RNC-YA

Posted by Cyrus 5 March, 2009 As Announcements,Who's Who (16) Comment

Washington, DC — Two years ago I left a prominent technology company in Silicon Valley to join the Republican National Committee as e-campaign director to elect the next Republican president. We lost, but there was more than a software glitch that contributed to our November 2008 defeat. Now that I’ve submitted my resignation, I have a few things to say and people to thank.

First, the perception that the GOP is woefully behind online and can’t catch-up is the blog-flogging of political simpletons.

It’s common knowledge now that Republicans held a technological edge until the Democrats improved what the GOP initiated years earlier. Former DNC Chairman Howard Dean confirmed this when he said (at the National Press Club on Nov. 5, 2008) that he modeled his party’s 2009 comeback by copying the RNC’s sophisticated database and online outreach efforts from the Web 1.0 world.

Change comes quickly online and the tide will turn again in favor of the GOP, once we hone our message and harness emerging technologies. To do that, we must match Democrats, programmer-for-programmer. Regrettably, we’re in terribly short supply of professionals focused solely on building platforms and applications. This is where we got dot bombed in 2006 and 2008. Maybe we should start providing computer science scholarships in exchange for a commitment to serve our party?

Yes, we have generational and geographical hurdles stunting our digital spurt. The former will be solved actuarially and the latter the Democrats will solve for us by upgrading the grid. Thanks for the help Sen. Mark Warner!  Where the GOP can boast is that we have tweeters and bloggers in droves–although their impact remains unclear.

The RNC made some notable gains during the past election cycle. I soon realized our online network was fragmented, our list of e-mail addresses was minimal and we lacked innovation. Today, we host 31 state parties on our website platform, and our e-mail universe has grown from 1.8 million to 12 million addresses. Based on our voter file matches with major web publishers’ databases, we can advertise online directly to 40 million-plus voters. We outperformed the DNC in several areas, accruing twice as many Facebook friends and producing our 2008 Party Platform using the internet. There is a lot more work to do, but the foundation has been laid for new faces to build upon.

The community of online political activists has grown considerably since 1998 when the e-Voter Institute conducted the ground-breaking study on the effectiveness of the internet. The study documented how Peter Vallone used online advertising against then-Gov. George Pataki. The George Washington University’s Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet also produced invaluable research. In 2004, IPDI’s study, “Putting Online Influentials to Work” served as a precursor to the role Web 2.0 would play in the 2008 presidential election cycle.

Cyrus Krohn, E-Voter Institute Board Member

Cyrus Krohn, e-Voter Institute Board Member

Full Disclosure: I’m on the Board of Advisors of the e-Voter Institute and George Washington University’s Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet.

I’d like to express appreciation to my former colleagues and others who had the greatest impact on my tour.

Former RNC Chairman Mike Duncan and Chief of Staff Anne Hathaway hired me and I’m forever grateful.  Chairman Duncan’s appreciation and understanding of the importance of technology allowed our staff to flourish under difficult circumstances.

Collaborating with Sen. Richard Burr and Rep. Kevin McCarthy to create an interactive 2008 Republican Party Platform using the internet was a first for the nation and my proudest moment.

Karl Rove helped me architect an online strategy that contributed to victories, including those of Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Rep. Dave Reichert. Rep. John Boehner was kind enough to offer me the floor at the 2009 House Republican Leadership Conference where we set the stage for a technology revival with valuable input from Rep. Eric Cantor and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

My staff was one of the most creative and dedicated teams I’ve worked with. Brian, Todd, Liz, James & Eric - you all have bright futures and I’d be honored to work with you—or for you—again. We all miss the late Mike Connell.

It wasn’t all work and partisan partying. President and Mrs. Bush were gracious hosts to my family. I don’t know how I made the invitation list for so many of President Obama’s inaugural parties but I must be in competition for the Democrat’s favorite Republican.  Thanks to my long-time friend Arianna Huffington for inviting me to the Huffington Post Inaugural Ball where I met Bob Weir, one of my musical idols. Jerry Rafshoon’s party for my mentor Michael Kinsley’s new book was an intoxicating evening.

I wish RNC Chairman Steele and his new crew the best in 2010.

After taking some time off and relocating my family to the GOP safe-haven of Seattle, I plan to build new online applications for the person best positioned to win in 2012.

Onward & Upward,

@cyrusk

Cyrus Krohn is former e-Campaign Director of the Republican National Committee. Contact him by visiting http://cyruskrohn.com


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Comments
Posted by Matt Hanson March 5, 2009

Good writing. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed my Google News Reader..

Matt Hanson

Posted by dean graziano March 5, 2009

Hi Cyrus, when you get to Seattle give me a buzz and we can catch up over a coffee

Dean

(206) 234-8123

Posted by GW March 5, 2009

Bye bye. I guess at least they lost a hopeless optimist

Posted by danny March 5, 2009

you got me on the rick roll!!!! hahah! nice!

I will check out that GWU study. hopefully it will give us some insight as I often struggle with how to move forward with our web 2.0 endeavors

Posted by Flap March 5, 2009

Love your selection of best positioned Presidential candidate in 2012.

Very good choice.

Best of luck Cyrus and see ya around the net.

@Flap

Posted by Mark March 5, 2009

They may have modeled a campaign after the GOP back in their 1.0 years. You could also say that they modeled a leaning towards equal rights from Lincoln’s Republican party; a better separation of church and state, and fiscal responsibility from Barry Goldwater’s.

Fact is that all this used to be important to the Republicans and now it seems like neo-con messages filled with emotional talking points and sound byte slogans is all that’s important. It’s the GOP’s compulsive betting on the collective ignorance of the populace in the hopes that they won’t do the homework to learn more than what’s floating along the ticker at the bottom of a screen (if that).

It all comes down to the same thing: It doesn’t matter what you use to send your message. You can send it through an OC-3 connection or a bullhorn. If you’ve lost your core and just push crap then all it will ever be is crap in the end. That’s why GOP lost.

Posted by Nicole Rapier March 5, 2009

Cyrus,
I wish you the best! The RNC was lucky to have you, and you will be missed.

Posted by Rob Willington March 5, 2009

MassGOP.com and our online operation was developed because of you and Todd, thank you very much Cyrus! Todd spent way too many hours with me on the phone helping us with our splash page and all the other crazy things I wanted to do. Thanks for building a strong foundation, let the building continue!

Posted by J2 March 5, 2009

Matching “programmer-for-programmer” shows a misunderstanding of the leveraged role of technology. The tools needed here are largely off-the-shelf and need little custom development.

Posted by Tony Marsh March 5, 2009

Cyrus, it’s been great working with you duiring the RNC transition. The planing process you helped guide — and the plan you and Todd Van Etten helped write, assures the GOP will be able to communicate better than ever, Thank goodness Michael Steele recognizes how important it is to upgrade our Party’s technological infrastructure. Thanks again Cyrus. God bless, pal.

Posted by Pete Quily March 5, 2009

“First, the perception that the GOP is woefully behind online and can’t catch-up is the blog-flogging of political simpletons.”

That the GOP has been woefully behind online has been factual.

Whether they can catch up, that hasn’t been determined yet.

I did a case study comparing Barack Obama and John McCain on 29 social media and SEO metrics Nov 5th.

Obama led McCain on 27 out of 29, McCain on 1, and they tied on one. In some cases Obama beat McCain by 25% some by several hundred % and in some cases by thousands. In some cases McCain didn’t even show up.

John McCain sent out his last message on twitter on October 24th, he didn’t even bother to send a get out the vote message on Twitter.

http://adultaddstrengths.com/2008/11/05/obama-vs-mccain-social-media/

Obama used a mix of open source politics and command and control politics to run his campaign. McCain was all command and control. It’s not just a matter of using the online tools it also understanding the community in which the tools are used.

If people don’t know what went wrong, it’s makes fixing it a lot harder.

Posted by Saul Anuzis March 5, 2009

I’ve enjoyed getting to know you and working with you over the last few years. There is NO doubt in my mind, that the RNC and conservatives nationwide are better off because you were part of the team. You and your staff’s efforts to assist state parties as we “entered” into the new technological age was priceless. Our future is bright because of people like you…all my best!

Posted by PatD March 5, 2009

About that GOP platform you helped them put together online: Did you bother explaining the concept of GIGO to them ?

(GIGO = garbage in garbage out)

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