Colin Delany January 7, 2008

Glimpsing Obama’s Integrated Online/Offline Campaign; Ron Paul’s Online Donors Fund Offline Organizing

Two recent stories by The Post’s Jose Antonio Vargas illuminate the vital connection between online and offline organizing. The first, written last week with Peter Slevin, focuses on voter turnout operations in Iowa and opens with this nugget about the Obama campaign:

In Sen. Barack Obama’s Iowa headquarters, young staff members sit at computers, analyzing online voter data and targeting potential backers. They zip one e-mail to an undecided voter and zap a different message to a firm supporter.

Depending on the voter, they follow with Facebook reminders, telephone calls, text messages and, most important, house visits.


Integrating online and offline organizing? Crazy talk! Deciding on which communications channel to reach based on a supporter’s preferences? Unthinkable! The article goes on to detail some ways in which the campaign has learned from Howard Dean’s failure to convert online support into offline activity:

“We don’t think we could be any more different than the Dean campaign,” said Hildebrand, a veteran political strategist. “We get everyone who signs up with us online to get involved in person. It’s not just a computer-to-computer relationship — it’s a person-to-person relationship.

You’ve got to wonder how much this true web-savviness (i.e., using the internet as an integrated part of the campaign rather than as a standalone channel) played into his historic turnout of the youth vote. (Update: See Sarah Lai Stirland’s Threat Level piece on the Iowa vote, which examines Facebook-driven young-voter organizing, again with an offline twist.) Besides Obama’s online organizing efforts, the article also looks at a Google Ad campaign run by Emily’s List in favor of Hillary Clinton and using search terms that didn’t always involve politics.

Next, Vargas posted a Ron Paul-related item in The Trail yesterday that’s gotten noticed because it leads with the candidate’s statement that he has no intention of making a third-party run if he loses the Republican nomination (essentially the same thing he said to Russert, BTW). For our purposes here, though, the important part comes later, when Vargas lays out some of the ways that Paul’s campaign is using the $30 million he’s raised so far, 85% of which has come online:

The money has allowed him to greatly expand his field staff. He had 10 full-time staffers in Iowa and has nine here in New Hampshire. Jesse Benton, his spokesman, said the campaign has aired 10 radio ads. In addition, it has run six TV commercials in the Granite State, spending about $1.5 million. Looking ahead, the campaign has three offices and nine full-time staffers in South Carolina and recently hired its third staffer in California.

Can Ron Paul’s support spread beyond his hard base of enthusiasts? With ‘net-funded on-the-ground resources like these, it won’t be for lack of trying.

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