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