App shoot

Upon reflecting more about recent, high-profile rejections from Apple’s App Store, one thing is becoming apparent: with the iPhone/iPod platform is gaining popularity, more developers are investing time and resources writing software for it only to see their creations rejected.

The closed-door approach makes sense for Apple – since their platform is the first of its kind, any questionable use would reflect back on their highly-recognizable brand rather than an anonymous developer.  If Saturday Night Live legend Garrett Morris developed a game for the iPhone called “Gonna Get Me a Shotgun and Kill all the Whities I See,” Apple would bear the brunt of the protests for allowing it rather than Morris.  (When Morris famously – and hilariously – sang that line on the air in 1976, the NBC switchboard probably got more calls than Morris’s home phone.  By citing the actual sketch, do I avoid somehow being called a racist for quoting it?)

But the closed door has implications for potentially revolutionary uses of mobile technology.  In 2008 a developer created an excellent application for the Obama Campaign, allowing volunteers to prioritize their contacts for get out the vote calls.  If the time and effort invested in creating an app is possibly wasted, how will small, volunteer-driven campaigns for local or Congressional offices – the types of campaigns who could really use the technology – justify exploring the possibilities of the platform?

Study: Still waiting on that online advocacy revolution

A new study released by a troika of new media firms (2ndSix, TribeEffect, and Chris Lisi Communications) charts some surprising trends in online advocacy – more accurately, the lack thereof.

The study evaluates 102 top trade associations, membership organizations, and other groups with political advocacy goals and charts their use of a number of online tools – everything from collecting email sign ups to Twitter to blog badges to Facebook and everything in between.  Most of the tools considered were either free or low-cost; yet the study found a surprising lack of use:

Overall, there is a lag in the implementation of the new media tools.  Many of the organizations reviewed in this report have not yet embraced or employed many of the readily accessible online communication and social media tools… 76% of the most commonly used social media tools are not being utilized to communicate with members, voters and other constituencies.

On the heels of the Obama Campaign, Washington D.C. was abuzz with the possibilities of online campaigns.  So what gives?

There are three things to consider when wondering why the digital wave hasn’t crashed the banks of the Potomac.  First, online and social media are new, and some of the key decision-makers in these groups may not understand them fully.  Being fully committed to online activity means surrendering some message control and directly engaging people who have negative comments.  That may resonate with the front line folks, but senior management will usually have to deeply consider what amounts to a change of strategy.

The second item to consider – which draws a bit from the first – is that social media activity can be difficult to quantify to important stakeholders.  Anyone can build a Facebook page with 5,000 fans given the resources; but translating that to action can be difficult.  In other words: if you work for a health insurance trade group, and you recruit 5,000 Facebook fans or Twitter followers from all over the country, how many are going to be able to call Sen. Olympia Snowe’s office to tell her she shouldn’t bow down to the Democrats’ health care overhaul?

There’s a third and final item to keep in mind.  The study itself admits that it doesn’t evaluate the effectiveness of the various tactics employed by each organization – in other words, the study simply charts charted whether a group has a presence on Facebook, but not whether that presence helped further their policy goals.  Just like a real-world toolbox, and online toolbox has  implements for a variety of uses.  But just as you wouldn’t use a screw driver to pound nails into a plank of wood, you might look at your online goals and decide that Twitter or LinkedIn just isn’t right for you.

Rebuilding around Palin

The New York Times and CNN both ran stories this morning about Sarah Palin being the standard bearer of the Republican Party over the next four years, and possibly longer. (The Times piece includes a quote from my former boss, Morton Blackwell, positively giddy about getting within four feet of Palin at a fundraiser.)

It’s true that Palin’s ascension to the VP spot on the ticket was a symptom of the GOP’s short bench – but no more than John McCain’s ascension to the top of the ticket. But she was also the best pick – a true small government conservative – and moving forward, she has the potential to give a credible voice to the Party from well outside the Beltway.

And though her support outside her conservative base has suffered from a harsh campaign, her wounds may not be fatal. Even Linda Bloodworth-Thomas – the television producer who used an entire episode of Designing Women to bash Clarence Thomas (no relation) – said she was fed up with the “demonizing” of Palin and red-staters.

It’s not hard to get sick of the treatment she has received, including the attacks on her experience (from the campaign of a guy who only has a Senate seat because Mike Ditka allowed it) and a silly RNC clothing budget controversy – which is a top story for all our major news outlets because everything else in the country is apparently going pretty well.

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Me? I’m supporting McCain’s redistribution of wealth…

This is a couple weeks old, but a friend just showed it to me. King of All Media Howard Stern interviewed Barack Obama supporters in New York City and asked them if they supported Obama’s “pro-life” stance, or his call to “finish the job” in Iraq. They enthusiastically agreed with many of McCain’s positions:

It’s no surprise to find uninformed voters who support a candidate but really don’t understand what he or she stands for. This leads to two conclusions:

1. The 2008 election is not a referendum on any political philosophy, and should not be read as a fundamentaly shift to the left from the American electorate. It is a fundamental shift toward a guy who is great on TV and gives a great speech.

2. The Republicans – specifically, conservatives – need to step up the candidate recruitment, because there are plenty of people out there who will jump on board if you look great on TV and give a great speech.

That’s not exactly what we mean by dirty campaigning…

GOP Congressional candidate Zane Starkewolf is under fire because his campaign’s robocalls sound like they were recorded by a cast member from Girl 6. Some of the folks in CA-01 understandably complained the calls were inappropriate.

This is Starkewolf’s answer and, appropriately, there is no apology. Starkewolf, 27, shows wisdom and message discipline beyond his years:

“I acknowledge that the idea behind the ad, and indeed the execution of the call, was not the safe route to take. And if my run for office was simply for personal gain, I would not have taken a risk. But the content and the facts within the message were there and need to be discussed… The message is there–and what it says is that Mike Thompson went against the people of this district when he voted to pass and have us pay for the 700 billion dollar bailout and went along with George Bush…”

Well said, Zane. An tail-between-the-legs apology would have done nothing for Starkewolf’s long shot bid. His bold stance demonstrates that he stands behind his decisions and keeps the discussion about the issues raised in the robocall. It sets a trap for his opponent, too; if incumbent Mike Thompson stops talking about his platform to demand an apology, Starkewolf will be in control of the media discussion a week before Election Day.

And, if nothing else, it earns his campaign some free publicity.

But all PR is good PR, right? Right?

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism released a study this week that showed coverage of John McCain in the mainstream media was predominantly negative, while coverage of Barack Obama is fairly even and balanced.

(I know – I’m shocked to learn this, too.)

In fact, the study shows McCain gets more bad coverage than typical Presidential candidates received in 2000 or 2004. Pew spokespeople are quick to point out that their findings do not indicate a partisan slant to the news (although, watching the news does indicate a strong partisan slant).

They may be on to something; McCain’s negative coverage could not solely be the work of a hostile press dedicated to electing Barack Obama. Hostile press is a fact of political life. Presidents Reagan and Bush both dealt with it and were able to speak with the American people through the coverage. That’s a tactic McCain simply hasn’t mastered yet, but its an important one for the rest of us Republicans who will be talking to both national and regional media over the next few years.

McCain learns what snoring elephants sound like

There will be no third party, anti-Obama campaign this election cycle in the image of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth who exposed some of John Kerry’s dirty laundry in 2004. McCain shouldn’t be surprised – the campaign finance legislation that he’s so proud of made independent speech more difficult, and his campaign has worked to subdue potential independent, non-party election speech.

Ultimately, though, it’s tough for a Republican to be excited to be a Republican anymore. What does the GOP stand for?

In 1980, 1994, and 2000 it was simple: Less government. Keep more of your money. Elections in 2002 and 2004 were a question of which party was in touch with the American public.

In 2008, Democrats have been campaigning on their plans for America: healthcare for everybody; a steeply graduated income tax that forces higher earners to pay more; and government programs to generate environmentally friendly technology.

Try to sum up John McCain’s campaign in three sentences that don’t include “war hero.” Go ahead.

And the election outlook isn’t pretty for McCain or any other Republican. And it will go downhill from there. Republican pundits and politicos will be cannibalizing each other like they’re stranded in the Andes.

The theme I hope the GOP rallies around – and a major theme I’ll be using in my efforts to promote conservatism and freedom over the next few years – is one that the President-turned-pariah George W. Bush coined 2003: the “Ownership Society.” He talked about letting us manage our own retirement, rather than flushing money down the toilet with Social Security. It meant us taking control of our own health care and driving costs down. It meant more options for savings and home ownership. And in internal discussions, Bush intended these proposals to help Americans assume more personal responsibility. It was the best summation of conservative thought since Ronald Reagan.

This never came to fruition. Democrats successfully scared the American public away from any meaningful Social Security reform. Bush passed the biggest entitlement package since the Great Depression, gave out free money when the economy started to slide, and gave handouts to people who were foolish with their (and other people’s) money.

It’s only a start, but resurrecting the idea of an ownership society would excite the GOP base: those rank-and-file voters, volunteers, and activists who fueled their rise to power. And when excited, it will be “the base” who makes the case for Republican candidates – something they are not doing in 2008, as McCain is becoming painfully aware.

Playing a new game

My brother Mike had the best summary about the constant harping on Sarah Palin over the past 60 days: “Everyone seems to be mad because she doesn’t play the game.” She certainly is the biggest outsider of the race.

Pundits are quick to point out that despite appearing on Saturday Night Live, she hasn’t appeared on any Sunday morning talk shows. True – but she also probably understands Saturday Night Live is probably more relevant in shaping public perceptions outside of the beltway than the Sunday morning talk shows. Fourteen million viewers tuned into NBC for Saturday Night Live last weekend. That’s 10 million more than how many tuned into NBC’s Meet the Press the previous week – and that was the top-rated show.

(And who ever imagined we’d see a national candidate raising the roof at the Weekend Update desk and not looking like a complete doofus? At the very least she raised her favorability numbers.)

Palin even criticized her own campaign (politely) for using automated phone calls, candidly saying they are annoying. Sure, that’s common sense – but it’s quite a step to admit that political campaigns are tedious for the average American. This understanding creates opportunity for connection that, really, no other person on a national ticket has made.

As I mentioned previously, the question now is whether Palin can build on this to create a stronger connection with the American people – and to become a national spokesperson for the people who respond better to her style of politics. Based on the way she rolled with the punches on Saturday, her chances seem decent.

Nazis for McCain/Palin

Last night’s Family Guy featured a sight gag I missed until I saw it on Digg today. Apparently, Nazis are all about McCain/Palin:

I’m assuming Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane did this because of the image of McCain’s cult of personality inspiring massive crowds in Germany last summer… Oh, no, wait, that was Obama. Well, maybe it was because of the way McCain has targeted one segment of America as having too much money, and has promised to re-distribute their wealth (as Hitler did with Jewish businessowners)? Nope, that’s Obama again.

It must have been campaign finance reform.