Tech Wars: Rand Paul Digital Strategist Trolls Team Rubio After Website Crashes

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) smiles as he arrives for a private reception for Britain’s Prince Charles at the British Ambassador's Residence on Wednesday, March 18, 2015 in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

As Sen. Marco Rubio announced his run for president last night — asking voters to visit — his digital team was frantically trying to keep the website up.

In the tech world, it’s a critical mistake, calling into question the viability of a candidate’s digital strategy, especially for a candidate who claims to be running a campaign for the future.

The digital train wreck was too much for Rand Paul’s digital strategist to resist, tweeting out a screenshot of the website failure.

He later retweeted an IJReview article highlighting the website’s failure.

After the speech began, Harris tweeted a wincing emoticon as the website continued to demonstrate widespread failures.

After the speech was over, Harris tweeted out additional screenshots of errors on Rubio’s website, after it was restored.

Harris also gleefully tweeted out his “biased ranking” of digital rollouts, suggesting that even Hillary Clinton’s launch was much better than Rubio’s.

Harris’ trolling was too much for Wesley Donehue, a member of the digital media company Push Digital, which was hired to handle Rubio’s roll out.

“It’s so unlike Vincent Harris to self promote and put himself over his candidates,” he tweeted.

He also issued an “oops” statement on Twitter in response to some critics, admitting the tech failure.

“I’ve never seen so much traffic hit a website all at one time,” he said. “I didn’t realize how inspiring @marcorubio’s speech was going to be #oops.”

Donehue also responded to a number of users on Twitter who raised concern over the website crash.

“Any tech company running a presidential candidate website that doesn’t work perfectly post-announcement should never get another job again,” noted Twitter user Josh Jordan.

“I don’t like to redirect blame but the server company crapped the bed,” Donehue said, responding to the criticism.

The Push Digital Twitter account responded to Ace Of Spades blogger John Ekdahl, admitting they had failed.

“It was us. Server couldn’t handle the 50k visitors,” they admitted, pointing out that although they were “100% sure it was OK” they “screwed up.”

Later, Donehue tweeted a Hill story about Paul and Cruz’s websites for failing to match the security thresholds set by Rubio and Clinton’s website and registering the domain names through

Just like the tech world in Silicon Valley, the political tech world is frequently marked by subtle or not-so-subtle efforts to highlight their success and point out the failures of their competitors.

Both Donehue and Harris frequently comment to the media on political technology and the pained effort by Republicans to keep up with Democrats on the battleground. Last October, Donehue lamented the “massive talent gap” in the Republican party, as their stars were planning presidential runs. “Half those campaigns will have digital staff that don’t know what the hell they’re doing. They’ll end up with some dude who plays on Facebook all day, which somehow makes him a digital expert,” he explained to Politico.

Harris, the strategist hailed as the “man who invented the Republican Internet” by Bloomberg Politics, made a splash after he was hired away from Sen. Ted Cruz’s digital team to work for Paul.

Aside from Cruz, Harris worked for Sen. Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and even did some consulting work for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election campaign.

Privately, Harris is loathed by some in the small world of the Republican tech community for frequently smack-talking other digital strategy professionals.

After Romney’s 2012 failure, Harris described the campaign digital team as “a very insular, closed operation,” symbolizing the “old guard” in Republican politics.

Donehue has consulted for Romney in the past, and recently did work for successful campaigns like Sen. Tom Cotton in Arkansas and Sen. David Perdue.

Donehue declined a request for comment from Breitbart News; Harris did not respond.

In a recent article, Donehue suggested that opposing campaigns and the media put too much emphasis on digital staffers and their social media activity.

“Literally, no voter cares what some random staffer once put on social media,” Donehue said in an article for writer Scott Conroy. “The only people who care are opposing staffers with an over-inflated sense of worth.”

Hours after their dustup on Twitter, however, Harris tweeted out some advice for digital media companies and their candidates.

“Candidates, media, should base digital success not on vanity metrics, sentiment wizardry, or claims or advanced modeling, but on innovation, online organizing, supporter engagement, and basics like working websites and fully funded search campaigns,” he wrote.