Organizing for America, the arm of the Democratic National Committee has become the full-time political and policy advocacy campaign for the Obama Administration according to a report released by TechPresident’s Ari Melber. Having taken control of the 13 million email addresses acquired through willful engagement in his president campaign, OFA has become the “behind-the-scenes” grassroots voice of the White House. This experiment in grassroots organizing by an Administration enters into a new realm of presidential politics…the jury is still out as to whether or not this is effective or even worth the effort.
“Governing with public approval requires a continuing political campaign.” – Patrick Caddell, pollster for President Jimmy Carter and Democratic strategist. President Franklin D. Roosevelt employed breaking technology, the radio, to convey his message to Americans. By the mid 1950s, half of American households featured a television enabling politics in to the home. In the 1990s, the internet started growing, thanks to Al Gore, and Americans engaged themselves in the digital medium. Now days, we have internet + cell phones + social networks + real-time lifestyles = ALWAYS CONNECTED.
A common theme was the attempt to engage the electorate. It was commonplace for individuals to campaign and lobby their elected officials, but the effort most commonly happened on the local level. As technology progressed, the form of engagement progressed, but now days; this effort is in real time. The Obama White House is utilizing “its technology” like never before to “organize the citizenry With staffed offices established in every state and a talented crew assembled in its headquarters in Washington D.C., the comparisons to other grassroots experiments shows that OFA the most expansive and well-connected form of organizing we have ever seen. With such an expansive effort of coordination between the White House and the DNC, one must inquire as to whether or not this merely a façade for executing a 4-year reelection campaign. Again, Caddell clearly states that governing with public approval, what is needed to win reelection, requires a continual political campaign. Is OFA merely the reelection campaign of Barack Obama? I say yes…look at the other side of the coin.
The Tea Party, I contend a grassroots voice for the right, yet its actions, mainly protests, have been decried by Congress and the Democrats and President Obama has even labeled them “Tea Baggers.” Actually, the Tea Party is more grassroots oriented considering its funding is not attached to one of the major parties. Why the blatant double standard in characterization from the majority in Congress? I have my suspicions, but I willfully digress in order to let you devise your own analysis.
In conclusion, I deem the efforts of OFA as noble in its attempt to engage the general electorate in the policy debate, but I think the Administration is playing the most dangerous of political games in striking a divisive tone against the Tea Party, a grassroots organization as well. If the White House and the DNC continue to fund their national effort under the guise of OFA, then they must accept and positively engage the Tea Party followers to a fact-based policy discussion instead of merely discrediting their efforts. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see if the Obama Administration is able to maintain this support in order to re-activate the base in its most vulnerable time – the 2012 President Election.
Do you think the castigation of the Tea Party by the White House and Congressional Democrats is hypocritical considering the immense resources and coordination with OFA?
The election season is rapidly approaching for Florida voters and already the focus seems to be straying from the August 24, Primary and moving towards the November 2, General Election. Moreover, unless you do not have a television, computer or some handheld device where you get your news, you have read where Gov. Charlie Crist is now trailing former House GOP Speaker Marco Rubio for Florida's coveted US Senate seat that was vacated by Mel Martinez.
Many political professionals and pundits of all stripes have weighed in with opinions of why Gov. Crist is quickly becoming a non-entity or that he is so focused on the next higher office that he cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, from my view I see Gov. Crist no different from when he won the September 5, 2006 primary for Governor. During that campaign, Crist defeated the statewide-established candidate Tom Gallagher and then defeated Tampa Congressman Jim Davis on November 7, 2006.
Based on the issues that Gov. Crist has pushed for and accomplished - restoration of felon rights, gambling compact, paper trail for electronic voting - since his January 2007 swearing-in, it is hard to say that we did not know where he stood on the issues. However, where most have been caught off guard is the fact that those accomplishments and his agenda - climate change, public corruption, spending for environmental conservation - are more in line with general election voters rather than the more ardent conservative Republican primary voters.
To emphasize this point look at his current actions during the Legislative Session in Tallahassee. He vetoed a GOP sponsored election reform bill, which would have allowed legislative leadership to maintain their own political action committees and he vetoed S.B. 6, which would have made sweeping changes to how teachers are hired, evaluated and retained. Lastly, the foreshadowing of possible vetoes related to rate deregulation of property insurance and budget vetoes surely are noted.
All the while, Gov. Crist's primary opponent, Marco Rubio had an eye-opening fundraising quarter of $3.6 million and collected key endorsements from national GOP leaders. What that all equals is the notion that as the GOP establishment tries to close ranks the more it appears to make Gov. Crist look as an outsider.
An outsider? One may ask how.
Gov. Crist's reasoning for vetoing SB 6 and now his interest in running as No Party Affiliation both brought one common comment, "I'm listening to the people.” Those are four keywords, and the most important - people. Since the day that Gov. Crist was elected to the state Senate in 1992 by defeating Democrat incumbent Helen Gordon Davis, he has always been looking out for the people. While it may be a common advertising slogan for attorney John Morgan, it has been a mainstay for Gov. Crist. Again, he is not addressing primary voters but general election voters.
What this all boils down to, when you consider the issues and agenda that he has pushed during his elected career as a state Senator, Education Commissioner, Attorney General and now as Governor, his ability to go along and get along with Democrats and now taking his own party to the woodshed on popular issues, he's making himself out to be the outsider and who are the voters angry today?
It’s not partisan, but its directed at incumbents and the more he can frame himself as the solution and blame the insiders in Tallahassee and Washington as the problem, then you have a competitive 2010 General Election where a NPA can win, especially if your name is Charlie Crist.
What does all this mean? Does it give us a glimpse into the 2012 Republican Presidential Primary? Does Sarah Palin’s popularity take a back seat at the ballot box? Will Romney be our nominee? Maybe. The Politico suggested perhaps Palin fans are more practical when it come to their presidential picks (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0410/35617.html). But more importantly, it means when you are running for office or running a campaign, you better be organized to win straw polls where you play. For the SRLC, Ron Paul’s group bought hundreds of tickets for his supporters and “Evangelicals for Mitt” also purchased tickets and encouraged Romney supporters to attend and, more importantly, vote. Palin and Gingrich did not seem to have any formal organization working the grassroots for them.
Straw polls can be a real thorn in the side of campaigns. Most will tell you they don’t care, that the results don’t matter. But the second they win one, they are quick to tout that win and make the case from it as to why they are gaining momentum. Winning straw polls should be as much a part of your grassroots campaign strategy as knocking on doors and making phone calls. It’s also a great test of the strength of your organization. Know when and where the critical ones are being held, put them on your calendar and organize your supporters to turn out and vote!
Don’t believe they work? Ask any underdog who has worked the grassroots community hard to gain ground. Ask Marco Rubio. A year ago no one thought he had a chance at beating the campaign-pro Charlie Crist in the race for Florida’s US Senate seat. But Rubio was determined. He visited every county, spoke at every neighborhood bbq and played to win in every straw poll possible. Week after week the announcements on his straw poll success were announced. Crist downplayed them and Rubio continued to gain attention and popularity. Now, there have been many other factors contributing to the Rubio rise and Crist collapse but those straw poll wins were an important early momentum builder for Rubio.
So, before quickly writing off the next straw poll, give it some extra thought and consider whether the reward may outweigh the risk for your campaign.
If you had attended the SRLC, who would your pick for 2012 have been? Romney, Paul, Palin, Gingrich, someone else?
The 2010 mid-term election cycle just happens to be ever more important this time around because of the redistricting implications. Every ten years, as mandated by the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Census Bureau embarks on the tedious task of counting all inhabitants of the United States. This process is important to equalizing the population of districts in order to equally distribute funds for essentially services and representation in government.
Current polls indicate that a change is coming. With Congress experiencing a 74% disapproval rating and Democrats falling behind Republicans by 2.8% in a generic ballot, Democratic incumbents, especially in “conservative” districts should be very fearful. On the heels of the controversial health care reform legislation votes and the looming legislative fights over the next Supreme Court nominee, the Cap & Trade legislation, financial reform and a potential bout on immigration reform, President Obama will not be able to provide the political cover that many Democrats need from him. With his approval rating hovering around 46% and a disapproval rating of 46%, connections with President Obama might haunt some Democrats.
2010 might become one of the most important midterm election cycles in our lifetime given the divisive and engaged nature of the electorate. How do you see the 2010 midterm election cycles shaping up? Will the Democrats lose their majority? Alternatively, will Republicans botch this opportunity to gain seats?
Within hours ofNancy Pelosi proclaiming, “After a year of debate and hearing the calls of millions of Americans we have come to this historic moment. Today we have the opportunity to complete the great unfinished business of our society and pass health insurance reform for all Americans that is a right and not a privilege.”
TheRepublican National Committeelaunched a web site called “FirePelosi.com” aimed at raising money to campaign against 40 House Democrats. The 40-hour fundraising campaign (recently extended for 24 hours due to the initial success) has raised $1,297,597. This fundraising effort underscores the Speaker‘s falteringapproval ratings.
What is truly remarkable about this effort is that the Republicans are showing their new media expertise. If we reflect on the last year and half, the campaigns of Virginia’s GovernorBob McDonnell, New Jersey’s GovernorChris Christieand Massachusetts’ SenatorScott Brownutilized the new media tools and fundraising efforts revolutionized by the campaign of President Barack Obama. The leveling of this new technological playing field means that 2010 will be very interesting.
"Chalk Board" Humor
Perhaps we are about a week late touching on this topic, but in case, you have not seen this clever idea fromMoveOn.org. Glenn Beckhas become somewhat of a polarizing figure in the political debate in America, especially on the left side of the aisle. Therefore, the MoveOn.org crowd in cahoots withBrave New FilmsandSEIUhas created a personalized web video that puts your name on the infamousBeck “Chalk Board.”(Click the previous link for the application) The site also posts automatically to your Facebook account if you choose. Regardless of you political leaning, it is a humorous application.
When it comes to passing (or maybe killing) an issue in the legislative process, the first thing that comes to mind is to hire a lobbyist(s) to pursue the issue. But often times those wanting to pass or kill an issue forget who was responsible for electing the legislators that are casting the votes in committee or on final passage. Who am I talking about? The voters/constituents. And they aren't necessarily for hire or even in the halls of the state Capitol. A sound strategy will include the use of lobbyists, strategic communications and media, but a key ingredient to tie it all together is the use of good, old fashioned grassroots.
Most everyone is familar with the use of a lobbyist. They are the experts in the halls of most Capitals. Some might have served in the legislature which they now lobby. Others come from the ranks of professional staff. And then there are those that are experts in a particular subject area. When a lobbyist is hired, you are buying access to their rolodex and expertise. Their insider knowledge and ability to move the ball is critical to a clients needs by knowing the pitifalls and history of an issue. Access to Leadership, Committee Chairs and top staff comes with the territory, but what a insider might not be able to bring to the table is the ability to move constituents.
When most think about grassroots and grasstops, the first thing that comes to mind is a candidate campaign. But just like a candidate works local groups and individuals for support on election day, the same methods can be true for influencing issues. While the lobbyist has the activity covered in the state Capital, the coordination of a grassroots and grasstops campaign back in the legislative districts can solidify the passage or defeat of an issue. By targeting key constituents and supporters, you help persuade the actions of that hometown Legislator. It is one thing to tell a hired gun that they support or oppose an issue, but when a Legislator begins to get communications from folks in their backyard - now you have their undivided attention.
So the next time an issue goes to committee or for floor action, take an active approach by identifying key constituents and activate a grassroots campaign. Do you have the tools to conduct a grassroots campaign as part of your strategy to pass or defeat an issue?
The Republican contest for US Senate in Florida is turning into one dirty (er, hairy) war. With a little more than 5 months left until the primary, the attacks are already flying between the Crist and Rubio camps on a daily basis. Last night on Greta Van Susteren’s show, Charlie Crist accused Marco Rubio of being a back waxer and implied that his own $11 haircut makes him a fiscal conservative.
No doubt about it, Charlie Crist has been caught off guard by Rubio’s early rise to front-runner status and is looking a little desperate. Rubio has taken full advantage of Crist’s moderate leadership, most notably his embrace (literally) of Obama’s stimulus bill.
Crist had a tough week. His final State of the State address received only a lukewarm response by Republican legislators, often getting the most applause and praise from the Democrats. This weekend the NY Times called Crist’s plan to save the Everglades “on track to rescue the fortunes of United States Sugar” and Jeb Bush said “there has been a replacement of science based environmental policy for photo-op environmental policy.” Finally, just before his odd charges on Van Susteren’s show, Senator John Cornyn, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee who last summer made a controversial decision to endorse Crist in the primary, told reporters that Crist “seemed like the ideal candidate” because of his fundraising abilities, but “This had nothing to do with Marco Rubio, whom I subsequently met and have a lot of respect for.”
On the other hand, Rubio has risen to the top faster than anticipated and it’s not yet clear if he’s ready to handle the scrutiny that comes with front runner status. Regardless of how the private American Express bills from the Republican Party of Florida were leaked, he was unprepared, at one point claiming “There was no formal process provided by the party regarding personal charges.” One would think in his position, a formal process wouldn’t be necessary to differentiate personal versus business charges. It also revealed he double billed taxpayers and the Republican Party for not one, but eight plane tickets during his tenure as Speaker of the House. He is repaying those costs but it makes you wonder what if those documents had not been released and gives voters the uneasy sense that he’s just like all the rest.
The polls don’t look good for Crist but don’t underestimate him. He is a fighter and a veteran campaigner. This race is certain to tighten up once again. One thing is for sure, this will all make for some interesting political mail and tv in the coming months!
My advice to all candidates and politicians alike is this. If you govern and lead from a base of solid values and policies, even when it’s not popular or politically expedient, you will never have a problem defending your decisions later. Know who you are before trying to sell it to someone else.
By now, we have all heard of the Tea Party movement. I like to believe the Tea Party movement is an assortment of Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and Independents with one binding mentality– the government no longer represents them or their interest.
President Abraham Lincoln once proclaimed, “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.”
The peaceful gatherings and raising of voices this summer helped slow down the health care reform process. This collection of in-tune political participants became a force to be reckon with, but the question is – how much of a force?
Politico ran an article this weekend titled, “Tea party candidates falling short.” The underlying question posed in the article was “can an organic and fledgling movement that lacks the institutional grounding and top down organizational strength of either major political party transfer protest-oriented grass-roots energy into tangible success at the polls.”
Outside of the snarky tone of the post by Alex Isenstadt, I think Alex misses the accomplishments of the Tea Party thus far. They are simply raising the bar of discourse in this country. They are challenging Republicans to re-discover their conservative roots or face a tough primary. They are forcing transparency and openness in a federal government controlled by one party. They are making politicians answer their questions; otherwise face a potential public relations snafu.
Although, the Tea Party might not have electoral success this year – given the two-party system, they are steps ahead any other recent third party movement in this country. Just think about how many timesRalph Naderhas been on the ballot.
As this contentious 2010 election cycle moves forward, it will be very interesting to see the impact made by the Tea Party.
What sort of impact do you see the Tea Party having in 2010?
If you think about it, it’s pretty amazing what Texas Governor Perry did to win the Republican primary outright this past Tuesday. With Senator Kaye Bailey Hutchinson, a well-known and fairly popular sitting United States Senator and Debra Medina, the Libertarian candidate in the race, the conventional wisdom was that no one would get the 50% plus one to avoid a run-off.
Last week, Matt Bales, Cornerstone’s New Media and Political Director, blogged about Governor Rick Perry’s social media prowess ---which was indeed a significant part of his campaign. And while I think the good governor did some things online to help win; it was his message that won the day. (It’s always the message by the way).
Governor Perry‘s message zeroed in on jobs and the economy. He artfully relayed to voters that, under his leadership, Texas has billions in the bank, has gained jobs this year (while most states have no money in the bank, and have lost jobs this year). He added icing on the cake with an anti-Washington sentiment which everyone responds well to these days. Put it all together, and there was something for every Texas Republican primary voter---from the most conservative to the moderate. For example, here’s an add TV ad he ran.
What Perry did online, along with other online trailblazers like Governor McDonnell in Virginia and Senator Brown of Massachusetts, is impressive and part of the on-going evolution of the modern day campaign. But like Brown and McDonnell, Rick Perry had a good message. The point is, there simply is not enough online or offline tools and tactics to make up for a bad message (or a poor candidate). It’s the fundamental part of a campaign that will never change.
We work hard with all our clients---candidate, ballot or corporate---to make sure they have a solid message. We spend a lot of time and effort crafting the message. Having a solid message that resonates is the foundation from which every successful campaign is built.
Governor Rick Perry’s Get-Out-The-Vote effort utilized every new media tool, even Craigslist. Conservative activist Debra Medina dutifully retweeted every kind word, reiterating her ability to listen to the voters. The Texas Primary reflects the inclusion of new media tools as a staple in campaign strategy.
These new media technologies are inexpensive and quick and allow campaigns to reach a far greater number of in-tune voters in near real-time. Campaigns are adjusting to the ability to talk to a voter 5 to 10 times a day as compared to the single touch point of older outreach tools.
As technology advances and society turn to their cell phones and the internet for their information, campaigns must strongly consider the inclusion of social media into their budgets. This is an easy way to great a rewarding bang for your buck.
In contrast, it is imperative to note that direct mail, telephone calls, radio and TV ads and other traditional campaign tools will continue to reign. Not all voters have immersed themselves in this technological and societal shift, but the number is rapidly growing.
What is your new media strategy for 2010? How much of your budget are you putting into this technological shift?