December 10 - 11 I attended the Internet & Politics conference at the Berkman Center at Harvard University and it was quite an eye opening experience for me. Besides the Harvard faculty, you had various bloggers, political consultants, and members from campaigns - and in particular the McCain and Obama campaigns. Day 1 was spent mostly going over Obama's grassroots/field campaign and the integration with their online strategy. That's what it hit me that we were watching the results of a beautifully played out game of chess.
I love chess. Not because I'm particularly good, but because I love the strategy and tactics. So much so that both my 6 and 8 year old play and if you're not careful the 8 year can beat you. The best part of chess is how you can setup an opponent many moves ahead so that by the time they figure it out you have checkmate. Obama's campaign had all experts fooled right up until the end.
- I like Kate Kaye's articles on the online spending and strategies of the various campaigns. Obama outspent everyone online and the only bright spot we had was politic's greatest search campaign . However, the disparity in online advertising wasn't the amazing part.
- Lots of professionals reported on Obama's amazing ground game. It wasn't that the other campaigns didn't have a ground game. McCain did in the primary and in fact used that with online advertising to win the primaries. Obama's ground game and networking was awesome, but that wasn't what impressed me the most.
- Obama's dominance in social networking due in no small part to Chris Hughes was not the amazing part either - though it did towards the end of the campaign cause me to totally ignore it as a viable channel for undecided voters.
- The constant loading and viewing of YouTube videos was also impressive delivering to Obama $40+ million in equivalent TV viewing. It wasn't like team McCain or anyone else other than Ron Paul had people spontaneously creating great video that could rival Obama girl, but that wasn't what got me fired up.
- Finally the almost billion $ raised was key and certainly eye opening and that fueled everything else, but what impressed me the most was...
The discipline the campaign showed to ensure that their website-myBO.com was the central hub for all activities. Everything fed into this so that they didn't need to use microtargeting they could data mine the information from what people gave them. They could market in Republican strongholds like Washington Township NJ (aka Long Valley) where even though Obama would get beaten by McCain 2:1 it didn't matter because Obama leaders like Kevin Nedd could organize efficiently and use tools to create events.
People connected to the campaign because of how things fed into their information hub. Obama had all the experts fooled because of the way they viewed his campaign from different perspectives. At the end of the day, it all turned out to be the same. An enormous networking organization fueled by a centrally located database.
At an AAPC conference in the summer in NYC I watched Andrew Rasiej on a panel and I thought he was a bit smug. Not so much that it was annoying, but the kind of smugness you get when you play chess and know that the game was over in about 10 moves but that your opponent is still struggling to win. I'm not sure if Andrew knew all, but looking back that was what the smile-smugness was about.
Obama had a lot of people fooled for how integrated the campaign truly was. The really amazing part was how integrated everything was and how well they kept it under wraps.