Romney’s Campaign Sucks Up To The Breitbartlets Again

Over at Big Journalism, Larry O’Connor has a rare scoop. Mitt’s minions have been fluffing the wingnuts over there again:

“Drudge is the single most powerful force in the media today,” said Zac Moffat, Digital Director of the Romney Campaign. Lenny Alcivar, campaign spokesman, agreed: “The Governor’s simple message yesterday was, ‘If we want to repeal Obamacare, we have to replace the president.’ When Drudge highlighted that quote as a headline linked to the Weekly Standard, it began the unified message across the board on the center-right.”

In an exclusive interview with Breitbart News, Moffat and Alcivar discussed how websites like Breitbart and Drudge influence the way their campaign receives and delivers the news.

Moffat revealed, “I have two windows constantly up on my screen all day long, Twitter and the Drudge Report.”

OK, I can see the first wee problem here: Romney’s Digital Director is Zac Moffatt, not Moffat. Nevermind. Carry on, Larry.

Alcivar, who took a leave from the groundbreaking and influential Hynes Communications to work for the Romney campaign, sees a major shift in how the media works:

When this election is over, one of the lessons that will be learned by the mainstream media is that they no longer have a toe-hold on how Americans receive their news. Never before – in a way that has taken Democrats off stride – have we seen the confluence of an aggressive online community, led by Breitbart, and an aggressive campaign team not willing to cede an inch of ground to Democrats. This combination has created a new political reality. We no longer allow the mainstream media to define the political realities in America. The rise of Breitbart, Drudge and others, combined with an aggressive Romney campaign is a powerful tool in the arsenal of the conservative movement.

If I talk to Breitbart about an issue, thousands more will hear our message than if we give a quote to one of the hill rags.

If you have a quick scan of Drudge or Breitbart’s recent frontpage offerings you may be driven to wonder what the heck Alcivar’s been saying to them. John Roberts is too gaga from epilepsy medication to do his job? “Sarah Palin: ‘Nancy Pelosi Is A Dingbat’”? “Romney Ad Shows Hillary Clinton Attacking Obama”?

Moffatt’s other example is the firing of Joe Williams from Politico, which he gives Breitbart’s John Nolte full credit for:

“The senior White House correspondent for Politico is no longer there. The Romney camp didn’t do that, it was Breitbart. It sends a big signal. That wouldn’t have happened without Breitbart.”

Mm-hm-mmmm-hm. Mitt’s campaign loves it when somebody gets fired.

Moffatt—no doubt keen to grab every marketing opportunity to blow his own trumpet as a snake oil peddler (as he did at the Personal Democracy Forum earlier this month, and does on his own firm’s website)—has been more than happy to spill the beans about the Romney campaign’s online media strategy before now. Back in January he gave an interview to The Atlantic:

“It’s amazing to me that people are talking about social media, about counting numbers,” observes Moffatt, “and yet aren’t getting on ballots in primary states .” When it came to qualifying Romney for the Virginia primary to be held in March, “the political team knew two months in advance what we wanted to do,” he says. “We sent out emails segmented to specific areas, with different senders tied to each area. When people came in through Twitter, we moved them through the funnel into signing up an account with MyMitt,” the campaign’s internal mobilization tool, “and we followed up with a phone call.”

Well, that worked out really well, didn’t it? Mitt romped to primary victory on the shoulders of a vast turnout of wildly enthused supporters that gave him uncontested win after uncontested win. Mind you, we don’t know how much of a struggle he’d have had without Moffatt’s expertise. And of course, Mitt’s digital operation has been exemplary throughout.

In mid-June, Moffatt talked to BusinessInsider:

“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 three-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 organizing — 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 revolutionized 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.”

You say “intensity,” I say “rabid hysteria.” I’m not clear whether the intense wingnut Twitter shrieking was what really propelled the Rosen story to the headlines—I have a feeling any campaign worth its salt would have been able to capitalize on it just by answering calls from the dreaded MSM. In any case, it’s hard to say that it had any lasting effects beyond that news cycle in terms of shifting the “GOP war on women” narrative at the time, let alone that the Romney campaign can claim it as a clear win since the appeal of Ann Romney and her attitude to working women is by no means universal. If we’re casting our minds back to the 2008 election, the McCain campaign had little trouble ginning up controversies that were even more baseless but made more of a lasting splash even with its pretty weak and outplayed online operation. Lipstick on a pig, anyone? What a gamechanger that was, huh? How often can you rely on the same sort of schtick without it getting tired? One thing the right wing hasn’t been short of in the time I’ve been observing it is an echo chamber.

One area where the online strategy is reportedly working, if the Romney campaign’s to be believed, is fundraising. On the back of the Supreme Court ACA judgment they claim to have raised millions through the campaign website. But that’s really just a retail transaction setup. As long as the site layout and donation forms aren’t too confusing and you’ve got enough server power, you can make hay when the sun shines, but it’s hardly a strategic victory, and a plum opportunity like that isn’t going to happen every week.

You can also raise as much money and capture as many names and addresses as you like—it’s going to be a wasted effort unless you use them effectively.

The Atlantic interview continues:

During our conversation, I raise a point made by the New York Times’ Nate Silver and Micah Cohen in their recent reporting on New Hampshire . No Republican, Romney included, had more than two field offices in the state this cycle, yet in 2008, Obama and Clinton each had 16 there. Money might be a factor; at this point in their respective cycles, the Democrats had far outraised even Romney. And, come general election, the GOP leans a bit on their party infrastructure for their ground game. But Moffatt suggests that all isn’t what it appears from on the ground. “When you looked at Iowa, it didn’t look like there were a lot of people,” he says. “But we were making tens of thousands of phone calls through our phone-from-home program into the state from across the country. The parameters have changed.”

Yeah, there’s ole Mitt and that outsourcing model again. As things panned out after that January interview, time after time the Romney campaign just upped sticks and abandoned its local offices once a primary or caucus was over and carpetbagged off to the next, leaving the likes of Ron Paul to continue building his own idiosyncratic support infrastructure and online strategy—which Moffatt’s never mentioned in an interview to my knowledge—that will see Romney challenged in court and quite possibly at the GOP Convention unless Ron’s followers are placated by then.

O’Connor signs off his article with this quote from Moffatt:

“The governor will no longer allow the mainstream media to dictate the terms of this debate. This is just the beginning… We are witnessing the rise of the center right media.”

Mitt is already finding that the dreaded mainstream media is getting a tiny bit impatient with his habit of refusing to comment meaningfully on issues he finds uncomfortable. He’s still struggling and flipflopping with his messaging on immigration, he certainly doesn’t want to talk about his record as governor, and his own primary opponents pointed out that he was the worst-placed candidate among them to debate the whole healthcare thing, which is now supposedly the hill he’ll win or die on this fall.

Meanwhile, if you lie down with Drudge, let alone the Breitbartlets, you’re very likely to end up with cooties. One wonders if Moffatt’s aware of exactly how some of Breitbart’s chief staff actually use Twitter. Maybe he should ask Charles Johnson at LGF about Dana Loesch’s antics, among others.

More: Just for fun, because I’m sure this this Youtube will go viral anyway, BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski tweets:

Andrew Kaczynski

Obama could explain the individual mandate to people by just running clips of Romney explaining it w/powerpoint.

Here’s Mitt explaining the merits of the individual mandate to the Heritage Foundation in January 2006:

Posted by YAFB on 06/30/12 at 08:42 PM • Permalink

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Great post YAFB.

Are these people seriously all fired up because they think they can communicate effectively, all zap-pow 21st century style, to their base?

I hope they continue to labor under the delusion that their coalition of nutjobs can carry them over the finish line.

Are these people seriously all fired up because they think they can communicate effectively, all zap-pow 21st century style, to their base?

Moffatt doen’t credit her, but it seems to me that he owes Palin a hat tip or two. Maybe Vixen was on to something (wouldn’t be the first time!).

“If it was just about how many people you could hire, the person in charge would never lose.

New headline: Digital Director of the Romney Campaign Admits Obama Creates More Jobs Than Romney!!!!

This is going to be fun, because that great pivot to the middle-pleasing center-right (center right? somebody will have to show me where they put that these days and explain why moderates and indies will like it?) is going to hold the following:

Bolton foreign policy, Bork judicial advising, Bush economic policy, and the flavor of Breitbartlet journamalism (which I’m afraid is….past its expiration date?)

What a Romney social medial strategist might have to keep in mind is that page views don’t necessarily equal admiration—sometimes folks are just staring at things on the internet in abject horror, or linking to criticize:

If you have a quick scan of Drudge or Breitbart’s recent frontpage offerings you may be driven to wonder what the heck Alcivar’s been saying to them. John Roberts is too gaga from epilepsy medication to do his job? “Sarah Palin: ‘Nancy Pelosi Is A Dingbat’”? “Romney Ad Shows Hillary Clinton Attacking Obama”

Those tropes got a nice kicking around from left-bloggers. To carry on with the Sarah Palin comparison, the problem with Always Be Complainin’ (or outraging the left) is that one gets stuck in that role.  Romney likes to have things both ways, but the ideological baggage he’s taking on will make that harder.

Seems like Mr Moffatt, despite his smug hip-ness, is suffering from a case of galloping Republican Fallacy—the belief that his ever-shrinking, ever more ideologically extreme base somehow represents what a vast majority of Americans “really” believe/want.

This notion has been issuing forth from the echo chamber for decades, now, and its promoters always seem genuinely stupefied in the face of hard evidence to the contrary. 

In rare cases, like the recent SCOTUS ruling on ACA, Republicans’ outspoken confidence (e.g., “please, no ball-spiking after the announcement”) that they are absolutely right and assured a win, actually does bleed over into the expectations of the general populace, as noted by a bejillion pollsters of every stripe.

Young geniuses like Mr Moffatt are especially prone to falling under the spell of their own hype, which is the only explanation for a reasonably intelligent life-form to promote the illogical idiocy spewed forth by Drudge and Big Dead (and Big Red) every day.

So, Mr Moffatt, go ahead and start your day with a swig of Monster and “We Are the Champions” thrumming in the background, but don’t believe, for a second, that the word you whisper into Drudge’s ear is actually relevant to the Kansan mother homeschooling seven kids, or the 70-year-old, white, high school sweethearts in their RV, or the deacons of the evangelical church in the strip mall, or the local gun nuts and militia who will actually vote the way you want them to even if you kept quiet and never spent a dime of your candidate’s money.  The hearts and minds that you’re actually after are probably a little too intelligent to be taken in by Drudge.

Apropos Update:

Just spotted this on HuffPo—Rupert Murdoch weighing in on the quality of Romney’s campaign team . . .

Met Romney last week. Tough O Chicago pros will be hard to beat unless he drops old friends from team and hires some real pros. Doubtful.

Interesting comments from Murdoch; briefly on the Romney campaign—I just think a better candidate would be easier than finding a team capable of managing his flip-flops. 

But really, I was more fascinated by his comments on the Cruise/Holmes divorce announcement.  Sure, the cult stuff is a reasonable surmise from a tabloid guy, but still and all, Tom & Katie may want to contact their cell phone providers.

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