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Business - Written by on Friday, February 20, 2009 12:24 - 0 Comments

GOP aims to shake off the crust

About a week and a half ago, the Republican party held their Tech Summit 2009 (the first ever), aiming to create a real 2.0 strategy to help the party reach out to voters.

“When we get to 2010, I want my campaigns here,” Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said as he held up his cell phone at the party’s Tech Summit on Friday. “I want whatever we’re doing to be within my thumb’s reach. We don’t want to just do what Obama did in ’08–that’s the floor.”

Republicans have some catching up to do, and atleast a few party members may need convincing of this.  One was quoted as saying that “Despite what the press says, we actually had an e-campaign in 2004 that did many of the things the Obama campaign did.  They just did it with many more people.”  I’m not sure I can agree with this.  As this article points out, 2004 was when facebook was still limited to universities, and YouTube didn’t even exist, making this a very difficult comparison.  A more telling anecdote is the 2008 election, John McCain had only four people working on his new media campaign.  Barack Obama had over 90.

So far, the party has started engaging on Facebook and Ning to collect input into some key areas.  For example, here’s their Grassroots facebook page, and here is their mobile suggestions page.  This may look like a good start, but it hasn’t exactly taken off yet – the mobile page only has 56 members, and a whopping total of 7 wall posts.

That’s not to say there weren’t some innovative suggestions to come out of the Tech Summit.  This article lists some of the best, notably: 

1) An iPhone app that shows you how your local congressman is voting, with his contact info.  2) A video game like Nintendo’s classic Paperboy.  Except in this version, the paperboy would be Barack Obama, and instead of tossing newspapers, he’d be biking up the street tossing wads of money away at houses.

Some suggestions, however, were less innovative.  One proposal was to use mobile ads to connect with hard to reach minority groups.  I’m not sure this would do much to create party support, as untargeted mobile ads would probably do little to boost engagement.  Rather, apps like the ones listed above might actually provide services or entertainment to users in a way that would improve their perception of the party. 

How much of this talking and brainstorming will actually translate into improved citizen relations for the GOP?  One bright spot might be their new National Committee Chairman, Michael Steele, the RNC’s first black chairman.  Having been denied this job previously by former President Bush and Karl Rove, Steele now has big plans for updating the Republican image.  He says he wants an “off the hook” PR campaign that can apply the party’s principles to “urban-suburban hip hop settings”.  According to Steele, this new strategy will be based on a campaign that is “avant garde, technically”.  This is a big change for the party that, in recent years, has targeted much of their campaigning towards a conservative base.

Based on all this, do you think the Republicans can take the “old” out of the Grand Old Party?  Can this “off the hook” campaign shake off the crusty image, and use new media to reach new voters?

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