Unless you’ve been living under that boulder we mention every now and then, you know that yesterday, David Plouffe and the Obama campaign sent out an email telling supporters that they could “Be the First to Know” who Obama picks as VP via email or text message. As Plouffe said in the email, “No other campaign has done this before.”
On HuffPo, two columnist are presenting differing views on this. Leonce Gaiter, who I love, as you know if you’ve read this blog for very long, thinks this gimmick could backfire. His view is that this sort of fresh tech methodology has too much of a “reality TV vibe” that plays into the all flash – no substance attack the McCain campaign is making against Obama. With the full disclosure that I sent my text to 62262 to be on the list for the VP announcement, I will admit to nodding in agreement to Gaiter’s post. Gaiter is convincing, accusing the Obama campaing of “turning the VP selection process into an ‘American Idol’ moment.” It is his viewpoint that the McCain audience, “middle-aged and older minds,” will see this as nothing more than a celebrity stunt that cheapens the entire process and, by extension, the campaign and the candidate.
Simultaneously, HuffPo is carrying a post by Sarah Granger called “VP 2 B …” Granger takes the opposite view, pointing out that Obama is following a developing trend in political campaigns of taking advantage of the growing texting culture. Granger, too, sent her text to 62262. She and I had different experiences. It took her 95 minutes to receive her reply text from the campaign, verifying that she would, indeed, “be one of the first notified” of the VP selection. I, however, received my message almost instantaneously. I was probably a little late to the party, having ceded my laptop to my four year old for hours to play Ben Ten Alien Force at Cartoon Network. (Don’t call social services. I’m trying to survive living in a hotel room with two kids for two weeks.) Granger points to her lag, however, as evidence that this gimmick of emailing or texting supporters may be just that, noting that recent emails and texts to supporters with “news” have, indeed, suffered from a lag post-media announcement, making them no more than confirmation of news already reported. Granger still thinks that this was a “smart move” from a technologically savvy campaign that did, after all, begin on the ‘net. Obama’s core of support, after all, has always been the youth movement and it is this core that will respond very favorably to this kind of methodology.
In the end, I think Gaiter and Granger could both be right. The older generation(s) will probably roll their eyes at this kind of gimmick. But I cannot imagine that it would be impactful enough to change anyone’s vote. If a voter were to get severely worked up over this kind of thing, I can’t see how she could be on the Obama train to begin with. On the plus side, it is the kind of technology innovation in campaigning that will turn on Obama’s core supporters. Sure, the news may break on outside sources or even in my inbox before I get it via text. But there is something seemingly personal about a text message that still makes it cool.
Wherever you come down on the gimmick, itself, there’s no denying that it has created a buzz surrounding the VP selection, a buzz which may not exist in the middle of Olympics-mania and the Russia / Georgia “conflict.” And for that, alone, perhaps it was a very smart move.