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Fair Play


tants, resulting in the statement’s acceptance as fact in campaign culture. At times, even I have accepted this statement as fact, not because I believed it, but because I didn’t have specific proof to refute it. I could show metrics for web traffic, volunteer sign- ups, contributions and online ads as evidence of reaching more voters, but “winning” votes? That’s a more complex, qualitative process.

The burden of proof is no longer on the Internet to prove its value for winning voters.

By 2006, and certainly by 2008, I would have ex- pected not to face such a question. Didn’t the come- from-behind victories of now-Democratic Sena- tors Jim Webb (Va.), Jon Tester (Mont.), and Claire McCaskill (Mo.) in 2006 and Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary prove that the Internet wins votes? Yet, I continue to hear this conventional wisdom stated as fact. Recently, I’d had enough. So I an- swered the question with another question: “What wins a vote?” Posed to some other strategists, this question ini-

tially resulted in wrinkled brows and cottonmouth. After a deafening silence, which was the result of a few extremely smart campaign operatives taking care to deliver a calculated, thorough response, came the answer: Effectively creating and delivering a be- lievable story. Aha! As I thought, winning votes does not equate

to running the most TV ads, sending the most mail pieces or even knocking on the most doors; al- though each of those tactics plays an important role in telling the story. So does the Internet, or more specifically the people for whom the Internet is a playground.

If a candidate or organization seeks to captivate

voters with their story, one would assume they would turn to all channels, which allow them to do so, within budget.

66 Politics | Canadian Edition

What Wins a Vote?


he Internet does not win votes.” This statement has been uttered by countless campaign managers and media consul-

Some 55 percent of voting age Americans turned to the Internet for news and information about the 2008 election, a statistic that increases every elec- tion cycle. Failing to embrace the opportunity to win over voters online is negligence on the part of campaign operatives. The Internet is a channel that allows a campaign to not only tell a condensed ver- sion of their story, but also to add background and continuous color to their story, as well as to enlist new storytellers and investors who will pass on the story to others. The “Internet” does not directly win votes, much

like a TV ad or a phone call does not. The medium is not the message, and only the message wins. How- ever, the Internet as a medium offers a free platform for telling one’s story, open to all. When then-candidate Obama delivered “The

Speech” about race in America in March 2008, four million viewers watched on the cable networks. Within two weeks after the live speech, more than 4 million had watched the speech on the Obama campaign’s official news channel. Additionally, near- ly 1 million had watched excerpts of the speech up- loaded by individuals on YouTube. Online, too, the consumers of the message often emerge as characters in the story. In 2009, Virginia gubernatorial candidate (now Gov.-elect) Bob Mc- Donnell’s campaign ran ads and posted a blog with testimonials from women supporters in response to The Washington Post’s coverage of his graduate school thesis. Yet, this message blossomed when thousands of additional supporters forwarded e-mails, posted on Facebook and tweeted about it.

McDonnell opponents also amplified their con-

trary take on the story, but McDonnell’s campaign had a stronger presence on Facebook and Twitter, and thus a broader reach. Like every channel, effectively telling a story on-

line requires financial resources, but the financial resources pale in comparison to the other effective story-telling platforms. As we approach a pivotal se- ries of elections in 2010, the burden of proof is no longer on the Internet to prove its value for winning voters; instead, it’s on those who still claim, “The Internet does not win votes.”

Mindy Finn is a partner at the GOP new media firm Engage, which led Virginia Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell’s online outreach in 2009. Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69
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