Burying the lede: Whitman’s tech strategy

Catching up on some news from this weekend… From the San Jose Mercury News (via TechRepublican): “Whitman campaign counting on tech to fidht Democrats’ boots on the ground.”  The article mostly recounts Meg Whitman’s advantage in technology spending and notes that Jerry Brown’s strategy relies heavily on union organizers making “workplace visits.”  (No word on whether those visits involve lead pipes or any other aggressive GOTV strategies.)

The headline and lede make it sound like Whitman is simply spending money, but the details show a bit more refined strategy than that:

Whitman has also made use of increasingly sophisticated database technology to “micro-target” voters through an aggressive mail program. First made popular by GOP strategist Karl Rove in the 2004 presidential election, micro-targeting goes far beyond using bare-bones demographic information such as age and income. Voters get targeted mailers and phone calls based on the kind of cars they drive, food they eat and magazines they buy.

During the primary campaign, many Whitman volunteers eschewed traditional “boiler rooms” and joined online phone banks so they could dial for dollars in their pajamas — or ask voters for their support and record information on them while sitting on a beach with their BlackBerrys.

The technology expenditures appear to be put toward the purpose of making GOTV tactics – like phone calls and mailings – more efficient and easier for volunteers.  And, the article points out that the union goons are doing the same thing – identifying non-union “red county” voters who share their outlook on political issues and reaching out to them.

Tellingly, the missing link here is the Brown campaign, and the article quotes Brown himself calling Whitman’s $2.7 million in online spending wasteful.  The reality, though, is that any campaign tactic costs money.  The fabled 2008 Obama  campaign – still the most prominent example of online organizing – outspent the McCain campaign online, making wise early investments.  The technology didn’t create excitement, but it gave the campaign a way to harness it and translate it into votes.

The article likens Brown’s website to the 1974 Plymouth that Brown used to drive around to demonstrate his working class street cred.  The comparison is apt if Brown really thinks there is a dichotomy between online organizing and “boots on the ground.”  A car made in 1974 and a car made in 2010 both operate basically the same way, but the 2010 model has newer, more effective parts that allow it to perform more efficiently.

Maybe he could take some of that Matlock money and apply it to his site?

Whitman campaign counting on tech to fight Democrats’ boots on the ground

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