Thursday, October 11, 2007

Campaign Internet Operations

I've got a LOT of stuff I need to post about Tim Walberg and the 7th District, especially some voting record updates... But first, I want to write something that'll be a little more fun.

Jerome Armstrong, for the New Politics Institute, has written a strategy memo for political campaigns going into 2008 on how to interact with progressive blogs. As a progressive blogger, obviously this is a big thing for me, and I'd really recommend any candidate go and read the whole thing (.pdf here).

This really is a must-read for anyone interested in running an effective, modern campaign. I'm not just trying to make myself sound important. Blogs are a key part of engaging activists and informing voters.

At the end of the document, there's a set of six recommendations for candidates, all of which are great things to implement. I'd like to take this opportunity to take a look at the internet side of the Renier, Schauer, and Walberg campaigns. I'm not saying anyone is better or worse than anyone else. Rather, I'd like to take a moment to briefly point out what each candidate has done to use the internet and their relationship with bloggers.

1. Take the first step with outreach to local bloggers:

This is something that should already have been done, but it’s never too late start. If the relationship doesn’t exist, reach out today. Rather than focusing on national bloggers, focus on those within your state first, as many of the national bloggers look to the state-based blogs for identifying which races to target as highly competitive. Have the leaders of your organization or campaign touch base with local bloggers,. Set up a conference call with local bloggers asking for feedback, encouraging coordination, and providing updates.

Renier: I started this blog in August of 2006, just as the general election campaign for the 7th District was starting. I followed the Renier campaign, as did diarists on Michigan Liberal. She even did an exclusive interview with Nirmal for his blog Who Got The Gravy (prior to Nirmal joining Walberg Watch). However, there was no coherent attempt to reach out to bloggers. She didn't seek me out (though, by the end of the campaign, we had been in contact), and she didn't seek out other bloggers, to my knowledge.

Going into 2008, Renier has yet to form much of a campaign, rejecting the idea of raising large amounts of cash and relying on a low-budget, grassroots model, like her previous campaign. Still, she and I have exchanged some e-mails, and I hope that she'll keep Walberg Watch and other Michigan blogs in the loop as she goes forward with her campaign.

Schauer: Mark Schauer has been great on this, even before he decided to run for Congress, with an account at Michigan Liberal and regular outreach efforts by the Senate caucus to Michigan bloggers.

When he first expressed an interest in running, I sent off an e-mail to his office, just to see what might happen. The next day, I got a phone call from his chief of staff, Ken Brock. When Senator Schauer announced, Ken Brock called me again to make sure I had heard the news, and we set up a way for Schauer to post something on Walberg Watch explaining his decision. Since then, I've had a chance to speak with the senator and the campaign regularly sends me press releases.

That's basically the best local blog outreach you could imagine. They've taken me seriously, shared information with me, and not cut me off when I've posted (or others have posted) negative items about the campaign or those involved. Schauer's campaign has been great on this.

(It's worth noting that the Nacht and Berryman campaigns were pretty good, too, but as they've withdrawn, I don't want to spend too much time on them.)

Walberg: Obviously, Congressman Walberg hasn't been all that interested in working with Walberg Watch (though, I have exchanged a few e-mails with his office). Currently, there's no corresponding pro-Walberg or anti-Schauer 7th District blog, nor have I seen the congressman reach out to Right Michigan or other conservative Michigan bloggers.

However, Walberg has had a pretty strong presence elsewhere in the conservative blogosphere. He's had guest posts on and Human Events, both conservative websites, and has posted his views on the Hill Blog for members of Congress. So, there's been an outreach effort of some sort.

2. Have a daily-updated website to engage and empower the bloggers:

If you are not putting out timely everyday information, then people who want to get involved are coming to the website and leaving empty-handed. The format is not as important as the information. Email your entire list, tell them to visit the website everyday for the latest news and ways that they can help. Event information, the latest news, resources to counter the opposition, all of this is important information to your supporters and bloggers. It keeps them stay engaged and fired up, willing to go the extra step in their volunteer activities. Your website should be an open door for volunteers and the blogs to engage with you.

Renier: Sharon Renier's website was updated from time to time in 2006, and more frequently as it got closer to the election (mostly for major items, like her television ad, the fake robocalls, etc.). However, for most of the fall, her website was mostly static, and has not changed at all since election day of 2006.

Schauer: Mark Schauer's website is still in the "under construction" phase, and can't be judged quite yet. However, from what I remember of his 2006 Michigan Senate re-election page, it was fairly static, updated even less than the Renier website, as is his official Senate website. As Minority Leader, one can also look at the Democratic caucus website, which is regularly updated with lots of great content. Now, it's tough to tell how much of that is the work of Schauer's staff, but if he can replicate it in his campaign website, it would be a smart move.

Walberg: Tim Walberg's website didn't change much at all during the 2006 campaign. Like Renier, it hadn't changed since the 2006 election for several months, only recently changing to its current version.

However, Walberg also has his official House website. It's regularly updated with statements and press releases, which is good, and Walberg even has a blog, which is occasionally updated and has some actual content.

3. Be on the blogs and advertise on the blogs:

Organizations and campaigns often have news, such as a poll or new campaign material, that will be of interest to your supporters. But it’s not enough to just put it on your website. You should also get it on the blogs. You can buy advertising on smaller local blogs for $100 or less per month, so there is no reason not to take advantage of this valuable resource. Having an ad on the blogs is also a good way to make your cause or campaign known to the blogger community. You can change any ads on blogads with your latest push too. Go to and you will be able to search by state to find the blogs near you.

None of the three campaigns I'm looking at have ever purchased ads on blogs, as far as I know. However, if any campaign is interested in advertising on Michigan blogs, information for Michigan Liberal is available here, and information for Blogging for Michigan is here.

There's really no mechanism for advertising on Walberg Watch, as I really don't want to deal with the hassle it would entail, and I'm certainly not looking to profit off of this blog. Still, if someone really wants to pay me to stick up a banner or something, contact me and we'll talk about it. But I don't think it'd be worth it.

4. Get your opposition research onto the blogs:

Still got that dirt on your opponent that nobody knows? It’s useless if you don’t get it out to the people who make news. You probably have something a local blogger could use, but you’ll never know if you don’t get that info out of its manila folder and onto the web. By now, you ought to have local online allies that you can trust enough to give the scoop. Got a story that has a good hook? Feed it to the bloggers. Short stories that are personalized have the best chance at being posted. If the blogs cover it, then go to the more traditional news outlets, and press them to cover the story as well.

Renier: In the 2006 election, Sharon Renier posted a document on her website detailing Tim Walberg's voting record in the state House, which was about the sum of their opposition research. While the campaign didn't contact Walberg Watch about it, I did find it on my own, and posted most of it over the course of a month or so.

Schauer: I don't know what kind of opposition research the Schauer campaign has done yet, but I know I haven't seen any of it on this or other blogs. However, as noted above, they've been great about sending press releases and other information they want to get out there, which is a good sign for the future.

Walberg: I don't know what kind of opposition research the Walberg campaign did in 2006. All they really did was distort what Joe Schwarz and Sharon Renier stand for, and label everything they didn't like "liberal." So.

Others: Not other candidates, but other interested observers. There have been plenty of times where people have done their own research or noticed something peculiar and sent it along to me. So, there are certain people and groups that know how to use blogs to get their opposition research out.

5. Use YouTube:

It is best if you are creating video for the web instead of re-produced television ads, but your TV commercials can also be put to good use on the web too. allows you to easily upload your commercials for free and then put them on your website, email them to bloggers, and send them out to voters. Chances are, your local bloggers will link to your ad or put it on their website, giving you broader coverage.

Renier: In hindsight, there are a lot of great ways Sharon Renier could have used video in the 2006 campaign. Maybe something like what Larry LaRocco is doing in the Idaho Senate race, where he's "working" to get in the Senate by visiting different sites and spending time with regular people. Similarly, Renier's regular-person appeal could have been shown with video of her on the farm, contrasting her with the professional politician Walberg.

Unfortunately, there was only one video produced by Sharon Renier that ever made it on the internet-- her television ad-- and I don't think it was put on YouTube by her campaign, but by someone else (I'm not 100 percent sure about that).

Schauer: When one does a search for video on Mark Schauer, there are seven results. One negative, produced by, five put up for the Senate Democratic Caucus, and one put up by Schauer for Congress (the pasty video). In addition to those, there are a lot of videos on the Senate Democratic Caucus' website, many of which feature Senator Schauer.

Although most of it wasn't produced for this campaign, Schauer will, presumably, continue producing videos as we move toward 2008. Overall, he's been very good about using video.

Walberg: When one searches for Walberg, there are twelve videos. However, of these, one is an independent video titled "Walberg Coddles Child Abusers," one is an AFSCME ad against him, seven are part of the WOCR conservative radio programs I mentioned last week, and one is a piece of the Rush Limbaugh show. There are also two videos put up by House Minority Leader John Boehner's office of Walberg's floor speeches.

Oddly, the videos of the Walberg press office don't come up when you search for his name. I sort of found them accidentally. But, there are two videos which his office has added which portray Walberg favorably.

Overall, it's an okay use of video, though I don't remember seeing anything during the 2006 campaign. If I were to give them a little advice, though, it would be that they need to tag their own videos better. It doesn't bode well for them when their own videos don't come up in a search for "Tim Walberg."

5. Create a web presence on Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites:

The most recent addition to netroots outreach is on the websites that have been used as social networking websites that have extended into activist networking around candidates and organizations. Having a presence on these websites is something that an organization should do, but maintaining one through the usage of the platform is what will engage the users of these platforms. Facebook and MySpace are two of the early movers in this space, and for those looking to do outreach into youth organizations and colleges, these sites are very important.

Yeah, it should be numbered six, not another five. Obviously, Jerome didn't proof-read.

A quick search of Facebook and MySpace shows that none of the candidates have really utilized these tools. None of them have MySpace pages, and only one-- Tim Walberg-- has a Facebook profile, which has very little information on it (though he does have 166 supporters). There is a Schauer for Congress Facebook group, but as far as I can tell, it's not officially connected to the campaign.

What's the value of these resources? Well, with Adrian College, Siena Heights University, Albion College, Spring Arbor University, Olivet College, and Jackson Community College (plus branches of other institutions) all in the district, there's certainly the potential for a motivated youth vote. On top of that, Michigan State University, Western Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University, and University of Michigan are all just outside the district boundaries. So, there's a lot to draw upon. Youth outreach should be a priority, and these websites are a great way to start.

Those are the six recommendations. Do you have any creative ways for campaigns to use the internet?

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Great roundup, Fitzy!

Schauer has done a nice job of reaching out to the blogs all year, but what meant the most to me was the fact that he was with us throughout the whole Bishop/BFM Censorship fiasco.

Few politicians even understand what a blog is, and I would imagine even fewer would be willing to go to bat for the folks at BFM the way they he did.

This actually reminds me a lot of the "Bar Fight Primary," which Chris Bowers described last December:

"The way to gain my support in 2008 is to show that in a bar fight, your sympathies are with liberals and are set against the bullies that have been running the country for so long. You can run on anything you want, you can talk of unifying the country or any sort of conventional wisdom chatter. You don't have to speak to me directly all the time with everything you say. You can pander on video games or ethanol, or whatever you need. But you have to speak on some critical point, some piece of entrenched power, and promise that you are going to gore that conservative ox."

Granted, Chris was talking about the presidential nomination, but I think Sen. Schauer passes the "Bar Room Fight" test with flying colors.
I totally agree with Edward. Schauer passed the bar fight primary test, which IMO is more important than technical metrics.
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