Candidates should recognize halftime's over; it's time to play a new game

After wins in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Wisconsin, Mitt Romney continues to put numerical distance between himself and the candidates that continue to fight for stump speech clips on the evening news.

Rick Santorum decided not to be present in Wisconsin for the decisive Romney win and traveled back to his home state of Pennsylvania.  Only the most ignorant of contenders would view the current state of the contest as “halftime.”  In Santorum’s world view, the lopsided scoreboard is immaterial.  Santorum and the rest of the players in this overtime game need to be reminded about the importance of winning–in November that is. Winning is everything.  It’s abundantly clear at this late stage in the game  that it will take much more than the resurrection of Knute Rockne to change the tide of this game.

The contest now begs for a change of venue; a new field and game to be played. Those who continue to disregard the scoreboard reality and surround themselves with mindless cheerleaders who fuel the potential of a reversal of fortune are isolating themselves from any future consideration and/or power.
The smart professional understands when the battle is over; when it is time to leave the field. With your integrity intact, though defeated, there is a promise of a battle to be won down the road. It is those who continue to push on despite facts, figures and data to the contrary that not only do damage to their brands today but most certainly in the future.

In the numbers this week, there is an opening within the Obama position on Facebook. The President has had his weakest growth figure since we began tracking. It could be that the combination of  comments around the Supreme Court and “ObamaCare” coupled with rising gas prices and a testy exchange regarding the Paul Ryan budget submission has knocked the candidate off stride. Here’s a look at this week’s tally.

Facebook Friends

Mitt Romney – 1,564,304 – UP 13,135
Ron Paul – 927,475  – UP 3,226
Newt Gingrich – 296,565 – UP 232
Rick Santorum – 188,847 – UP 1,505
President Barack Obama – 25,899,568 – UP 20,062

•    Mitt Romney – Mitt had consistent growth this week again. While it’s nice to “thank Wisconsin,” right now the team needs to be focused directly against President Barack Obama. There is little time to be focused on Republican candidates who will not be a factor in November. Mitt needs to use Facebook to take apart the “failed” policies of the President, explain why they have failed and how Mitt Romney as President will change these policies and correct America’s problems. This is what the voters want from their candidate. Forget the rhetoric, get down to brass tacks. What does Obama stand for…why is it wrong…how are you going to fix it.

•    Ron Paul – Lots of pictures of Ron Paul standing in front of “cheering” campus crowds around the country. No doubt the Paul camp has been successful in recruiting and evangelizing the young people in our country. The real trick here for the candidate is how to harness all of this flag waving into a force that will help bring about change. We are at the stage in the campaign where blaming the other guy is done. Now everyone needs to focus on what you will do to change things.  My guess is that Ron Paul can bring these young voters to the Romney bloc.

•    Newt Gingrich – Newt’s team is doing a better job of attacking the opposition than all of the other clients. His team is doing it through a series of “fight posters” on Facebook. “I won’t be fooled” and the “balanced budget scale” units.  The page asks for followers to submit their best You Tube video on why they like Newt.  A bunch of this is the right strategy; though, execution is a bit hokey. It would have been a heck of a lot more effective earlier in the campaign season.

•    Rick Santorum – Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and Rush Limbaugh are all front and center with their quotes at the banner level on the Santorum page.  Rick’s team has stumbled greatly on Facebook and his numbers reflect it.  This is a social media and community building opportunity. The site does little to engage visitors to engage in a meaningful and relevant way with the site and/or the candidate.  Seems like at halftime in this game, most folks are switching the channel. 

Twitter Followers

Newt Gingrich – 1,466,912 – UP 15,604
Ron Paul – 421,370 – UP 4,802
Mitt Romney –  411,193  UP 12,224
Rick Santorum – 202,666 – UP 19,985
President Barack Obama – 13,764,488 – UP 274,971

•    Newt – Nice pickup in followers this week. Seems like as the primaries swing toward the East, Newt is picking up more attention from local Twitter followers.  His steady stream of losses is doing little right now to place him back into contention.

•    Ron Paul – For Ron Paul, his tweets are all about the size of the campus crowds that he is attracting. Any of this growth he is achieving is no doubt being generated by the volume of “Twitter followers” who have listened to him on his stump speeches and then immediately “followed” him online. It’s a great strategy and one that the front runner should adopt moving forward.

•    Mitt Romney – Mitt has been relatively silent within Twitter this week. It appears that he is having his key supporters–folks like Donald Trump and Marco Rubio–step in and reinforce his message online.  That’s a solid strategy to build his base. Right now, Romney needs all of the candidates and all of the endorsers to turn their focus on reinforcing his message and turning the attack to the current White House competition. A coordinated effort that leverages the online relationships that each of these individuals have could begin to chip away with the amazing lead that Barack Obama currently enjoys online.

•    Santorum–Rick had a solid increase within the Twitter world this week. No doubt with his message that every Republican deserves a right to select the nominee is resonating with a bunch of folks online.  While Rick had a good week, the volume online of folks who are chiding him for staying too long in the race is gaining volume and voice. As these voices from all sectors of the electorate grow in number and ferocity, the candidate will have to make a big decision about the credibility of his brand long term. There is little doubt that his message has been heard. He is on the verge of becoming more isolated as a potential power broker in the November election.

President Barack Obama had another big week on Twitter based in large part on the fact that he has an online army of social media folks who continue to churn tweets out on a daily basis on a variety of topics.  “His” team’s messaging continues to reinforce his basic beliefs about what it takes for our country to grow. The team also makes sure that the “President is tweeting” about the statements and platforms of his competitors. There is an increasing focus on the inevitable Romney candidacy in the Twitter messaging.

In every game, when two combatants do battle, each looks for an opening in order to take advantage and change the direction of the ultimate battle.  As we work toward the center of the ring, there is no doubt that Romney v. Obama is the big match-up coming this Fall. If the Romney campaign is smart, it should be looking at grabbing the best online people and tactical programs from his Republican rivals and repackaging them for use within his own campaign.  If I were advising Mitt, I would schedule an online summit with the teams that are managing  social media from the wide network of Republican supporters and build a unified and integrated program the leverages the aggregate community of “likes” and “followers” across this expansive network with a common focused message.

When that network of influential personalities, pundits and politicians are all on the same page from a messaging standpoint online, Mitt Romney and the Republicans might have a chance. Until that point, the game may be over before the marching band takes the field.