The Age of Digital Campaigns


Reprinted from

 We’re probably within a week of the first Republican candidate to file papers opening an exploratory committee to “test the waters” in the 2012 Presidential campaign.


I get at least one call a day from reporters asking why this cycle is taking so long to get up and running.


My answer has been the same: Two reasons.


One. The 2010 cycle felt like it had started in 1947. By the time November 2nd rolled around last Fall everyone was exhausted. Even people who weren’t interested in politics, didn’t vote, and didn’t care who … didn’t care if anyone … won or lost.

Two. Just as World War II was the first mechanized war, the 2012 cycle will be the first totally digital campaign.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Newt Gingrich has about 1.3 million – MILLION – people following him on Twitter. President Obama has 1.9 million people following him.

Sarah Palin has 414,000 Twitter followers, Mike Huckabee has 126,600, Mitt Romney has 27,000, Tim Pawlenty has 25,400, and Ron Paul has 30,400.


As a checkpoint, I have 1,083 people following me @richgalen on Twitter. Obviously I have some catching up to do. On the other hand, I’m not thinking about running for President.


Facebook pages? Got ’em.


Obama has 18,340,263 Facebook pals and Sarah Palin clocks in at 2,752,578.

Mitt Romney has 785,700, Mike Huckabee has 533,195, Newt has 103,000 and Pawlenty has about 71,000.


As of last night I had 4,567 Facebook “friends” (which is a pretty cool number, when you look at it), but I’m still not running for President.


Here’s the point of all that is this: If any of these potential candidates wants to touch tens or hundreds of thousands of people four times a day with 140 character messages they can do that.


From their office. They don’t need people crawling all over Iowa, or South Carolina, New Hampshire or Nevada.



If they want, they can urge their supporters to watch an ad which only exists on the candidate’s webpage. They don’t need to buy 30 second ads on Hannity or O’Reilly. They can drive traffic to their ads on-line.

It costs about $1,000 per day for every day a staffer is on the road. Hotels, rental cars, Air fares, cell phones, meals, and the occasional bail-bondsman all add up.


Setting up offices in the early states is also expensive, but in addition to the direct costs you will bear for an office on Grand Avenue in Des Moines you have to set up all the back-office operations: Fund raising, advance teams, communications, accounting, legal, and so on at your main campaign office.


All of these candidates – Romney, Huckabee, Pawlenty, et. al. – can save a million or a million-and-a-half bucks a month by sending e-mails, Tweets and Facebook updates until they absolutely have to get out and start shaking hands in the early primary and caucus states.


 I suspect that two weeks from yesterday – by March 1 – we will have a pretty good idea of who is serious about getting into this race and who is not. One month from yesterday the GOP field will be pretty much set.


Candidates will not only fill your inbox with important messages, ICYMIs (In Case You Missed It), links to speeches and YouTube videos, invitations to attend events, and pleas for financial support, but they will have their armies of supporters on the lookout for any column, article, editorial, or blog which says something about their campaign.


They will be trained in the art of the “COMMENT.” They will sign into newspapers and blogs and add their support for their candidate and/or their disdain for opponents. None of the rest of us will much care.


Ron Paul (who won the straw poll at the CPAC event telling us, once again, how useful straw polls are a year out from the first caucus) is the champion of having his supporters on the look-out for on-line polls so they can electronically stuff the ballot box and put him in the top spot.


Paul will win most of those on-line polls, but no one believes Ron Paul will be the Republican nominee in Tampa next year.


So, check your junk settings and your data plan. We’re about to crank up the digital campaign.

Editor’s Note:  Rich Galen publishes at to which you can subscribe.  He is a former aide to House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a long-time public affairs and political professional who has had several tours of duty in Iraq working with the U.S. military’s public affairs operations.