Obama doesn’t have to go to Nancy Reagan’s funeral, but I wish he would

Vice Presidents are supposed to be U.S. Government’s designated funeral attendee. There’s no reason President Obama should feel obligated spend his time there. The demands that he drop everything to pay respects to Nancy Reagan, and before that Justice Antonin Scalia, are shrill and senseless. They delegitimize the numerous valid criticisms of the President.

With all that said, don’t you wish he had gone?

After winning the 2008 campaign with soaring rhetoric of ushering in a new era of cooperation in Washington, Obama promptly reminded Congressional Republicans, “I won” when they expressed concern over his policies. His reelection was far from a rousing national endorsement; his campaign’s groundbreaking GOTV efforts squeezed every ounce of support from an electorate with mixed feelings.

This is the current President, but it could just as easily have been our former President. The left despised George W. Bush just as the right despises Obama, and W similarly squeaked through a close reelection relying on base voters. The man who claimed he was “a uniter, not a divider” saw a more fractured Washington in his rear view mirror when he left office than the one he had found eight years prior.

It adds up to 16 years of acidic national politics, and the choices for 2016 don’t appear likely to end the cycle.

With his days in the White House slipping into history, a warm gesture by the President to the other side would offer some glimpse of the idealistic young Senator we got to know in 2008 – and, perhaps, bandage some of the wounds. Scalia was beloved by thinking conservatives; Reagan was the First Lady to the man who, as more time passes, may prove to be the last pinnacle of post-World War II Republican Party success. Showing up at these funerals would have symbolized more than condolences; it would clearly tell the other side, “Hey, nothing personal and no hard feelings.” President Obama probably didn’t understand the significance of these two figures to his opponents across the aisle; otherwise he might have rethought his schedule.

(From a calculating, partisan perspective, it would also give the digital cheerleaders and opinion leaders within his base some motivation. “Look how magnanimous our Dear Leader is,” they could crow on Twitter.)

With eight years of sins on his record and almost two decades of political acrimony as a backdrop, surely these overtures would be rejected by some and ignored by still more. That doesn’t make them any less right. Eight years later, it would be nice for the President to go the extra mile and stand up for real change – especially because he doesn’t have to.

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Project Ivy and digital coat tails

Over at Communities Digital News, I have a new piece up about Project Ivy – the Democrats’ plan to deploy the digital tools that helped President Obama in 2012 and Terry McAuliffe in 2013 into down ballot races in 2014:

The data tools used this year may not help Democrats keep their hold on the Senate, or win more Governorships, or even gain ground in state legislative chambers. But all the data collected with those tools in 2014 will be mighty useful when a few hundred votes in Cuyahoga County could decide the White House in two short years.

Republicans may not need to match Democrats data point for data point to have a pretty good election cycle in 2014. But deploying their own tools with the future in mind will help build their abilities for coming cycles. 

You want more?  Here it is.

Democrats know they are facing an against-the-spread election this November. They’ll lose seats, but the question is how many. Dropping as many as five Senate seats to the GOP will look like a win if they maintain a voting majority for the next term.  And like a baseball team playing out the string with a 40-man roster in September, minor league talent in down-ballot races can help set the table for future victories.  Project Ivy isn’t really for 2014, it’s for 2016.

But if I bled Democrat blue there would be one major factor that rubs me the wrong way about Project Ivy: the name.

First off, ivy grows up, while the project takes high-level tactics and tries to push them down.  Maybe that strategy makes sense for Democrats, who put so much faith in federal government programs to cure the ills of small communities, but the metaphor is a bit off.

Second, remember Project ORCA? It was the widely panned GOTV app that Team Romney deployed in 2012, and was so named because the Obama team’s data processing system was nicknamed “Narwhal,” and orcas kill narwhals.  As it turned out, the narwhal was an octopus with tentacles everywhere, and orcas don’t do crap against octopi.  This metaphor is getting even more tortured, so let’s move to the point: A clever name often foreshadows failure.  The only political tactical operations with cool names that work are the ones you hear about after the election.

The best news for the GOP about Project Ivy might be the fact that the first news stories about it are in March 2014, and not the week after Election Day.

Data on Donuts to Make You Go Nuts

Dunkin’ Donuts will roll out a loyalty program later this year.  (Shockingly, this will not be automatically included with residency in Massachusetts or Rhode Island.)

Anyone who has spent time in New England (or the Northeast in general) understands that this is an idea whose time is overdue.  Dunkin’ Brands’ Vice President of Global Consumer Engagement didn’t give away too much when chatting about the new program with Ad Exchanger, but this part was pretty interesting:

We look at the consumer base and there are a number of options for them to consider when making the decision on where to get their coffee, whether that’s in the morning or the afternoon. We wanted to not only reward them, but provide incentives, and ways to drive frequency and customer retention… [T]hat’s where every marketer wants to be — where they know exactly who is buying, when they are buying, what they are buying and what triggers they need to make them potentially buy more. We see it the evolution of driving a more comprehensive CRM opportunity with Dunkin’.

They may not know it, but it’s a direct copy from the 2012 Obama campaign: tap into an audience’s excitement, then gather as much data about what causes that excitement to translate into action.  Every cause has its champions, so ever would-be mob leader needs to think this way.

At least in theory, Dunkin’ Donuts will run a loyalty program that looks like a Presidential campaign.

Not just what it says, but where

Michael Turk had a great post on the center-right’s tech/data gap yesterday – but the best part was where he wrote it, in the American Spectator.

Spoiler alert: Turk warned that investing in new technology is not enough, that Republicans need smart people thinking about human behavior and voting patterns as well.  Good call: It’s not enough to figure out how people are interacting with a campaign, since most people in their right mind run away from political communication.  There’s an academic component in figuring out how to reach these people and keep them from running.  (Unless you use glue traps, of course, but there’s some questionable legality there.)

Ok, the right needs thinkers.  Where do they come from?  Political parties are good for resources, but not always innovation.  Remember that while much of the Obama infrastructure has been bequeathed unto the Democrat National Committee, it was the Obama campaign that built all the new toys.  Plus, if the eggheads don’t show immediate dividends, Republican candidates will wonder why the national party money that could be helping them win air wars is being spent to pay Lewis Skolnick.

The best spot for a bunch of data nerds is somewhere in the non-profit universe – whether it’s with an educational foundation like Heritage, an activist group like Americans for Prosperity or FreedomWorks, or a super PAC like American Crossroads/Crossroads GPS/Conservative Victory/Crossroads: The Next Generation.  With no donation limits, these groups can make a much better case to the big-ticket donors they’ll need to get the ball rolling.  Since the checks can be bigger, it’ll take fewer of them.

Conservative movement non-profits could be better positioned to start the process.  That makes The American Spectator a pretty good place to raise the issue.