Tweets don’t equal votes

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Guest Commentary
by Hugh Akston

Now that the high of the election has somewhat faded, I thought it would be as good a time as any to review why some were shocked, SHOCKED by the results of the Mayor’s race.

While voters and the general public see the speeches, debates, TV interviews and the commercials; and some in the “bubble” tweet and “poke” at each other in the twittersphere; it is the workings of a campaign behind the curtain that is charged with actually WINNING … or so you’d hope.

Based on the sheer number of tweets and Facebook posts over the last three or so months from Nathan Fletcher supporters following his “move to the middle,” you’d think the “momentum” had picked up and he was within striking distance of moving above Bob Filner into second place. If you’re like me, you follow those same folks and see that Fletcher became the social media darling of San Diego.

But my question to these Fletcher supporters was and continues to be….to whom do you think you were reaching out with your tweets and Facebook posts?

Despite the Twitter bubble being so small, you can easily get lost in it and think that it’s representative of the voting electorate. You see the same people (mostly journalists and PR folks) bantering back and forth about either A) how they know more about campaigns than anybody else (but most likely have never worked on a campaign in their life), B) how much they hate Carl DeMaio, while anybody that votes for him is doing a disservice to humanity, or C) how great Fletcher is and if you DON’T vote for him it will be a disservice to humanity, resulting in San Diego as we know it being left in ruins.

More than three months of seeing this on Twitter can have a major impact on your psyche and start altering sound logic. You start believing the constant chattering of B and C above coming from folks whose reality is A. You’re actually going to win! You start equating all of this to believe voters are feeling the same way, so you get to spend the Sunday before the election running a half-maration or at the Padres game, or the night before at home watching movies … instead of actually working to contact voters.

I’m sorry, but the last thing I’d want to see my mayoral candidate in the eighth largest city in the country doing on the morning of the election is surfing.

Contacting voters…that’s probably how you should go about winning an election. That is something Carl DeMaio took to heart in actually placing first. There is no doubt his campaign team was the best at walking precincts, making phone calls, and doing everything possible to ensure every VOTER knew him. That also goes for every city council candidate using the Revolvis team. We saw outright victories for two of these candidates (maybe?) and one that had more votes than the incumbent, virtually unheard of.

Once DeMaio got the ball rolling and eventually landed the GOP endorsement, Krvaric and crew implemented their voter outreach machine and GOTV efforts, by far the best in California.

I wish I had the exact numbers, but I’d bet that each registered Republican in each district was contacted AT LEAST six to eight times, whether that be through phone calls or walking.

Now, to say that Fletcher believes he ran the best campaign, in my opinion, is stretching it. Did the switch to independent boost his numbers? Absolutely. But what did he do with it? Based on what I saw, not much to motivate his base. With turnout hovering at less than 30 percent, what did he do to directly contact voters and get them to the polls? Who did he contact? Did he go after high propensity decline-to-state voters? These are all questions I was asking myself immediately following the Decision, simply because those things needed to be acted upon to actually win.

Some were so surprised and upset about the outcome on Tuesday because most of what they’ve been seeing was tweeted or posted on Nathan’s Facebook page by the same people that are already supporting him. To steal a recent line from Barry Jantz, “Social media is the new campaign button — it makes candidates and their supporters feel good.”

Now I don’t mean for this post to be a knock on Fletcher. I personally believe he is a great individual and has been and would continue to be a fantastic elected official. I just truly question the tactics of his campaign team and whether they actually wanted it. The one thing I’ve learned through campaigns, by the time Election Day rolls around, the candidate should be absolutely miserable.

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Comments 20

  1. I don’t think you should assume Fletcher’s folks constantly being on social media meant they abandoned ground work. His campaign team and volunteers were everywhere, walking precincts like all the other candidates. They were spending their evenings phone banking like everyone else.

    Social media was an add-on to their other efforts, not a replacement. But he didn’t have unions and party volunteers walking for him, so he was at a disadvantage in that sense.

    Finally, let’s not forget how far he came in the year after his announcement — from virtually no name ID to winning 24 percent of the vote. That’s impressive, and it came from running an aggressive campaign with a lot of dedicated folks on both his campaign staff and volunteers who spread the word in every venue.

  2. Thank you for your comment Rachel. Seems as if you were pretty close to the campaign…do you know who exactly his team was targeting in terms of walking and calling?

  3. Virtually no name ID? Chelsea’s law wasn’t exactly a hush-hush piece of legislation. Marty Block latched onto it and even used Nathan Fletcher’s name during his re-election bid. Seems weird to go that far to associate yourself with someone from another party (at the time) who has zero name ID.

    Ya know what else doesn’t equal votes? Stunts to try and fool the public into believing you are independent now and that so that is why you quit the Republican Party.

  4. “Hugh” — friendly piece of advice: If you’re gonna throw the local media, PR people and the Fletcher campaign under the bus you should at least have the courage to attach your name to the post. You make some good points but those are lost to your anonymous snark. You can do better, Hugh. Step off the bitter bus.

  5. Hugh, bit too snarky….

    A shorter piece would have noted that the downside of a social media-centric campaign is that the median age of primary voters , as a rule, is 50+. Particularly twitter is not a social media tool that has penetrated deeply this demographic. FB – much more.

    One thing that was heard by numerous civil war generals was the importance of the ground on which the battle was to be fought – by which they meant the topography. Fletcher ultimately had poor ground – a crowded field, a solid Dem and a solid GOP and Bonnie, a festering challenge of pensions, a sluggish economy, the lack of Sander’s endorsement, etc. etc. Even the best campaign and one that cut all surfing out would have been hard pressed to overcome the meta-disadvantages Fletcher faced.

  6. Just for fun…

    The piece above, if written for Twitter would be:

    Now that the high of the election has somewhat faded, I thought it would be as good a time as any to review why some were shocked, SHOCKED b

  7. Tony, instead of getting on people’s case for posting here anonymously, why don’t you and Barry make real-name posts the rule? Can’t blame the guy for playing by the very rules you have set up.

  8. Boy, when did this crowd get sensitive! Kidding all. There is no bitterness at all. The point of the post was merely to cite the numerous shortcomings of a campaign that thrived on media. Also to Erik’s point, that a ground game is absolutely key. I firmly believe that Nathan SHOULD HAVE made it to the runoff, IF the right ground campaign and GOTV effort was in place. I don’t believe they had that but needed it to sustain the bump after the switch. If others have details about the operations and care to shed light on strategy, us political geeks would love to hear it. I don’t think the GOP strategy was/is really any secret.

  9. Thanks, Ricky… Partly to defend Tony, partly to clarify: Regardless of what may be the perception (I don’t know if so), Tony and I are not the lone decision-makers regarding the use of anonymity and setting the other rules for the site. The admins have had long discussion on the anonymity question, with not all being in agreement on the matter. Although the rules have been revised to limit anonymous authors in many respects, it’s safe to say the discussion will continue on the overall point. Tony can speak for himself, but he may very well oppose anonymous posts, or maybe those like the above which we all know can be viewed as attacks under a veil of darkness. Thanks for the input, as always.

  10. Ricky:

    I only have one vote, and I voted for no anonymoous posters or comments.

    The site would lose some people if it eliminated the anonymous posts and comments, but I think it would pick up more than enough people to offset the losses.

    There is no similar site in town that can touch Rostra, so there is a good argument for staying the course. But if you’re a leader I think you should lead, drive change, be transparent, take risks, etc.

    Rostra is a great site with a solid base of support, and readers from across the political spectrum, but I think it can be better.

  11. Nathan Fletcher has been working the political “booboosie” for quite a while. He had plenty of name recognition especially associated with Chelsea’s Law and the seemingly continuous Rick Roberts broadcasting about it. He had a legislative seat for which he campaigned with plenty of money. He had been in a position with the statewide party organization. He was a ‘golden boy”. But he also would go out to Spring Valley and tell Rev. Garlow, “I am with you” and then go Downtown and tell The Harvey Milk Breakfast attendees, “I am with you”. He would go to the Republican County and State organizations and say, “I am with you” and when they failed to give him what he felt was his inheritance he bitterly turned upon those organizations who had helped create his political stature. Putting a good plan in place will not help the man perceived by many to be a fakir. Politics is not Newtonian science. Plan as one may politics is still made up of people making individual decisions for individual reasons, not digitized robots responding to the well planned program.

  12. Hugh, I’m not familiar with the details of the Fletcher campaign’s ground game. I wasn’t involved with the campaign beyond contributing money, distributing signs in my neighborhood and telling everyone I know to vote for him.

    However, I’m friends with several of his legislative office and campaign staffers, and I work for a public affairs firm owned by the campaign’s strategist, so I was able to get a sense of what was going on. I’m not suggesting their ground game was effective; honestly, I don’t know.

    I was just responding to the assertion that they cluelessly went about assuming that social media would provide something it can’t. Social media is a measure of enthusiasm among supporters, but it doesn’t change minds. I don’t think Fletcher’s folks focused on social media to the exclusion of the other traditional campaigning methods. They used it to augment, just like the winning candidates did.

  13. This is not about social media, but it’s another campaign pet peeve of mine: Robocalls.

    A week or two ago, I mentioned getting a Nathan Fletcher robocall at my work number. Yesterday I cleared out my voicemail of some unheard messages. One of them was a robocall from Mindy Fletcher.

    I did not get any robocalls from any other mayoral candidates.

    Let me be clear: I despise robocalls. They are rude. If something is going to take up my time, it should at least be another human being, and not a recorded sales pitch. The presumption of the robocall is that the callee’s time is of no value.

    According to a recent CityBeat article, Tom Shepard figured Fletcher would gain more votes than lose with robocalls.

    But maybe Shepard figured wrong. It’s hard to imagine any undecided voter being pleased with getting phone spam.

  14. http://sandiegofreepress.org/2012/06/the-starting-line-peed-dribbles-past-kreep-in-closely-watched-judicial-race/

    “Looking at the primary from the other side of the aisle… Local conserv blog SDRostra has a couple of post-election articles up that, along with the additional comments posted, should be mandatory reading for San Diego politicos. The Oracle Speaks has local pollster John Nienstedt sharing his observations about local primary contests from a (successful) political consultant’s point of view. And Tweets Don’t Equal Votes takes a look at the social media efforts of the Nathan Fletcher campaign; be sure to read through the comments on this one.”

  15. It is amazing, but not surprising (considering his actions thus far) that it is important to him to believe his campaign was the best run. So it wasn’t his fault he lost. It was everyone else’s fault for not voting for him.

    And technically, by the only measure that counts, he ran the third best campaign.

    And Hugh, I totally disagree with Mr. Manolatos. Your A, B, and C was right on. You and I were not the only ones who noticed it and thank you for including it. As for “throwing them under the bus”, I am certain that everyone Hugh targeted will somehow find a way to move on in life and in a post-Tweets Don’t Equal Votes world, maybe even learn to trust again.

    Who knew these people were all so sensitive?

  16. Robocalls are a reality in campaign life since its cheap and effective way to target voters. A friend of mine who lives in Chula Vista received a robocall from Fletcher. I wonder if anyone else heard of this?

  17. Aynd,
    John Nienstedt says robocalls are a waste of money. They’re cheap, yes, and effective — at annoying people. Read the CityBeat article I linked to for details.

    That someone in Chula Vista got a Fletcher robocall only shows what a junky, bottom-basement tool robocalling is.

    Robocalling does provide voters with useful information on candidates, but not in the way they think. Candidates who employ robocalling are either ignorant of the disruptive effect on those called, or are so contemptuous of the public and power-hungry that they don’t care.

  18. Revolvis had a great night with some big wins. Kudo’s to their entire team, strategy and effort. The win was well deserved. However, voters are fickle and there are a lot of external factors that drive an election. Coronoado Communicaitons, which in many ways transformed into Revolvis, didn’t have such a great cycle in 2008 or 2010 when they used similar strategies. Tom Shepard, who many called the “Mayor Maker” was successful in the past but failed with Fletcher in 2012. Strategies and messages change. Ultimatly, if voters hear what you have to say and like it, and you can get them to show up to vote, you win. How you go about doing that is anyone’s guess, but I’d recommend you listen to Revolvis for now.

    As to anonymous posts. Glad Tony is in a position to post under his own name. One of the many benefits of not working for an elected official any more and running your own PR firm. Many of us are not in that position but like to add to the discussion. If you want to push us out then so be it, its your right, but the Rostra community will suffer.

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