This recent Politico article discusses the digital divide between Republicans and Democrats in the 2012 election.
Republicans are running a 1.0 digital ground game operation in a 3.0 world — and they know it.
At their recent leadership retreat, Chairman Reince Priebus and others sounded the bell for closing the vast technological divide that made all the difference for Democrats in getting out the votelast fall in numbers that stunned the pundit class.
“Let’s host Skype-based training sessions and Google hangouts on campaign strategy, fundraising, door-to-door advocacy, and digital tools,” Priebus urged at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in Charlotte, N.C. “We need to give the next generation of organizers access to the brightest experts.”
He went on: “And in the digital space, we don’t want just to keep up. We want to seize the lead.”
Of course Republicans need to be reaching out to voters on multiple platforms, but I don’t think 2012 losses can be attributed to losing voters who only engaged in political activism on Skype or on Google hangouts. Blaming lack of digital strategy strikes me as a lazy, consultant-driven excuse.
The article also discusses how well the Democrats gathered data on potential voters.
The DNC’s system, known as the Voter Activation Network is a mammoth, ongoing database that has been tracking the interests, voting histories, family circumstances and much more on more than 150 million voters since 2006. That’s when then-DNC Chairman Howard Dean mandated that every state-level Democratic unit contribute to and have access to the same system, developing a powerful weapon that the GOP simply won’t match in the near term.
I think the Democrats’ ability to devise messages (many of them untrue) to those specific groups and use their cohorts in the media to echo their talking points was a bigger factor than devices and tools they used to collect the data.
By 2014 and 2016 I hope we’re using all the digital tools available to us, but something tells me if Republicans are talking Google and Skype now, Democrats are already on to something else. I think the lesson is it’s about connecting with voters with a message. It doesn’t matter if that’s on an iPad, on Twitter, in a Google hangout, or with a handshake.