Mitt Romney is a presidential candidate driven by data, metrics and statistics. So when Zac Moffatt, his campaign’s digital director, threw out these mind-boggling statistics with a plan to reach so-called “off the grid” voters, the campaign began its strategy to reach an ever-growing portion of the electorate.
“He’s a numbers guy. He’s metrics driven,” Moffatt told Business Insider on Tuesday in an interview at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York. “Show him a number and if he agrees, it’s a pretty easy decision to make.”
Here’s a number he showed him: During one fall week in Ohio, 40 per cent of people did not watch live television, according to Republican digital strategic consulting firm Targeted Victory.
Moffatt asks the question: Can we ignore 2 million voters and still win?
This is how political campaigns are changing almost on the fly with digital media. If social media helped get President Barack Obama elected in 2008, then this campaign is about taking advantage of all things digital. Facebook, Twitter, website design, interactive features, online videos — they’re all a much bigger part of campaigning than ever before.
The Targeted Victory study found that in an average week, 31 per cent of voters in the key battleground states of Florida and Ohio did not watch live television, although some still watched TV with DVR. But only 2 per cent of those people sat through every single ad. This means it’s crucial to have an effective strategy to target the voters who are “off-the-grid.”
“All these audiences that you’re trying to reach live online,” Moffatt told Business Insider in an interview Tuesday. “When things occur and people activate, they can activate very quickly.”
In the 2008 election, Obama and Republican challenger John McCain spent about $450 million on TV advertising from April through Election Day, according to studies by the Campaign Media Analysis Group.
This time around, the Romney campaign is actively allocating resources away from the television medium and into the digital world. (Of course, it helps that super PACs are taking over the big media buys.)
Pinpointing targets is crucial for the Romney campaign, which went into the general election with a huge numbers disadvantage. First, it had to shift strategies after a rocky primary campaign. Then there’s the fact that 32-year-old Moffatt and the rest of his team is squaring off against the Obama campaign’s digital team — which, aside from having a hthree-year head start, is widely regarded as perhaps the most sophisticated digital operation in campaign history.
Here’s what Politico wrote about the Obama digital team this past weekend:
The depth and breadth of the Obama campaign’s 2012 digital operation — from data mining to online organising — reaches so far beyond anything politics has ever seen, experts maintain, that it could impact the outcome of a close presidential election. It makes the president’s much-heralded 2008 social media juggernaut — which raised half billion dollars and revolutionised politics — look like cavemen with stone tablets.
Moffatt bristles at that narrative, and dismisses the suggestion that the digital teams are competing with one another.
“I don’t think you compete with them, because you don’t have to,” Moffatt said. “They seem to have a really good team. A lot of their products are really strong. They seem to have a really good coms [communications] team that gets you guys [the media] to write all about it.”
“We’re executing the plan that we need to in order to win in November,” he added. “If it was just about how many people you could hire, the person in charge would never lose. It’s about having the tools to be successful.”
So what the Romney campaign lacks in numbers — Obama’s Twitter account, for example, has 16.5 million followers to Romney’s 550,000 — it makes up with intensity. Moffatt’s team is taking advantage of a base that is highly active in the digital scene.
For example, when Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen said that Ann Romney had “never worked a day in her life” in April, conservatives responded with a fury on social media, particularly on Twitter.
“Twitter is the real-time engagement tool,” Moffatt said. “There are times when things present themselves that Twitter is the appropriate mechanism. My gut is that if the Hilary Rosen thing had happened during the day, it wouldn’t have gone as big on Twitter. So timing is everything.”
That type of intensity and engagement in the digital world gives Moffatt reason to think the Obama team doesn’t have as much of an advantage as most people assume.
And he seems to relish being in the underdog role, anyway:
“It will be more fun when we win in November.”
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