Sarah Lai Stirland continues her excellent coverage on the online component of the 2008 election with a profile of homeschooled evangelical twins who are key to Mike Huckabee’s online support and its conversion into offline action. We’ve already heard about Huckabee’s powerful email list; in this article, Stirland paints a detailed portrait of more of the candidate’s online grassroots mobilization, which may be critical to the success of his underfunded campaign. Extensive excerpts are below, but I recommend checking out the entire article.
The 19-year-old twins are the co-founders, along with 62-year-old Kentucky volunteer Bill Goins, of Hucksarmy.com, an until-recently under-the-radar national grassroots effort that is growing into a powerful component of Huckabee’s support network. It was an e-mail blast from the twins and their volunteer colleagues that won Huckabee the endorsement of roundhouse-kicking GOP celeb Chuck Norris — and the teen activists are building a highly organized national army of ground troops to support their candidate.
The effort could turn out to be crucial for Huckabee’s campaign as it expands its territory; it hasn’t had the finances to build its own official campaign infrastructure throughout the 24 states holding primaries on Feb. 5. Hucks Army is also notable for the demographic of its leaders, who can speak the language of a voting block crucial to their candidate. Young voters turned out in record numbers in both Iowa and New Hampshire. More important for Huckabee, who won his party’s nomination caucus in Iowa, was that 60 percent of the Republicans who turned up to caucus were evangelicals. South Carolina is also expected to be a bonanza state for the candidate because of its evangelical population.
Hucksarmy.com uses Meetup to organize group meetings, but that’s where the resemblance to 2004’s coffee-and-croissants netroots ends. The Harris brothers and their campaign managers are building a national team with specific responsibilities. For example, there’s a point person for almost all 50 states, and special “liaisons” on each of the popular social-networking sites. The twins and their 28-year-old volunteer campaign manager, Jimmy Morris, who lives in the small town of Joplin, Missouri, meet nightly via conference call to strategize and to share ideas that have bubbled up through regional Meetup groups during the day.
The site is also a nerve center through which resources and ideas can flow almost instantaneously. A last-minute Monday rally for Mike Huckabee in Warren, Michigan, for example, was scheduled on Sunday night. Jeffrey Quesnelle, who heads the Michigan battalion of Hucks Army, sent an e-mail out to 200 members, and some 500 people showed up to meet the candidate, he says.
Fascinating stuff and something other campaigns can learn from.