How Harry Reid got “the biggest, best online campaign in the history of Nevada”

Really interesting article in Campaigns and Elections titled, Persuasion Points Online: Helping Harry Reid, One Click at a Time. It was co-authored by Jon-David Schlough, Josh Koster, Andy Barr, and Tyler Davis. They’re the guys who ran Harry Reid’s online operation during the 2010 cycle:

In early 2009, having just been hired to oversee the online component of Harry Reid’s re-election campaign, JD Schlough went to meet the Senate majority leader for the first time.

Reid knew how important the Internet had been to the Obama campaign in 2008. And, as a veteran of close races, he knew that he would need to maximize every strategic advantage to win what his team anticipated could be the toughest of them all.

“I want the biggest, best online campaign in the history of Nevada,” Reid told JD in that first meeting.

This is the story of how our firms built and deployed it.

Now, it might surprise some people that Harry Reid, who is not viewed as one of their more cutting-edge modern politicians, was so into the online world. But, he was one of the first members of Congress to engage the netroots. Back in early 2005, Reid was holding conference calls with progressive bloggers. That was way before most people on the Hill even acknowledged we existed.

Anyway, the articles is worth a read for any political types who want to know how to run an effective online operation. I’ll skip over the meaty parts, but anyone who works on campaigns should read the whole piece.

Here are some of the conclusions:

Not every campaign will enjoy the Reid campaign’s advantages: a huge budget, a top-notch team of staff and consultants, and a dream opponent. But every campaign manager and every digital strategist can benefit from what we learned. The most important lesson was that digital strategy can be used for voter persuasion. But we also learned that we have to stop thinking small, in terms of clicks and impressions, and start thinking like media consultants—in terms of points. Real, needle-moving buys are measured in points, and as Americans’ content consumption habits change, online is going to look, feel, and act a lot more like television. On the Reid campaign, digital was treated like all the other elements of the media tool belt. Just like television, mail, phones, and the rest, our good ideas were funded, and the ones we couldn’t prove effective weren’t.

And just as we couldn’t have done what we did if we hadn’t had a seat at the table, we couldn’t have done it in isolation, either. Without the press team generating clips, we wouldn’t have had good content to showcase. Without the field team building a great early voter plan, our GOTV efforts would have had nothing to plug into. Our efforts paid off only because the entire Reid campaign saw them as part of an integrated strategy.

Most campaigns still don’t get how to use online consultants. That’s because most traditional political consultants don’t grasp the online world. Harry Reid needed every tool in his arsenal.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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