Patrick Ruffini published a fascinating analysis of the Republican presidential campaigns’ online staffing patterns on techPresident earlier today, basing his figures on Shira Toeplitz’s breakdown of the candidates’ online spending (a nice who’s-working-for-whom reference as well). Patrick finds that:
While Republicans and Democrats are spending almost equally on their Web efforts, Democrats are spending dramatically more on in-house staff. Approximately 36% of the Democrats’ Web budgets are dedicated to staff, while less than 8% of the Republican budgets are. Overall, the Democratic candidates have 39 people working in the Web departments while Republicans have 18, spread over 9 active candidates. That works out to an average of 5.6 staffers per candidate on the Democrat side, and just 2 on the Republican side, encompassing both frontrunners and also-rans.
Most disturbingly, it shows that we are not investing in the human capital needed to drive our online efforts forward. If we can’t innovate in a competitive primary environment, when can we innovate? The Democratic nominee will have access to nearly 40 bright minds who have direct Presidential campaign experience, and the Republican nominee will have access to less than half that.
Thinking ahead past 2008, this staffing inequity could have serious long-term effects. When you look at the progressive/Dem online politics world, veterans of the 2004 Dean and Kerry campaigns are hard to miss. Joe Trippi, of course, but also Zephyr Teachout, Zack Exley and the Blue State Digital folks. Ditto for EchoDitto, and I’m sure for quite a few others. These people are helping campaigns NOW and also training a whole new cohort of online activists for 2010, 2012 and beyond. Each skilled web person has a potential multiplier effect, as he or she moves on to other campaigns or into the advocacy world.
The Republicans started this cycle behind the Democrats in overall online experience (with notable exceptions like Patrick, David All, Matt Turk and Mindy Finn), and if senatorial and congressional races follow the presidential campaigns’ current pattern, that imbalance seems likely to persist for years to come. Consultants can help, but it’s in their interest to hoard rather than to spread knowledge. Skills multiply best when widely distributed — wildfires spread faster if they start from more than one spark.