« EMERGENCY D.C. MOBILIZATION: Stop the Cover-Up and Fire Karl Rove | Main | OH-02: Jean Schmidt Scandal »

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

MT-Sen: Post-Broadcast Campaigning

Posted by Bob Brigham

We've all been there. You're out with some political hacks, drinking accordingly…it is way late and the conversation is focused on campaign strategy. Then some wiseguy says something like, "Instead of locking the candidate in a room for call time, we don't we get him out campaigning and throw a giant concert to raise the money." At this point, you'll know who is the most "experienced" campaigner in the room: the first to slap the wiseguy upside the head. You'll know it is time for bed if the wiseguy responds, "But wait, we could rent the largest venue in the state, get Pearl Jam, fill it with 10,000 people all paying $50 and raise enough money in one night to finance the entire primary campaign."

In the post-broadcast era, the internet allows campaigns the ability to quickly build a movement – from scratch. Instead of wasting the candidates time calling people who were inspired to write a big check for somebody else, a campaign can go out and inspire people. Throwing a Pearl Jam fundraiser actually makes far more sense than dialing for dollars.

Forget what you've been taught, 10,000 people investing fifty bucks is what you need, not 500 people maxing out. The latter will give a campaign twice as much cash, but the former will give a movement an army.

For the life of me, I do not understand why a candidate would settle for running a campaign when they could just as easily organize a movement. Maybe it is habit, or ignorance, or cowardice, but I think it probably has more to do with a lack of imagination of how campaigns are evolving.

We're seeing this play out in Montana's senate primary, with John Morrison's campaign focusing on doing the same-ol' stuff – but better, and Jon Tester's movement focused on inspiring and leveraging at a grand scale. While Morrison works to be the fastest Pony Express rider, Tester is an engineer and the train is leaving the station.

Morrison is going to waste a ton of money, but he can't compete with Tester because Morrison can't scale. By Labor Day, Morrison's dialing discipline will allow him to get money out of a bunch of out-of-state donors. But when Tester gets on stage with Pearl Jam, 7,500 people will be chanting his name. And each will be invested with a $46 donation. For most, it will be their first political donation. Many will register to vote for the first time. And with 9 months until the primary, the leverage will kick in as people go back to their towns after the concert. Mark my words, they're going to come from all over Montana (when I lived in Bozeman, it was commonplace to travel 400 miles round trip to Missoula for a concert).

Morrison's big money can't gloss over the contrast. Morrison's another lawyer, another politician. Montana's Governor Brian Schwietzer says, "Don't dress like a lawyer. Don't talk like a lawyer." Hmmmmm.

Populism is possible. The internet allows candidates to have people-powered campaigns – of the people, for the people. There is no need to settle for "not as bad" candidates when it is possible for "real deal" candidates like Brian Schweitzer and Jon Tester to win.

Jon Tester
Big Ideas in Big Sky Country – Jon Tester's Campaign

Jon Tester (MT-Sen) $

Posted at 03:06 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Technorati


Brilliant as usual.

But if any candidate I'm working for ever reads this, I might go all Donnie Fowler. I can see it now:
"Why should I make another hour of phone calls when you can't even book Pearl Jam. Not even Soundgarden. What do you know about politics anyway?"

Thanks, Bob. Thanks a lot.


Posted by: Frontier PAC [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 13, 2005 04:34 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

If that happens, your response should be, "What the fuck are you doing reading Swing State Project? Get back on the phone."

But seriously, I think there are two main reasons a politician might dread the call room. Some are simply lazy. But some (with really sound political instincts) realize they aren't spending their time in the most effective manner.

I think this plays out from both a communication and fundraising perspective.

In terms of communication, the goal is to communicate. Raising money to buy TV isn't the most effective method of communicating and with tivo and tons of channels, it will be a worthless model in the near future. Cut out the middleman and communicate. And organize people to replace 30 second spots as the conduit.

In terms of fundraising, the limitations of relying upon candidate call time are obvious: it can't scale. Sure it can be refined (have the candidate drink lots of coffee and don't let him use the bathroom -- great trick to get that sense of urgency in the voice), but as a fundraising model, it has served it's purpose and is now somewhat irrelevant and soon to be counter-productive.

Dialing still delivers dollars, but the old rule that a candidate shouldn't do anything a candidate doesn't have to do is something I think we'll see more hacks apply to finance. Let staff call and be able to explain the actual campaigning a candidate is doing instead of making calls. Have a candidate take bold action, actually excite people, and focus on voters instead of donors.

Sooner or later, everyone will take this approach to some extent. Some candidates will realize early adapter benefits and some will lose races by relying upon an outdated theory of the best use of a candidate's time.

Posted by: Bob Brigham [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 13, 2005 05:24 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Bob, I usually enjoy your posts, but I have to respectfully disagree with you on this one. Other than the press generated by this concert, I believe this concert will not prove to be very fruitful. Yes there are round 7000 seats and at $46 that is around $350K. The expenses are going to eat the vast amount of that money. Renting out the Adams Center is very expensive, that is why we are seeing a lot more concerts being held at alternative venues. Some examples of this are the outdoor amphitheatre where Willie Nelson is holding a concert in September or the Wilma Theatre where Ben Harper just held a concert last week. While Pearl Jam is waving its fee, it cannot waive the fees of those that help them. There are still going to be expenses for roadies, security, travel, and promotional expenses. Also the ticket offices in Missoula and on the web, will take a percentage for selling the tickets. Plus, as articles have indicated the FEC regulations on such an event are very comprehensive and specific. Hopefully he can get enough volunteers to work the event, but the amount of people that are going to be needed to make sure that everyone is over 18 and that they have registered is going to be staggering. More than likely he will have to hire an event staff. Then there is amount of man-hours from his campaign staff that will be spent on the event, a staff this not that big. Tester already mentioned it took a month just to get this far; a lot of time is going to go into the logistics and meeting FEC requirements. So the actual monetary gain is going to be nothing like one would initially expect. Now lets discuss “creating a movement”. This concert is going to be filled with people 18-28 years old. This probably the most politically apathetic group a candidate could target. Especially when you are hoping they will get out to vote in the democratic primary during a non-presidential election year. What is the turnout? Around 20% of eligible votes, possibly less? The people at this concert are going for one reason, Pearl Jam. The vast majority probably won’t remember Testers name when they wake up with a hangover the next day. It sounds to me that this concert is more of a desperate gamble. A lot of work and a lot dedication of resources for potentially little gain.

Posted by: Andy_Duphrane [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 14, 2005 02:51 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment