Wow, here’s an interesting political fundraising innovation: donate at least $35 to the Republican National Committee, and they’ll send you your very own Maxine!
How public-television of you guys! Are you offering an RNC tote bag and umbrella next? Seriously, it’s a cute idea, but doesn’t a pink elephant open you up to more than just a few jokes, i.e., the Republicans must be seeing pink elephants if they think they can win in November? Read the RNC email and see what you think.
Update: Hmmmm, this has been the least-read item on e.politics in quite a while. Clearly, nobody else seems to think it’s as funny as I did. Live and learn.
It’s a cliché for a good reason: in politics, what a difference a few days can make. After New Hampshire and Nevada, Hillary Clinton seemed to have stolen Barack Obama’s momentum, and the Clintons were hitting him hard in the South. Now, South Carolina voters have come out for Obama in a big way, and the flood of big Democratic names joining along has culminated in the photo of Obama and Ted Kennedy below:
What an amazing image! It’s hard to think of a more dramatic changing-of-the-guard moment, and the TV types were of course comparing it to the legendary photo of a young Bill Clinton meeting JFK. Now that Obama and JFK’s only surviving brother are all BFF and stuff (that’s Best Friends Forever, mom), what strikes me is how fast Democrats recoiled against the way the Clintons attacked Obama last week.
The reaction was more than a calculated desire not to weaken a possible nominee; it felt far more visceral than that. I think Democrats simply didn’t really want to be BE this kind of party and this kind of people. The Clintons play rough, which may have suited the post-Lee Atwater, 90s era of negative campaigning, but it’s something that most Democrats and plenty of other people are simply sick of, particularly since many of us feel that we’ve been the victims of the Republican version of it since 2001.
Many have criticized Obama for what they see as vague promises of hope, but that’s also what fuels his appeal to people tired of listening to Boomers squabble. Plenty of us are sick of fighting the same old battles over and over again, and by reminding us how unpleasant those old conflicts can be, Bill and Hillary Clinton made one of the most powerful arguments against electing her president. Hillary Clinton may not keep her edge in “superdelegate” endorsements much longer. Update: Kennedy’s already featured in a message to the John Kerry list.
While the rest of the political world has absorbing Obama’s South Carolina victory/Ted Kennedy endorsement two-fer, e.politics has been following a different obsession — I’ve been experimenting with my first open source content management system installation. This weekend, I got Joomla up and running on a test site where I can blow things up with great abandon and see what makes this sucker tick. So far, I’m impressed, since even out of the box it’s more than adequate for the kind of issue advocacy sites I’m starting to build clients these days (bidness has started coming in nicely, a source of some relief here in the e.politics bunker).
The one danger I can see with these template-driven CMS’s is how easy they make it to crank out sites that end up all looking pretty much alike. These days, I seem to see fewer and fewer distinctively designed sites — new sites often have lots of interesting functions and applications built in, but too often their actual appearance feels cookie-cutter. I’m sure that in part it’s just the growing base of experience among web developers: after more than a decade of heavy web use, we have a good idea of what works, and sites tend to look alike for the same reasons that aerodynamic design leads to cars that tend to look alike.
Still, I’d hate to get into the habit of reusing templates over and over for different sites (with relatively minor changes to graphics and colors) without much regard for a site’s actual purpose and audience. And, I’d also hate to see quirky, interesting visual design disappear online. Distinctive layouts can and should coexist with prepackaged technology, but only if we bother to take the time to make it happen.
Political campaigns typically use search advertising primarily for long-term list-building, but with a big chunk of February 5th voters apparently still undecided, shouldn’t targeted search ads be an effective way to reach people who are still making up their minds?
Here’s why: if X percentage of primary voters in a given state haven’t picked a candidate three days out, you can bet that a good chunk of them are naturally going to turn to the internet for information to help make a decision. And since most online quests start at a search engine, search advertising would seem to be a natural way to get to those potential supporters directly and at the moment they’re thinking about voting. Geo-targeting, keyword-targeting and the fact that search ads are pay-per-click makes this strategy cost-attractive — you can concentrate resources on voters in particular states or metropolitan areas, and you only pay when you actually get a voter contact (i.e., when someone clicks).
The good folks at Slate have found a revealing pop culture/political culture connection: by mashing up a clip from the movie Election with footage from the current Democratic race, they find Hillary Clinton’s inner Tracy Flick and capture what it must feel like to have some young upstart come along and steal your moment. Even if you haven’t seen the film, I bet you’ll get the point.
Nice! Thanks to Alicia LaPorte for the suggestion.
Mike Turk has a must-read piece in techPresident and his own site today: with the dream of Thompson presidency only days in its grave, Mike talks about what he saw from the inside of a campaign that rode high in the summer of 2007 and crashed hard later. Some of the problems he talks about will be familiar to most online communicators (see: fear of blog comments, and online strategy as an afterthought), while others may be more specific for the Republican side. Regardless of whether you agree with Mike’s conclusions about the importance of building online community or not, and most people on e.politics probably will, it’s a terrific read. Campaign managers, check out the two questions Mike thinks you MUST ask a potential communications director.
A new site announcement arrived in my inbox today, courtesy of an aggressive Waggener Edstrom outreach campaign (two separate emails came — here and here — plus an extra copy of the second; the PDFs unfortunately don’t fully capture the complexity of the messages’ layout). LeftvsRight.com is a strange mix of targeted political search engine and political entertainment, and as someone who helped start a targeted political search engine in 1999, I feel a unique obligation to take a good look at it. Particularly since a LeftvsRight.com visitor’s first impression is likely going to be to wonder what the hell is going on. (more…)
Apparently, e.politics was featured in a story about the American presidential races on Radio Singapore International last week, but I can’t hear it! I did a short interview with a couple of their reporters a few weeks ago, and I’d love to listen to the results (and so would my mom), but I can’t seem to get the link to play. Any ideas? Here’s the address I was given — even after waiting a while, the sound doesn’t seem to start. If an interview falls on the radio, and no one hears it, did it actually happen?
Ken Mehlman, who helped plan President Bush’s reelection strategy four years ago, said each campaign is trying to isolate demographic groups and geographic areas to target with phone calls and mail.
Think about it: if you’re running out of money, one way to save (besides cutting the press plane) is to microtarget your outreach so that you can get the most out of every dollar. Some candidates are reportedly considering blowing cash on a Superbowl ad, but others will be looking instead at zip code-targeted cable tv buys. What about adding blog ads or geo-targeted search and online display ads? You could do worse than targeting California-based online readers of the major political newspapers, for example.
It’s hard to imagine that campaigns that have raised tens of millions of dollars could be going broke, but that’s apparently one consequence of this tight primary election schedule. Glad that’s working out so well for everybody.
Two articles today examine the reaction to the presidential election of writers in different niches of the online world: Floridians and black bloggers. First, Florida political blogs take on different angles of the primary races, from strategy to policy to matters even more vital:
My point here is that Republicans need to really step up their celebrity endorsements. Democrats get Oprah, we get some guy who starred in one of the worst shows in television history and sells exercise machines on late-night infomercials. You do the math.
E.politics is a big fan of the political and communications potential of targeted blogs such as these, since the good ones can have audiences whose influence outweighs their size. And they may be more open to outreach than the mass political blogs that get most of the attention.
Clinton and Obama Open Silicon Valley Offices. “The new office openings coincided with a cleverly-timed campaign advertisement, which ran this past Sunday during Clinton’s television interview with Tim Russert on NBC’s weekly political talk show Meet The Press. The ad prominently featured Obama’s California headquarters web site address.”
Why campaign coverage sucks. “The current generation of political reporters has based its bid for election-year authority on its horse race and handicapping skills. But reporters actually have no such skills.” Sound familiar?
In the political world, it’s easy to demonize the other side. Those bastards want to abolish the social safety net! Those freaks want to let men marry men! We often forget that, in most cases, the freaks and bastards aren’t being evil but instead sincerely believe that they’re working to make the world a better place.
If you’re involved in politics, regardless of which side you’re on, you likely started doing it because you wanted to advance some noble goal. Of course there are sleazoids out there, and of course humans are very good at rationalizing actions whose results will be bad for the rest of us, but I honestly believe that the majority of people in the political world are acting out of a reasonably sincere desire to improve things. Very few of us are villains in our own stories or our own minds.
With that reminder, let’s take a second to look at one of those moments when a person and his words really did change the world, when someone did succeed in making lives easier and prospects brighter, when someone did help make this often-ugly political process yield to a higher cause. On MLK Day, take a few minutes to watch, to listen and to dream of futures better.