Monday, July 9, 2012
Hi, Matt --
If you look at the first post of the Spencerian with the right kind of eye, you can almost figure out what I was trying to do, poorly and with a weird, almost-unforgivable third-person thing: create an online space where I and my friends and acquaintances could come and talk about politics. You have to remember, Matt, this was 2005, and Duncan and I were still in D.C. Democrats had just finished their embarrassing campaign for Senator John Kerry, and George W. Bush had, inexplicably to most of us, just won re-election. Katrina hadn't happened yet, but it was only a few months away.
We were still in the early years of the Iraq War -- though a couple of years beyond "Mission Accomplished". It was also the year Bush vetoed enhanced stem cell research.
Of course, this was the illustrious 109th Congress, too, the notorious one run by Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. In fact, it was Frist, a doctor, who "diagnosed" Terry Schiavo on the floor of the U.S. Senate. We have the 109th and Dr. Frist to thank for the Palm Sunday Compromise.
Still, despite it all, it turns out most folks don't want to dedicate as much of their free time to talking about politics as I do, and so the blog evolved into, well, whatever it is today.
You know me well enough by now to know how much I love my own ideas. So you can surely appreciate how much it pains me to say this: thank you for this fantastic idea.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let me offer you a gift in exchange for your inspiration. See attached image (above).
This is a genuinely great idea, and it's probably worth a lot more than a PNG file. I have started @SpencerianBlue, and eagerly await the arrival of @SpencerianRed. The good idea is for me to follow the Obama Campaign, the candidate, campaign staff, and kind of balloon from there. I expect some Obama Florida Twitter accounts are next, and then maybe some media folks. MSNBC, maybe some left-leaning columnists at a few newspapers.
For as good as your idea is, you actually get the hard work: @SpencerianRed, which will follow the Romney Campaign, staffers, and so on. I already regret giving right-wing freaks an extra follower, but hey, all good ideas come with a price.
And so we'll compare Twitter notes throughout the week via email, and post the results on Thursday evenings.
This is going to be awesome.
@SpencerianBlue is now following:
Nine, I know -- kind of a lot right out of the gate, but of those, who could possibly wait?
Obama 2012 is the official campaign Twitter account, there Obama's account, the DNC account, Axelrod, Messina and Stephanie Cutter from the campaign, and the official Convention account, which I suppose will be useless in another few weeks. I added the official White House and White House Live accounts, too, because while this is about one campaign versus another, at the presidential level, there's just no denying the power of incumbency.
I have not created any lists, nor have I done much else with the account.
Even on the off-chance this doesn't work, I am, as you already know, fond of my quirky little corner of the Internet. Our ongoing conversation about what's happening in the Twitterverse, though, one side to the other, does the original intention of the thing quite an honor, and I thank you for it.
Anyway, it is your great idea... but I've taken the first step into the echo chamber. Over to you.
Monday, July 9, 2012
Anyway, disillusioned of politics and hurtling toward my wedding and a totally different life, I set the political stuff aside for a while. Oh, I kept one eye on the circus, but feigned disinterest was so much better than thinking constantly about the reality of a second Bush term.
Skip past a career in ministry, a couple of kids and a temporary stint in the lovely state of North Carolina and I found myself working in the same agency that my father called home for 20+ years and making the acquaintance of one Benjamin J. Kirby. A couple of guest columns, a regular spot in the Spencerian for which I have been woefully unproductive, and now this.
I have started @SpencerianRed and can't wait to see where this thing goes.
@SpencerianRed now follows:
@MittRomney ... Feel the excitement already
@AnnDRomney ... The unzipper herself
@andreamsaul ... CampaignSpeak
@AbeAdams ... Mitt's digital team
And... I jumped a step ahead. I worried a little about the partisan nature of our task, so I went looking for some fairness and balance and found...
Thank you for indulging my little idea. This is going to be fun.
# # # #
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
I think the news from Spencerian Blue today may be not be so much who I'm following but the fact that I already picked up a follower (not including the spammer who already found me): Mama For Obama -- that is @Mama4Obama2012 out of New Orleans, Louisiana, and I'm damn glad to have her on-board!
Of course, after today's BuzzFeed news, I'm also now following @BenLaBolt, the Obama Campaign press secretary. Some anonymous GOP operative wondered aloud to BuzzFeed, who should have known better: who vets the fonts, with respect to the President's new campaign sign typeface, which happens to be Revolution Gothic, "a style inspired by retro Cuban propaganda posters."
You can't make this shit up.
I doubt they give Employee of the Month awards at the Obama Campaign, but if they do, I nominate LaBolt for one for this response alone: “Your GOP operative should have had the courtesy to stay sober before noon, and BuzzFeed should go back to labeling cat slideshows.” It was an email to the BuzzFeed folks, but it could have been a Tweet (with 11 characters to spare).
And that's what this -- this Into the Echo Chamber experiment -- is really about, right? That this is almost assuredly going to be the Twitter Campaign. It will be nimble and fast and built for the short attention span. Today is Tuesday, but by the time we post this on Thursday, this will be ancient news. The hits come hard, they come faster, but the impact hardly lasts as long. Thus, the science of campaigns is changing.
They are becoming, in a way, more mobile.
And with that, I give you another gift, this time by way of our colleague at work, Michael Warner: the rise of mobile infographic.
It's your jumping-off point for where I think this conversation is headed, at least this week.
Best to the family.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
I wholeheartedly agree that this will be the Twitter campaign - we have already moved from a cable news cycle/sound bite world to a 140 character/viral video/meme world. Not necessarily better or worse, just different. There was a certain immediacy to the cable news- dominated political time, but nothing like it is now. I mean, we couldn't even wait 5 minutes before TWO networks screwed up reporting on one of the most significant Supreme Court decisions of the new millennium. Before Twitter, I don't think that happens.
As for my old boss, no I don't think that the Twitter Era would have been kind to Bob Graham. Shoot, in 2003 we had problems because the guy spoke in nuance and contextualized everything. His inability to get past his intelligence to speak in sound bites and platitudes certainly wouldn't have worked in a 140 character world. Plus, his note-taking, which made him responsive, dependable, thoughtful and borderline compulsive, would have been torn apart on YouTube much worse today. Finally, his signature retail politics gimmick - his workdays - aren't going so great for Rick Scott. Of course, that could be because Graham is a genuinely likable guy and Scott, well, isn't.
Anyway, back to 2012 and our little project. I dumped Greta. She is a great example of doing the wrong things on Twitter, in my opinion. I credit her for being engaged in it, but asking stupid questions and bombarding timelines with 15 consecutive tweets doesn't endear this follower. I like a dynamic timeline. I want interesting links and clever banter. I don't want you pimping your show.
I can't handle this short list of followers, so I added a few new ones. Some more campaign people, the College RNC guy and most significantly... Rush Limbaugh. The moment I hit follow, I am certain two things happened: 1) my father figuratively rolled over in his grave (he was cremated), and 2) my maternal grandfather jumped and clicked his heels like the Lucky Charms leprechaun. He's 91 and can barely use one of those cell phones with the giant buttons, so I am pretty sure he has no idea what Twitter is, but if someone explained it to him, he'd be happy. You see, we used to mess with my dad by placing Rush material in my hands and awaiting his reaction. We would turn on the show just to see my dad squirm.
Should be some interesting material there...
I have no words of wisdom to report tonight, but I am sure that with more sleep and better Twitter material, I will have a return salvo to your mobile media theory. In the meantime, I have a question for you....
Is there anything at all the Romney camp can do to make this election about Mitt?
As a political operative working in a tough economy, being the challenger isn't the worst thing. But if it is a referendum election, you certainly have less control than you would like. The effect of any attack is incorporated into existing knowledge and impressions, and therefore minimized. Your ability to define the candidate, the issues or anything else is tempered. And maybe with this candidate and this set of economic circumstances, that is ok. I just know that I wouldn't be comfortable in their shoes. I would be looking for ways to control more, to drive more of the narrative, to be proactive. As we sit right now, Mitt himself is basically a sideshow, an afterthought.
So what do they do to change the game? Or do they do nothing?
# # # #
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
First, some new folks Spencerian Blue is following:
Jon Carson @JonCarson44 -- he's the Director of Public Engagement at the White House.
Jennifer Palmieri @jmpalmieri -- she is the Deputy Director of Communications at the White House and a former Clinton staffer. She worked for Leon Panetta when he was a Congressman (and when he was the White House Chief of Staff). She was also the press secretary for the DNC, and the press person for Edwards 2004. She is easily one of the highest ranking Obama insiders with tight connections to the Clinton world. I should also point out that Jen and I didn't exactly work together in the Clinton days, but we met several times. It's a good bet she'd have no idea who I am were she to meet me today. I also happen to know she's super nice.
I am also now following her boss, the White House Communications Director, Dan Pfeiffer @pfeiffer44
And, like you, I have taken steps -- albeit safe steps -- into the world of media: MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell @Lawrence, and Rachel Maddow @maddow.
The thread today is almost too easy to follow: Obama's proposed middle-class tax cuts and Romney's off-shore accounts. Needless to say the former compliments the latter quite nicely.
To your question: you said it, not me. This is a referendum election, and it is going to be about Obama, no matter what. I don't think the Romney people are as stupid as we sometimes think (perhaps this is something Spencerian Red could either confirm or deny definitively). They know their man isn't popular. They know he's a disconnected, wealthy, arrogant bully, born of the kind of outrageous privilege that would embarrass most folks. You haven't heard the last of car elevators and dressage, I can assure you.
I obviously don't know, but I would guess that if you were to look at the Romney Campaign plan, it would have almost everything to do with framing the economy -- and the country -- as broken. That is certainly the plan of groups like Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS.
Still, having only negativity to go with would make me uncomfortable in their shoes, too. A candidate with a compelling story would have surely been a plus for the GOP. Granted, no one quite has a story as compelling as Obama, but they could have at least tried (and I suspect this is a lot of what is being talked about with respect to the Veepstakes, which we can talk about later).
With all of that said, it is pretty evident the Romney folks are getting beaten at this game. So your question is, in fact, legitimate: what do they do to change the game? They're trying very hard with Ann and the Romney kids as surrogates for their inept father. But I don't see that working, either.
If I were on Team Romney, I think you'd have to fire three-quarters of your campaign staff and do a full re-brand. Because you're Mitt Romney, you'll take the hit as a flip-flopper, but that damn ship has sailed. I don't exactly know what it is, and I can't quite put my arms around it, but somewhere, lost in the GOP world of big-money donors and off-shore billionaire accounts is a populist message that could resonate beyond the tea party freaks and weirdos.
I think somewhere, amid the crazy and wild extremism, there is a message of rugged individualism, the idea of the self-made man, the boot-strap story, all of which has been a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Grand Old Party for at least most of my lifetime. It is the story and message that was once at the heart of the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan, cowboy hats and crooked smiles, saddles on fences and tough talk, TV dinners with Nancy and stern warnings for our global foes. It is the story, the message, actually, that people need when times have been tough for a long, long time and they are, in a strange way that is private and collective all at the same time, frightened and scared of the future.
The problem is, Mitt Romney is the exact wrong guy to deliver that message, at least in his current incarnation.
The right guy, funny enough, is currently residing in the government housing located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
# # # #
Thursday, July 12, 2012
I am still not where I'd like to be with the Twitter account. I have added some more FOX News people, but my plan to start with the Romney campaign core and build out based on who they retweet and discuss is failing miserably - and the reason goes to the heart of this week's discussion. They NEVER talk about Mitt. NEVER. In four days they haven't sent out a single Romeny idea, plan, suggestion, proposed legislative change (other than Repeal Obamacare!!!) or anything else. My feed is all "Obama's a liar. Obama's an outsourcer in chief. Obama's a racist. Obama doesn't know anything about the threat that Venezuela poses..."
However, just to show you how committed to the rabbit hole I am, I did add Karl Rove, American Crossroads, Ed Gillespie and even Grover Norquist. I am assuming the last one will just be a "NO" on repeat, every few hours or so.
The other fun theme of the day is how "courageous" Romney was for going to the NAACP conference and "telling it like it is". I mean, he got booed and didn't cry or anything. Is that Purple Heart worthy? Bronze star maybe?
One of the things I am most looking forward to with this project is to find out if our assumption is correct that the two sides are not even having the same coversation. The "Echo Chamber" idea already seems to be in full effect. The Spencerian Red feed has been completely silent about the offshore account business unless it is to point out stimulus funds that went to multi-national companies (which I thought Red would love... but apparently in this instance they are politically expendable at the altar of slaying Obama).
Anyway, the big takeaway for me is that this is truly a referrendum election. Mitt can't do much to change the narrative, but look out for a Ron Paul curveball. It is coming at some point and the Red establishment is going to need to deal with it. It will be interesting to see how that plays. But in the horserace, I think that the Romney campaign has two big moves left. They have the VP pick, which I hope to dive into as soon as our feeds lead us there, and one potential re-boot. I don't see them trying it in July, or even August. I think they are holding that card now, waiting to see what direction things move and how the VP process shakes out. Depending on who they pick, they may have an opportunity to do a mini-rebrand of Mitt in conjunction. That only works if they pick someone like Huckabee, not another GOPbot off the factory line like Portman. But I will stop with the VPness, though I have a ton brimming.
As for Mitt - it is pretty tough to pitch the rugged individualism and freedom idea when you went to Cranbrook or whatever his private school was called. Am I wrong, or is that the same place that the rapper who battled Eminem at the end of 8 Mile went? And yes, I just took you from Grover Norquist to Eminem in one response. You're welcome.
Like I said, this is going to be fun.
# # # #
NOTE: Well, this is it -- an ogoing electronic conversation between me and Matt Spence, with him monitoring the Twitterverse of the Romney Campaign, Republicans, etc. He has set up @SpencerianRed to follow folks. I'm monitoring the tweets of the Obama Team, Democrats, and on and on. I'm using @SpencerianBlue. We'll carry on an email-based discussion and analysis and post here on Thursdays.
We're calling it Into the Echo Chamber.