Tuesday, June 28, 2005

MoveOn Shows Its Hand: Casey Endorsed

One of longshot Senate candidate Chuck Pennacchio's best bets was to get a group like MoveOn to jump on board with his candidacy. In 2003, MoveOn held an online primary, that while not garnering any candidates an official endorsement, helped continue the momentum Howard Dean was riding.

MoveOn held another online primary this week, and basically, it was rigged for Bob Casey. They sent out an email to their members, giving a description of the Senate candidates. However, when they made no issue of choice in their description, they made clear that what they were after was a quick endorsement of Casey. And, according to an email I received yesterday, they got their endorsement.

First candidate is Bob Casey, Jr., Pennsylvania's state treasurer who is currently leading Rick Santorum in polls of the race for the Senate. Casey has fought for improved long-term health care, made child care more affordable, and supported women- and minority-owned businesses. Howard Dean calls Casey "a tremendous friend of working people," 2 and Pennsylvania MoveOn members overwhelmingly supported Casey in our online primary. With President Bush's help, Santorum has raised millions of dollars so far. But even so, this race is our best chance to replace a key player in the far-right Republican leadership with a strong Democrat. Early support from MoveOn members will be a big boost to Casey's campaign.
Chuck may be known among bloggers, but I would guess that amongst MoveOn members that his name recognition is very, very low. Couple that with Casey's name recognition, and this was a done deal.

I feel for Pennacchio, but I don't see where he goes from here. I know he has caught the fancy of many in the Philly blog community, but, I have not been particularly impressed. With this move, his odds just got a little longer.

When MoveOn held that early primary, Dean came out swinging, getting something like 50 percent of the vote out of a ton of candidates. When Paul Wellstone started his longshot campaign, he immediately had the support of party activists, labor unions, etc, that helped him pull off a win at the Minnesota DFL party convention. I guess I am wondering where the same reaction is for Chuck? I guess we will never know whether Chuck could have done better if this were simply held later, because MoveOn quickly moved to cut him off at the knees.

I am all for longshot candidates. But, I just have not been impressed by Chuck. He seems like a great guy, but, I am not feeling it. I remember when I first saw Wellstone speak, and I was blown away. I have not felt the same way after seeing Chuck. (Maybe it is unfavorable to compare Chuck to Wellstone, but, it is a comparison his supporters keep bringing up.) Either way, this is a clear sign that Chuck will be fighting on without the support of any of the big liberal groups such as MoveOn.

See Chris' take on the endorsement here.


At 10:36 PM, Blogger Pat Evans/Butcher/Wicks said...

I think it's also worth noting that demographically MoveOn members are very different than bloggers. Someone who logs on to a website to read posts and make comments frequently has a relationship with the web and with their email different than the average MoveOn members whose only connection to online politics is via the emails from Eli, Adam and Wes.

I talked with Chuck about this early on and he didn't seem to get it. He thought that his blog strategy was enough. I only ever got one email from Chuck during the entire campaign and Tim dismissed Casey's emails and petitions as "list-building."

Well, list building certainly is one reason to send out emails, but another is to build a relationship with people who don't blog.

This issue came up during the Seth Williams campaign as well. Although it was the involvement of local blogs that got the most media and political attention, the bulk of Seth's online support came from email readers and not bloggers.

At some point soon people will begin to understand how online organizing really works. Until then, people like Chuck will claim an online base of support without really doing what it takes to build one. If he had learned how to use email to connect with potential supporters, MoveOn might have been forced to deal with the Chuck question more directly.

At 10:54 PM, Blogger DanielUA said...

Well, I got and get plenty of emails from the campaign.

The thing is, MoveOn built that huge email list over a long period of time, with a huge range of issues, from the original "censure and move on" in 1998, to their virtual march on Washington in 2003, to their early primary in late 2003. They proved over the course of 5 years that they were a group people could trust, and used a particularly high amount of energy amongs liberals, etc. As people are reading less and less email, I wonder how a brand new candidate can do that in a much shorter period of time.

At this point, MoveOn is a brand. But, if Chuck simply had their email list, I am not really sure that mass emails would get a huge response, unless they actually came from MoveOn itself.

At 12:42 AM, Blogger Pat Evans/Butcher/Wicks said...

MoveOn built that email list by identifying issues of importance to progressives and creating action steps around them Chuck did not do that for a broader audience (which is what i think I would be a part of since i got at least one email from him) on issues like Santorum and Walmart, Santorum and Outback, Terry Schiavo, etc.

MoveOn is only a brand because it figured out to make itself one. Chuck as far as I can tell didn't do that. He certainly wasn't going to build as large or loyal of an online base as MoveOn in a short period of time, but how do you explain that he didn't seem to build any?

I am on just about every progressive list-serv there is in Philadelphia and in many of the burbs and in Pittsburgh and I only got one email from him.

Again, a lot of people think that using the internet in any way serves to reach people in every way possible online. It's not that easy- internet organizing, just like any other form of organizing, needs to be methodical and is often very time-consuming and requires hard work.

At 12:43 AM, Blogger Pat Evans/Butcher/Wicks said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 3:18 AM, Blogger Rep. Mark B. Cohen said...

Regardless of how one reaches people, the process is similar. Bloggers are analagous to newspaper columnists, with enhanced ability to interact with readers.

Email is analagous to direct mail to individual persons.

Any successful campaign to reach large numbers of people has to both appeal to people en masse (all forms of media, including blogs), and appeal to people as individuals (all forms of personal contact, including emails).

Merely campaigning in the mass media is rarely enough to elect any candidate, as large numbers of people want a personal connection of some kind before committing to voting for a candidate.

At 8:04 AM, Blogger DanielUA said...

Well, again, knowing a little bit about Tim Tagaris, I don't think it is a question that they saw it as hard work. Tim was working longer hours than anyone.

As for why he is having trouble building a brand, I don't really see the internet thing as the reason. I think he has done quite a lot on the internet, given his position. I think the bigger question, is why is he having so much trouble offline, in communities where he should be doing better. I don't want to harp on this, but I really think the neighborhood networks were a good example of an audience that should be eating out of his hand, but clearly were not.

As for general internet stuff, again, I don't think that while listservs will have some effect, it remains to be seen whether anyone not named MoveOn or Howard Dean (who, it seems to me, used blogs as the starter, and then combined that wth emails) can simply send out emails and expect to take widespread action. I guess I believe that it can happen again, but it will not happen with mass emails as a start, but with organizing where they are a final touch.

At 8:09 AM, Blogger Pat Evans/Butcher/Wicks said...

Dan, Your original question was why didn't Chuck do better with MoveOn people. The answer is because he never really communicated with them. Running a blog and going to DFA meetups doesn't take you into contact with the majority of MoveOn members.

If you want to engage MoveOn members in any issue you have to email them. Will you get the same response as MoveOn, probably not. Will you build some kind of base, yes.

Could you build enough of a base to have prevented MoveOn from endorsing in the primary so early, for sure.

At 8:13 AM, Blogger DanielUA said...

I agree with the fact that he has not been able to connect with MoveOn members. But, I guess my question is, given your experience with Seth, do you think mass emails would have acheived this?

At 9:06 AM, Blogger Pat Evans/Butcher/Wicks said...

That's an impossible question. I know that Chuck thought he could build a base from blogs and DFA groups specifically. When he and I spoke, those were the 2 main bases of support he mentioned.

You reach bloggers by blogging. You reach DFA by going to meet-ups. He did that and he did it well.

He did not say that getting the support of MoveOn members was his goal. Perhaps he did say this was because he thought that all or most MoveOn members were bloggers or DFAers. I know from working for MoveOn that most are neither.

Seth did not have MoveOn's brand recognition or as many supporters as MoveOn has members. He did however have at least 500 active online supporters and a much larger list that he could have used to activate support if MoveOn had endorsed in the DA's race.

Where was Chuck's email asking for his online supporters to vote for him in the MoveOn primary?

I guess my point, again, is that folks need to understand how to use online organizing tools to actually connect with all kinds of people and build real bases.

MoveOn did it because they stuck with the use of email as an organizing tool and kept at it with many different kinds of engagement opportunities over the years.

Casey has the opportunity to do it now and so far his emails suck. Mainstream politicos only see email, as Rep. Cohen pointed out, as comparable to "direct mail," meaning a fundraising solicitation.

A good campaign can get so much more out of an email connection with their base than just $$$.

In a nutshell, blogs are great, i love them, but they don't reach anywhere near as broad of an audience as email. In soming years, good campiagns will learn how to do both.

At 4:29 PM, Blogger Rep. Mark B. Cohen said...

The various progressive communities in Pennsylvania are divided along many lines, including the question of whether the main problem of the Democratic Party is that it is too conservative, or the main problem is that it does not win enough general elections.

The MOVEON membership has largely been recruited on general election issues: from not impeaching President Clinton, to electing more Democrats to the Congress and John Kerry to the Presidency, to defeating conservative Bush appointees, to regaining control of the House and Senate for the Democrats.

It is true that MOVEON breathed a lot of life into the Howard Dean 2004 campaign by holding an unprecedented private primary, which led to Deasn's early victory there. But MOVEON set the endorsement bar high enough so that Dean's victory there did not allow him to be endorsed.

I think it can concluded from the MOVEON Casey endorsement that those activists most concerned about a winning general election campaign want Casey. This should not be surprising since general election winnability is the key rationale behind the Casey campaign.

At 7:50 PM, Blogger Tim said...

1.) A mass email did go out from Chuck's campaign asking for support in the MoveOn poll.

2.) We had (while I was there) actually sent out emails attempting to build that base of support in the very manner you mentioned. For example, we had that Santorum/Hitler video out within 3 hours from the second happend.

3.) Casey's email campaign can best be described as "slash and burn." In the past two weeks, I have received 5 fundraising solicitations for him. He is burning his list at break neck speed.

4.) Truth be told, I "dismissed" the petitions in public as sort of an online strategy. Here's a bit of inside baseball for you--I was going to paint his online attempts as strictly brouchereware and using the netroots as an ATM machine.

So, no, I am not against list-building petitions--I see them for what they are. Where he does go wrong is when he asks people to sign a petition for things that happened 3 months ago.

4.) I have no idea why you only received one email.

More later, if the thread stays alive.



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