During a speech at Columbia on Tuesday, former Trump aide Matt Braynard spoke about how his data team contributed to one of the most notable political upsets in decades. Columbia University College Republicans hosted Braynard, kicking off their speaker series for this semester.
Only 25 people attended this event, which did not garner a single protester. This was in sharp contrast to CUCR’s events last semester with white nationalist speakers Mike Cernovich and Tommy Robinson, which sparked widespread uproar.
Braynard recounted his time spent as leader of Trump’s data team in the 2016 election before he was laid off in March of that year. He said he focused his efforts on improving voter turnout across Trump’s base, rather than increasing awareness of Trump’s policies and positions. In doing so, he sought to increase the likelihood that those who already supported Trump would get out to vote, rather than to convince undecided voters to pick Trump.
“We already have a candidate that, everytime he tweets or does something, he takes over a 48-hour news cycle. So how do we be relevant? How do we make a difference?” Braynard said.
After leaving the Trump campaign, Braynard started Look Ahead America, a nonprofit devoted to increasing voter turnout, with over 30 other former Trump campaign staffers.
The nonprofit has mostly worked in Virginia, using voter data to target and educate inactive voters they label as “patriotic,” though Braynard also characterized them as conservative during his speech. They convinced such voters to register to vote through phone banking, social media ads, and canvassing efforts.
CUCR’s choices in speakers this semester have been decidedly less controversial than those of last year. This February, CUCR will host former press secretary Anthony Scaramucci, conservative vlogger Candace Owens, and Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to eliminating “coercive union power.”
All the speakers on CUCR’s agenda have pro-Trump leanings, though CUCR president Ari Boosalis stated that he was trying to bring more establishment GOP speakers to campus this semester. When asked by Spectator, Boosalis did not deem this shift toward less inflammatory speakers as intentional, claiming that the current list still fits in with CUCR’s overarching mission.
“Controversy is a subjective word, right? Anthony Scaramucci could be called controversial. Candace Owens could be called controversial,” he said. “I don’t plan events based on controversy, I plan events based on, ‘Are they relevant, what’s the impact that they’re having, and will people come to the event in general?’”