My second summary of President Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe's Book The Audacity to Win. Here's a link to Part 1. Oh and as a quick reminder, I'm Connell Donatelli Inc's Chief Internet Strategist and directed Senator McCain's Online Advertising going back to his Straight Talk America PAC right through to the end of the General Election. I was mostly located in NJ but did spend some time in the Virginia offices so my comments are from my cheap seats in NJ. If you want a good recap visit this link called 2008 Election Recount.
As of this post, I'm about 70 pages from the end and right up to the point where Plouffe talks about McCain picking Sarah Palin as his running mate. Here's some interesting points/comments on the book....
- With about a month to go before Iowa, Clinton's Chief Strategist Mark Penn commented that Obama's supporters looked like Facebook which I found shockingly odd. Early on, these social networks like YouTube and Facebook were the best place to go for cheap advertising and communications and that comment showed how out of touch the Clintons were to the 2008 election. We (McCain Camp) did pay attention to Facebook & YouTube and put out a ton of videos. Our biggest issue with Facebook was that we didn't raise a ton of money, so that put it lower on the priority list. Quite frankly, our candidate didn't really resonate until around the General Election in Facebook.
- Obama wins Iowa and Plouffe writes about the win on page 137 which is about 1/3 of the book. If this doesn't prove to you how important it is for a challenger campaign nothing will. Plouffe talks about how important the internet was for getting out their message. And contrary to what you know, the internet was extremely important to the McCain campaign especially after the implosion in the summer. Throughout the summer and fall, right up until December 2007 the internet was the only way we advertised our message - either via search, display, and/or web videos. By the time we finished a close 4th in Iowa (Huckabee wins it) we had figured out how important the search traffic was leading up to Primary votes. 100,000s of people turned to the internet the few days before Primary day and since Iowa, we ran mini state search & display campaigns to take advantage of the opportunity.
- New Hampshire and the month of January proved to be a great and a difficult month. Obama raised $35 million yet (I believe) they relaxed just a bit after reading Plouffe's account and lost New Hampshire to Clinton. They then "lose" Nevada on the 19th but received more delegates and that's when the Obama campaign figured out that the way Democrats divided up the delegates meant that a) losing can get you a ton of delegates if done correctly and b) you had to win by a lot to put a distance in the delegate counts. They proved how to win big in South Carolina. Now New Hampshire to us was do or die and we put everything into it that we had. As I recall I was running stand alone state advertising in New Hampshire as early as the summer 2008. We of course won New Hampshire and besides Clinton showing some human side to her, I believe a lot of Independents voted for McCain because he needed it more than Obama. We followed with losses in Michigan and Nevada only to come roaring back with our own wins in South Carolina and Florida. Our Florida win proved our online marketing prowess once again when overnight the entire Connell Donatelli team created new Crist endorsement ads on a Friday night and flipped out all of our ads across Florida in our Florida Surge tactic. Finally, to put fund raising in perspective, we had a great month bringing in about $12.7 million, about 2/3 less than Obama.
- Across those early states, it was clear to me after reading Plouffe's book that we were already in trouble for the General Election, yet didn't know it and didn't care about it in January 2008. Obama had already out raised us $140 million to $55 million and had 35 million more individual small donations than we did. We would end up losing all of those early states with the exception of South Carolina.
- Plouffe goes through a lot of details on how they handled the problems with Reverend Wright. You can read for yourself how the process unfolded including Obama's speech on racism in this country. I think they handled the entire problem in the best possible manner - in fact, so well that they took this issue off the table for the General Election. I firmly believe that McCain did the right thing by NOT bringing up Wright during the GE. It didn't help Hillary in PA and certainly wouldn't help us - we lost because the wrong track/right track numbers were 70/30, President Bush, the economy and the huge differences in money. Bringing up Reverend Wright in the General Election wouldn't have solved those problems - in fact, I even ran negative keywords to insure our ads didn't show on his name.
- Finally, on page 236 Plouffe rips on a newly developed, yet shortly lived campaign slogan the communications group developed for McCain which was "A Leader We Can Believe In". I remember spending some time researching the organic search results on this set of words and while McCain eventually owned this phrase, when I originally looked at it, it had Obama's website listed in the #1 spot. Personally, I thought the slogan was a bad idea, but nobody asked for my opinion on it, just what I thought the search results looked liked.
Well, as of this post, I'm almost done with the book. Next post should just about do it...