The Washington Post has an excellent article analyzing how Lamont pulled it off: moving from essentially no name recognition in March to victory yesterday. Some takeaways for online political professionals which apply both to electoral and advocacy campaigns:
- Integrate or die! Online methods work best when integrated with offline advocacy. As Shailagh Murray wrote in the Post, “the 52-year-old upstart from Greenwich became a political giant-killer by blending both new- and old-style politics. He tapped the Net roots to promote his cause but the grass roots to win over voters.”
Yes, progressive bloggers were vital for getting Lamont attention across the country and no doubt helped bring national news coverage and out-of-state donations, but the campaign itself stayed local: “focused on building a file of likely voters, organizing a turnout effort and circulating Lamont at events, including small gatherings in living rooms.” His seduction of a third of delegates to the state Democratic convention (when he only needed 10% to get on the ballot) had everything to do with local politics and local influentials.
- Let’s turn it around, though, and note that those very same blogs WERE very effective at raising Lamont’s national status. As he rose in the polls, they focused attention on his candidacy and probably helped create a media feedback loop media coverage created a sense that he had a chance, which helped local voters feel comfortable supporting him, which raised him in the polls and helped generate more media coverage, etc. And though he ponied up more than half of the campaign’s $4 million budget himself, those outside donations cannot have hurt.
- Social media have moved beyond blogs. Lamont’s campaign did an excellent job integrating supporter-generated content, which helps to motivate volunteers and wed them to the campaign.
- All of this is for naught if the moment isn’t right. Politics is still politics without the right candidate or the right issue at the right time, you don’t have a campaign. Lamont tapped into Connecticut Democrats’ dissatisfaction with Lieberman and gave it a channel, and Lieberman did not help at all when he decided to run as an independent if he lost the primary. Politics is still personal AND local, and the ‘net doesn’t change that (yet).
Now, the REAL fun begins let’s see what happens in the general.