Rick Santorum did what all respectable candidates do after a hard fought trench battle. Realizing that the credibility of his brand both near and longer term was at risk, he conceded the race. In doing so, the only real candidate who could contend with Mitt Romney for the Republican Party’s nomination is gone. While Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul continue to remain outliers in the race, there is really no contention there and the challenge turns inexorably towards the real game: Winning the White House in November. In the coming months, we will have a front row seat in one of the greatest marketing and communications campaigns in our lifetime. The stakes for our country have never been higher. The challenger Mitt Romney is clearly the underdog as he battles incumbent President Obama. Any thought to the contrary defies wisdom and the online data.
Mass Media outlets and news commentary shows have already moved on and begun designing their talking points and content packages to keep the fervor and intensity alive in this epic battle. Always focused on driving audience and advertising revenues, the major networks will no doubt pivot on each candidate move and talking point, making it the focus of their programming and hyper focus examination. They too are selling a product: The insight that only those in front of the cameras can provide to an interested and sometimes gullible electorate that hangs on each syllable uttered by a talking head. You can already see that the Morning Joe type shows are getting primed for a six month sprint of analysis and opinion. MOST of which will not lend any support to the Republican view of the world or its nominee.
If the Republican leadership is really serious about winning back the House, Senate and White House, there really is a way to get this done. It will take the strongest level of coordination , cooperation and consistency of message amongst all “factions” within the party to achieve this goal. As we look at this week’s tally, especially in light of the Santorum departure, it’s clear that the time is now for both Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich to exit gracefully and put personal aspirations behind them for the achievement of a “Better America” this fall. It’s clear that While Mitt Romney is growing in terms of Facebook friends and Twitter followers, President Obama continues to ramp up in both major social media venues and establish an incredibly solid base with which to wage battle along the way to Election Day. Without a concerted effort across the full spectrum of the Republican base online, no candidate could effectively win any seat based on these facts and figures.
Mitt Romney – 1,580,684 – UP 16,380
Ron Paul – 932,447 – UP 4972
Newt Gingrich – 295,842 – DOWN 723
Rick Santorum – 189,510 – UP 663
President Barack Obama – 25,931,291 – UP 31,723
Noteworthy within Facebook is Mitt Romney’s steady weekly rise in fan numbers, Newt continues to lose friends, Santorum is only slightly positive and Ron Paul remains consistent. While President Obama is way out ahead in the millions, his rate of weekly growth on Facebook has slowed dramatically over the last couple of weeks. Can Mitt Romney catch him on Facebook? Not Likely. More ideas on a strategy that can close the gap later.
Newt Gingrich – 1,466,540 – DOWN – 372
Ron Paul – 427,757 – UP 6387
Mitt Romney – 426,365 UP 15,172
Rick Santorum – 205,622 – UP 2956
President Barack Obama – 14,055,235 – UP 274,971
Most troubling for the Republican Party is the fact that President Obama is picking up steam and followers on Twitter, an indication that the plethora of tweets coming from the President’s team are resonating with the base. While Mitt continues to grow his follower numbers, the president is creating a significant distance between them. In recent days, we have learned of a “weakness” in the marketing war chest within the Obama re-election campaign. It’s clear that there was an understanding within the operatives running the campaign to win the war in the online trenches, hence the real focus in terms of personnel and dollars online. Only the naïve observer would think that the president himself is hunkered down in front of a computer composing tweets and Facebook entries. No. This is a battle between two marketing teams and machines. It’s fascinating stuff for all of us who have lived and worked within the marketing business. Right now, however, Team Obama is winning the battle.
Having spent a great deal of my career working with brands in the heat of market share battles, my approach to the battle ahead for the Republicans and Mitt Romney is fairly straightforward. The battle is being waged by two competitors who have distinct and different views of how our country should be governed in the years ahead. Let’s be very clear that both the president and Mitt Romney “Believe in America.”
Nothing can be gained through rhetorical jousting concerning who “loves America more.” That is a losing battle. In order for the Romney camp to win the battle online, here are a few ideas:
• Build consistency throughout the Republican network – There is strength in numbers. It’s time that the GOP created an online network that leverages the power base of huge numbers of Republican personalities and elected officials online. We need to create Romney’s Online Army. Let’s recruit Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann, Donald Trump, John McCain, Ron Paul (you get the idea) to work together in supporting the nominee online thru a consistency of message to their Facebook fans and Twitter followers. Let’s create consistent billboard content blocks that can be placed on their websites, Facebook pages and utilized within their Twitter efforts. It makes no sense for those who are united within one party with a common mission to be fragmented in their tactical strategy. United Republicans stand a chance; divided they will most certainly fall.
• Create a candidate Obama ’08 campaign promise scorecard – Here the team returns to the last election and documents all of the promises, claims, facts and figures of the campaign. Nearly four years later Republicans document and score the president based on his level of achievement and failure against these promises. It is critical that this scorecard be displayed on Republican websites, Facebook pages, Twitter posts, Pinterest, Linkedin, etc.
• Intense focus on battleground states – While this may appear pretty straightforward, the campaign needs to do an online inventory audit within battleground states to determine key intersection points between online visitors and messaging platforms. It’s time to buy up every available advertising unit within local search queries and high frequency content sites whether they be sports teams, local entertainment, news, opinion, etc. Any open inventory at an intersection between a likely voter and content should be billboarded with the Romney platform message and a directional link to the online home base of the candidate. This home base should have a detailed messaging platform relevant to the voters in the given battleground state. This is not a time to be vague about the case for why a Mitt Romney presidency would serve the specific needs of the voters within a battleground state.
We are only getting started and there are a number of other tactical components to chart a winning strategy for Mitt Romney and the Republican Party. In the coming days we will continue to discuss these components. What has been outlined here is the start of a plan, what is required is immediate attention and implementation. There is no time for Romney and Republicans to waste. You can be sure that the folks in the Chicago bunker aren’t sleeping much these days.