Bob McDonnell’s Impressive Online Campaign for Virginia Governor

If Creigh Deeds manages to pull off a victory in today’s race for Virginia governor, it won’t be because Republican Bob McDonnell was slack online. In fact, McDonnell’s internet campaign has been impressively comprehensive, meaning that state and local candidates can look to it as a model for applying the lessons of 2008. Let’s look at a few of the critical things he’s done right so far:

1. Website screenshot

McDonnell’s site is excellent from start to finish, with a visual style, clear organization and plenty of ways for supporters to get involved. The site works hard to turn visitors into activists through a prominent signup/toolkit section with clear action links — “get a yard sign” or “attend a fundraiser,” for instance, rather than something vague like “get involved” — while also highlighting recent videos, blog posts, campaign news and the campaign’s social media channels. A couple of other notable features: a find-your-local-volunteer-office page, a virtual phone bank and as election day neared, a Google Maps-based find-your-polling-place application.

2. Google Advertising

McDonnell’s been all over Google advertising for months now; his ads first started appearing here on e.politics back in the Spring. As the general election loomed, he launched a full-on Google saturation campaign, to the despair of those on the Left who noticed how much he’s outspent Deeds online (that last article via Brian DeVine). Most of his ads that I saw focused on list-building, and clearly over the long term — an excellent use of the medium.

3. Ning Network

Analogous to the online toolkit of 2007-2008, Bob McDonnell’s Ning network is a custon social space that serves as a platform for political activism and a way for McDonnell supporters to connect with each other. Impressively, McDonnell’s Ning network has picked up over 2500 members, though much of the actual activity (blog posts, video) seems to be campaign-created.

4. Text Messaging

McDonnell’s website and at least some of his real-world outreach actively promote his SMS text-messaging program — I’ve seen “text xyz to [shortcode]” prominently featured on his yardsigns! The website includes a prominent link to the text signup in its action center, and the site’s general signup collects cell phone numbers alongside email, name and zip. I bet those “vote now” messages are flying around today….

5. Social Networking Outreach

Both the Deeds and McDonnell campaigns have actually emphasized online social networks and Twitter, with Deeds in fact updating his Twitter feed personally with the songs he listens to as he drives across the state! But as the Richmond Times-Dispatch also notes, McDonnell has roughly twice as many followers on most social sites as Deeds, a fact that may reflect the relative enthusiasm of the candidates’ supporters as much it does anything about their strategies.


Of course this is just a drive-by look at McDonnell’s campaign; we haven’t examined email fundraising and mobilization, the details of his text messaging campaign, or anything truly behind-the-scenes such as database-driven voter contact. But it’s obvious from the comprehensiveness of his online presence (developed in conjunction with Patrick Ruffini and Mindy Finn at EngageDC) that he’s been determined not to let opportunities in the online political space pass him by.

A few more related links:


Written by
Colin Delany
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