Political Technology

Txting in 2008

A while back I signed up to receive text messages from the campaigns to see how they were utilizing this new tool. I didn't know what to expect really, but figured if they had the service they were going to use it somehow. Well, as it stands, I've received six text messages in the past 48 hours or so. One from the Clinton campaign and five from the Obama campaign. I've typed them out below:

From the Clinton campaign:

Feb 12, 2008 2:25:41 PM ET - Election Day - don't forget to vote! Every vote counts in the race for the nomination. Thank you so much for your support. -- Hillary

From the Obama campaign:

Feb 12, 2008 6:14:11 PM ET - Fired up? Our moment is now. Tell all your friends to vote for Barack NOW! If you are in line by 7pm, they must count your vote. Info call: 866-675-2008 (ext 4)

Feb 12, 2008 2:02:41 PM ET - People who love their country can change it. Make sure all your friends vote tonight for Barack! Polls open in VA until 7pm. For info: 866-675-2008 Fwd this msg

Feb 12, 2008 11:43:13 AM ET - One voice can make a difference. Make sure that voice is yours! Fwd this msg and make sure all your friends vote today for Barack. Questions, call 866-675-2008 (no.4)

Feb 11, 2008 6:54:42 PM ET - Vote for Barack tomorrow! Polls are open in VA from 6am to 7pm. For location info visit: VA.BarackObama.com or call 866-675-2008 (press 4) Please fwd this msg.

Feb 10, 2008 7:25:17 PM ET - Breaking: Obama wins Maine! You are next up on Tuesday -- remind all your friends to vote and to text JOIN to 62262. Please fwd this msg.

Update: I received another text from the Obama campaign last night that you can see below.

Feb 13, 2008 10:00:32 PM - CNN calls DC, MD & VA for Barack! We are growing momentum in red states and blue states. Fired up? Ask friends to join our movement by texting HOPE to 62262.

Super Tuesday Aftermath: Handicapping the Campaigns according to Four Key Drivers of the New Politics

There are four key drivers of the New Politics that Simon and I elaborated on in our recent magazine piece “The 50 Year Strategy.” These are four disrupters of the old politics that are restructuring how politics is carried out and will continue to be played in the coming decade. The ones we focused on are the new tools, the young Millennial Generation, the rise of Hispanics, and the emergence of a new 21st century agenda. What’s been incredible about this primary season is how fully realized and important they all have become.

One way to look at the success of the Obama and Clinton campaigns, and their relative strengths and weaknesses, is through the lens of their use of this New Politics. This perspective helps explain the results of Super Tuesday, including what happened in California. The boiled down essence is that Obama is ahead in the tools and Millennial categories, but Clinton is way ahead on Hispanics. As for the agenda, Obama is talking more transformation, while Clinton is talking change, through both are close to each other in specific policies, and they are not yet keeping up to their rhetoric with truly 21st century policy shifts. Let me explain a bit more:

Tools: Obama has done a phenomenal job in the new tools category, while Clinton has been solid and at least kept up. The most dramatic measure is in the online money category. Obama raised an unprecedented $32 million in January, $28 million of it online, and most of it based on 275,000 people who had given $100 or less. Clinton only raised $13.5 million in January, though she has raised $7.5 million since Feb. 1st , mostly online. However, Obama has raised another $7 million in just the 36 hours since Super Tuesday.

The other side of the tools is the online organizing and coordinating. Again, Obama has come out ahead, as I have talked about in other posts. He has an extremely active and virally growing network of people actively campaigning for him. This has been boosted in the last week with the endorsement of the 3.2 million member online organization MoveOn. Then there’s new media, such as the use of video. Obama had been masterful in reworking his campaign speeches via video, something again we have posted on. And his user-generated Yes We Can YouTube video is in a league by itself, now with close to 2.5 million views.

One of the best analyses comparing the two campaigns on this front is Micah Sifry’s recent post at techPresident. He frames Obama as the first in a long line of reform candidates like Ted Kennedy and Bill Bradley to have the staying power precisely because of the new tools. It changed the game.

Millennials: Much has been said about the Millennials in other posts, but it’s worth pointing out that turnout of young people under age 30 has been much bigger than in the past years. For example, of the eight states that were also part of Super Tuesday in 2000, seven saw increases in youth turnout, and in some of these states, youth turnout tripled or quadrupled, according to the numbers at CIRCLE, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. (The reason they use comparisons with 2000 and not 2004 is because they are non-partisan and the uncontested Republican race in 2004 led to few exit polls and poor data on the Republican side.)

The Millennials share of all primary voters in 2008 was in the teens, and even high teens, in all but three states. This category of young voters under age 30 as a share of all voters was up by 4 to 6 percentage points in all eight states that had the data for 2000. For example, in California youth went from 10 percent of those voting in 2000 to 14 percent in 2008. In Massachusetts, from 8 percent to 14 percent.

Obama took the youth vote in 10 of the states, with margins in the high 50s, 60s, and even 75 percent. Two of the states where Clinton took the youth vote were because of the high numbers of Hispanics in those states: Arizona and California. Clinton also nudged out Obama by one percent in Massachusetts. A good overview of all these numbers can be found in this PDF at CIRCLE.

Hispanics: This is the category that Clinton dominates and her campaign has to be credited with foresight on seeing how important this constituency is. The Obama campaign, meanwhile, seems to have grossly underestimated their importance and is playing desperate catch-up, though making good strides, particularly among young Latinos.

The Hispanic vote almost alone can explain what happened in California. As discussed elsewhere, Clinton overwhelmingly took the Hispanic vote in California, 69 to 29. In normal states, that margin could be offset by other factors, but in California, Hispanics made up a full 29 percent of the turnout, compared to 16 percent in 2004. In some calculations we made at NPI based on CNN exit polls, we found that if you took out the Latino and "Other" vote (which includes Asians) in California, Clinton and Obama would have been in a dead heat. When you put them back in, Clinton takes almost every age group, including young people. One thing we all learned here: Hispanics really matter.

Agenda: Change has become the mantra of the race, and implied is not just a change in leadership but a change in agenda. My sense is that craving for a new national agenda is more a part of the equation than the media or the campaigns even recognize. Because if you look closely at the specific policy agendas of Obama and Clinton, they are not representing as dramatic a change as their rhetoric suggests. Nor, in my opinion, are they transformational enough for what the country and the world needs to see. That may well be a function of the primary season. Perhaps we will see more ambitious plans once the nominee is settled and the campaign against the Republicans takes place. Or maybe it will have to wait til after the election.

This final piece of the New Politics equation is the least developed right now. It’s the agenda that boldly takes on the array of 21st century challenges and helps transform America and the world. With that in mind, NDN and the New Politics Institute are putting on a special one-day free event on March 12th in DC to explore whether we might be in a transformational moment. We have a great lineup of people who will be taking about the need for change on that plain. Anyone who is interested is invited to come.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute



Obama closing the gap, reinventing politics along the way

Looking at various polls the other day I speculated that the Democratic race could end up even on Super Tuesday. The new Gallup track now has the race 44% Clinton, Obama 41%. On Jan 20th it was 48% Clinton, 28% Obama. The most interesting stat in the report is that more Edwards voting are breaking to Obama than Clinton. If these numbers are true what is most important to note is that movement is two way - Clinton is dropping while Obama is rising.

We will never know exactly what happened in these last few weeks to change the race so dramatically. It was some combination of the angry Clinton tactics, Obama's huge South Carolina win, the Camelot endorsement, the powerful set of other endorsements (well used by the Obama campaign) and a modification of the Obama strategy itself. And something else not well understood - the power of millions of people fighting hard, in new and unprecedented ways with new dynamic new tools - to make the case for their cause.

Perhaps Hillary's very strong debate performance on Thursday will blunt some of this momentum. But for now it sure looks like we head into Super Tuesday dead even. Let's look a little deeper at why:

The Power of Camelot - The Camelot endorsement has been particularly powerful. It gave the Obama a way to mount a frontal assault on the very effective 3 part Clinton strategy of women, Hispanics and tradional Democrats. The Kennedy name of course plays very well with traditional Democrats. The name has great resonance in the older Hispanic community, where Clinton was doing particularly well. And for younger Hispanics, particularly the immigrants, Kennedy's strong championing of their case is well known. And women. Caroline Kennedy's ads, speech and just overall incredible presence simply has to be having an impact (a new Gallup report suggests Obama has moved a great deal with women in recent weeks). Remember that Obama doesn't need to win these groups, but he may now be able to successfully cut Clinton's margin in each category, something that could fundamentally alter the dynamic of the race. (For more on the battle for Hispanics click here.)

Hispanics, the Economy - There is also now mounting evidence that the Obama campaign is in the process of correcting two of their greatest strategic failings in the last few weeks - their lack of emphasis on Hispanics and the economy. On top of the Kennedy endorsement, Obama is traveling throughout heavy Hispanic regions now; did an excellent job making the case for immigration reform in Thursday's debate; has been better using his high profile Hispanic surrogates and has upped his Spanish language buy throughout the region. Whether it is enough to carve into Hillary's enormous margin with Hispanics - so critical in California - we will find out on Tuesday. But it is now clear Obama and his campaign are at least trying much harder to reach Hispanics than even just a few weeks ago.

I've been writing since Iowa that the Obama campaign's lack of emphasis on the middle class struggle was not easy to understand. I think it was the major reason they lost New Hampshire and allowed Clinton back into the race. Over the last few days you can see the Obama mesage evolving, becoming more about the core struggle of every day people, and with a much greater emphasis in his campaign now. In New Mexico yesterday he offered this new speech on the economy, one that is clearly an evolution from previous formulations.

A Virtuous Cycle of Participation - Finally, Obama has one very powerful advantage in these final days that is hard to see and evaluate - the power of his virtual community across the country. We saw the power of this community with the truly extraordinary amount of money it raised for him in January. But equally important in these final days will be the virtual door knocking these millions of people will be doing - emails to their address books, actions on MySpace, Facebook and other social networking sites, text messages sent to friends, viral videos linked too, and comments left on blogs, newspapers and call in radio shows. It is no exaggeration to say that this million or so impassioned Obama supporters will reach tens of millions of voters in highly personal ways in the next few days, providing a messaging and personal validation of Obama that may be equal in weight to the final round of TV ads, free media and traditional grassroots methods.

All the way back in 2003, I wrote an essay about this new era of participation in politics that argued the new Dean campaign model was changing the way we had to imagine what a Presidential campaign was all about. In the 20th century, a Presidential campaign was about 30 second spots, tarmac hits and 200 kids in a headquarters. In the 21st century, the race for the Presidency would be about ten million people going to work each day, wired into the campaign through the campaign's site, through email, sms, social networking sites etc acting as full partners in the fight not just passive couch potatoes to be persuaded.

This is a very different model of politics. One begun by Dean but being taken to a whole other level by Obama. It puts people and their passion for a better nation at the core of politics. When used correctly, it creates a virtuous cycle of participation, where more and more people engage, take an action and bring others in, creating a self-perpetuating and dynamic network of support. It is also why the endorsements of entities with large, active virtual communities - Kerry.org, MoveOn - is so meaningful for Obama. He has created an on-line ecosystem that can quickly take advantage of the support of the millions of people now doing politics in this new 21st century way and exponentially grow his dynamic community of change.

The Democratic Party is one entire Presidential cycle ahead of the Republicans in adopting this new model, and I will argue it is simply not possible for the Republican nominee to catch up this year. Too much experimentation, too much trial and error goes into inventing this new model for it to be easily and quickly adapted. It has to be invented, not adapted. I'm sure the GOP will catch up over time, but this year year the only GOP candidate who has taken this new model seriously has been Ron Paul - and they have paid the price. Obama raised almost as much money in January of this year as John McCain raised in all of 2007. Democrats are raising much more money across the board, seeing historic levels of voter turnout, increased Party registrations and millions more working along side with the campaigns - all of which is creating an extraordinary virtuous cycle of participation that continues to grow the number getting engaged in politics as never before. While there can be little doubt that anger towards Bush and disapointment with his government is a driving force behind this, the key takeaway is that the adoption of this new politics by Democrats allowed the Party to take advantage of this tidal wave in unprecedented ways, and will be one of the Democratic Party's most significant advantages going into the fall elections.

Much attention has been given to the money raised by this Obama network. Much more needs to be given to the power of it to deliver message, provide personal validation to friends, neighbors, colleagues and peers in ways so powerful, and ways never seen before in American history. I have no doubt that it has been the campaign's ability to foster and channel the passion of his supporters - creating a vrituous cycle of particpation - into an unprecedented national network - helping amplify and reinforce the power of Obama's argument - that is playing a critical role in Obama's closing the gap with Clinton in these final exciting and dramatic days before Super Tuesday.

Update: Not only did Obama receive the endorsement of the LA Times today, read by many Latinos in Southern California, he was endorsed enthusiastically by the largest Spanish language daily paper in the nation, the LA based L'Opinion. While the paper praised both Clinton and Obama, they singled out Obama's steadfast support for driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants - in contrast to Clinton's waffle on it this fall - as a major reason for the endorsement. How much impact these two endorsements will have in the coming days, and whether they will help him cut into her large lead with Hispanics could determine the outcome of the California primary - as the Rasmussen track has Obama now leading among white voters in the Golden State.

The Obama campaign continues to do things that one would have believed impossible a month ago. Receiving the endorsements of Camelot; of Oprah; of John Kerry and Bill Bradley; of Kathleen Sebelius the day after her giving the State of the Union response; the $32 million raised; the winning of the Iowa Caucus; and now, what I simply would not have believed possible, the endorsement of L'Opinion. Whether he wins or loses, Barack Obama has mounted a truly incredible campaign.

Time Magazine Piles onto the Millennial Phenomenon with a Cover Story

One thing about the mainstream media, when they finally detect a trend, they go nuts with it. And the trend of this political season is the political engagement of the young Millennial Generation.

Time magazine coronates the trend with a cover piece that comes out this weekend on “Why Young Voters Care Again, and Why their Vote Matters.” The package pulls together all the pieces that have been emerging in primary contests of the last month and does a good job making the case about the power of the youth vote in this election. They also weave in the story of how the new tools are empowering this generation and increasing their clout. In doing so, they are a virtual infomercial for Obama, laying out how successfully his campaign has been in utilizing these tools and harnessing these voters.

time cover

For those who are familiar with our work at the New Politics Institute, we have long been championing both phenomena, and you can find more insights into both trends at our website. It really is gratifying to see how powerfully these new elements of the new politics are playing out in actuality in this election cycle. Who would have thought?

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

How Web Video Nationalizes Local Primary Campaigns and Raises the Value of Oration

Let’s take a moment in this busy political week to marvel at the wonders of web video. It is simply amazing what this nascent medium has done to change the presidential campaign less than 18 months after the debut of the shaky “Macacca” video.

Think about it for a minute. Before this cycle any of the 300 million Americans who wanted to hear the victory (or concession) speeches coming out of early primary states would have to hope to catch a significant snippet on the broadcast or cable news channels or try to randomly come across it on late-night CSPAN. Or they could read about what David Broder or some pundit who was present at the speech thought about it the next day in the newspaper.

These days when the polls close in South Carolina, anyone from any corner of America (let alone the world) can immediately watch the entire Obama speech, unfiltered, unedited, almost as soon as he gives it. Not only that, but that viewer in, say, California, can then send the link to that video to 30 of her friends and family, and half of them might watch it the next day, and then send the link to their network too.

We’re really only now digesting what that capability does to politics. For one, it nationalizes what once was a very localized event – candidate speeches. A good speech is not just for the consumption of the 1000 people crammed into a hotel ballroom or school gym somewhere in the heartland of America. The speech is open for all the country and all the world to see.

And it isn’t just primary victory speeches – it’s endorsement speeches or whatever else the campaign wants to put out there. Obama had well-packaged versions of the Kennedy endorsements and Obama’s response on the campaign website shortly after they delivered them. People hear some television anchor talk about the endorsement or about Teddy’s passion, and they leave the tube and pull it up on their computer for full viewing.

This is not just happening with journalists and political junkies, but with average Americans. Out here in California, I am getting barraged with links to web video in on online version of the old office water cooler. “Did you see that last night?”

One consequence of this is that average people are almost impulsively giving money to campaigns. They see a passionate speech and in the heat of that moment they click on the button right next to the video that says: “Donate here.” The Washington Post blog reported that just after the Obama speech in South Carolina, the website was processing campaign donations at the rate of $500,000 an hour. I just got off a media conference call with Obama Campaign manager David Plouffe and he said they have raised $5 million online in the two days since South Carolina.

The gap between the spark of passion about a candidate to the moment you can cross the line and give money to a campaign has shrunk to seconds. How long would it have taken you to span that gap just a couple cycles ago, back in the ancient days of the 1990s?

Another consequence of this web video development is that the dying art of political oration might be making a comeback. The political ecosystem of the second half of the 20th century did little to reward great orators like America has seen throughout its history. In that broadcast TV world it was much more important for you to package your message into 30 second sound bites.

But in the new world of web video, where length does not matter because 30 seconds costs the same as 30 minutes, your ability to connect with an audience and hold their attention is a huge asset.

I think that is partly why Obama has been faring so well in this environment (and why I have been focusing on him rather than other candidates in this post). Obama clearly has no peers when it comes to speaking ability. And his campaign has been the most adroit on using the new medium of web video. The Clinton campaign has done a solid job with keeping up with the basic web video capability, but Hillary does not have the same flair for speaking.

There’s been a lot of talk about old and new politics. Set aside what that means about policies, etc., and which candidate best embodies it. Clearly one piece of the new politics has to do with using the new tools, and the first among equals in that lineup is web video.

Just pinch yourself and remember that this web video phenomenon, and all its consequences, has only just begun….

Peter Leyden

Director of the New Politics Institute

New Tools in 2008

As our New Politics Institute has stated, with the evolution of technology comes new tools which open up politics in ways we've never seen before. These new tools are reminiscent of how the introduction of radio and television changed politics. In last night's South Carolina primary, the 2008 version of these tools was showcased in all its utility. A few examples of what the Obama campaign did last night in particular:

  1. Prior to his victory speech, they sent out an e-mail message to supporters with a very personal message:
  2. We've just won a big victory in South Carolina.

    After four great contests in every corner of this country, and another record turnout today, we have the most votes, the most delegates, and the most diverse coalition of Americans we've seen in a long, long time.

    You'll have a chance to make your voice heard next Tuesday, February 5th -- and I am counting on you.

    I'll be heading down shortly to thank our supporters in South Carolina.

    If you're reading this tonight, I hope you'll tune in at home so I can thank you, too.


  3. They also sent that same message to its supporters on Facebook who have added the Obama application.
  4. They also sent a text message to those who have signed up about the win and telling supporters to mobilize for February 5th.

It has been exciting to watch all of the candidates wrestle with and use tools like these to their advantage. It's something I'm sure we'll see much more in the days ahead. In fact, the Obama campaign just released a new Spanish language phone banking tool worth checking out.

Obama’s Online Organizing Tools and Amazing Offline Results

An interesting factoid was thrown into play today by Micah Sifry at TechPresident. He did a comparison of how the supporters of the three major Democratic presidential candidates are using online tools at the campaign websites to organize offline activities like throwing house parties, fundraisers and phone banking.

The short answer is that Obama is overwhelming Clinton and Edwards. The numbers are really striking. Take the state of California where the statewide polls still have Hillary up by a surprisingly large margin. Yet you look at grassroots supporter-generated events in some of the key cities:

  • Los Angeles: Obama 170, to Clinton 8, and Edwards 0.
  • San Francisco: Obama 189, to Clinton 9, and Edwards 29.
  • San Diego: Obama 55, to Clinton 6, and Edwards 30.

Even if you go to Hillary’s home state of New York, Obama numbers tower over hers:

  • New York City: Obama 292, Clinton 13, Edwards 0.

Obama has clearly encouraged a bottom-up campaign that empowers his supporters to make things happen in his name. They clearly are responding in ways that have almost no parallel in campaigns on the other side – let alone on the Republican side, where there is almost nothing of this sort beyond the Ron Paul phenom.

We’ll see how this plays out by the primary day on Feb. 5th. My guess is that this is a ticking time bomb that is unnoticed now, but that will have large repercussions as the day to vote approaches. It’s not clear whether it will be enough to close the current gap, but I’d much rather have hundreds of hubs of campaign activity in a city than a handful, let alone none.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

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