and “when” more than what the actual message is.