Colin Delany Campaigns, Vendors February 4, 2015

Bush, Christie, Walker Fight for Digital Talent as 2016 Looms


Earlier this week, National Journal’s Scott Bland picked up on a story that relates to several recent trends we’ve been following on Epolitics.com, most notably the shortage of experienced digital staff for 2016. Bland examines the fierce competition among presidential campaigns on the Republican side, which has seen Bush, Christie and Walker wooing the same online consulting firm (IMGE) and another firm (Targeted Victory) considering doing work for more than one Republican hopeful…not exactly a common practice, for obvious reasons. Here’s the issue:

Digital poses the biggest staff problem for campaigns. While the need for sharp digital strategy is hardly a new phenomenon in politics, Republicans still suffer a shortage of quality operatives with major campaign experience, especially compared to Democrats. One Republican who works in the field, who did not want to be named discussing campaigns’ hiring maneuvers, said some presidential pre-campaigns were asking around about digital strategists even before the 2014 election was over.

“There’s a supply-and-demand situation,” the strategist said. Without the right attention to digital detail, candidates could miss out on critical fundraising opportunities and new ways to reach voters, especially those who watch less TV.

Earlier, both on Epolitics.com and in C&E’s Technology Bytes, we’ve noted a potential dearth of digital staffers at all levels — from presidential campaign on down — particularly with independent expenditure groups siphoning talent away from the candidates themselves. Unless campaigns can find a way to clone the relatively small number of experienced staffers between now and next January (unlikely), the only answer is training, such as the program Epolitics.com contributor Dave Leichtman proposed for Democrats.

Or, several campaigns could simply hire the same digital firm, as Bland notes:

Another GOP digital firm, Targeted Victory, is mulling whether to take on multiple Republican presidential clients in 2016. The company, which came in for severe criticism after Mitt Romney’s expensive but failed 2012 presidential campaign, has rebounded and grown considerably since then—enough so that it could devote resources to multiple candidates. Targeted Victory “is in a unique position, and they already have relationships with so many people,” said one Republican consultant.

“With 100 people, we have that ability,” said Zac Moffatt, cofounder of Targeted Victory and the digital director for Romney’s 2012 campaign. “The question is the comfort level of the campaign and the skill set we’re providing. It depends what people mean when they are hiring the firm…. I can envision a scenario where one candidate may use Targeted Victory for online advertising and not for anything else.”

What could possibly go wrong? Other than conflict of interest, diluted resources, etc ad nauseum. But, what a great time to be an experienced digital campaigner! And, what a powerful indicator of the extent to which Republicans have come around to the power of internet politics in a big way. More on that subject soon, with a look at candidate-in-the-making Scott Walker’s digital potential.

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“Scott Walker by Gage Skidmore” by Gage Skidmore. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“Jeb Bush by Gage Skidmore” by Gage Skidmore. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Chris Christie photo courtesy Wikipedia

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