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June 14, 2012

Obama's Digital Government and the New 'America'

By Julie Griffin, Contributing Writer

So much has changed in the four years since the last presidential election, and not all of our government's significant digital progress relates to cyber warfare. As evidenced by a statement made by Obama's campaign official, “Digital is no longer a part of the campaign. It is the campaign.” And it seems as though Obama's investments in digital campaigning were well spent.

In fact, Obama's state-of-the-art operation expands his voter reach capabilities so immensely reports have called it, "Obama's data advantage." This is not to say that Mitt Romney’s technological tools lack sophistication, but Romney does not have the resources needed to catch his opponent, and one misspelled app could have been a significant error.

Mitt Romney’s launch last month is not quite forgotten. The presidential hopeful presented voters with an iPhone (News - Alert) app “to a better Amercia.” The error reportedly went viral, a testament to the magnitude of political followers online. In all fairness, Romney never had the advantage that Obama is afforded as the current president of the United States, but the majority of Obama’s ad investments are for online media, while reports suggest that Romney still opts to pour major investments into extravagant TV ads.

Obama's “data advantage” over Romney is grossly understated. Politico magazine describes a setting where 150 techies are set up in a Chicago office, diligently involved in Obama’s digital operation. And this was only one side of the digital campaign. Obama has employed the best and brightest software engineers, analysts, and other types of tech innovators, recruiting from politically detached Silicon Valley, if need be.

According to the source, “The depth and breadth of the Obama campaign’s 2012 digital operation — from data mining to online organizing — reaches so far beyond anything politics has ever seen, experts maintain, that it could impact the outcome of a close presidential election.”

Obama’s digital campaign strategies include effective “micro-targeting.” His team of analysts have discovered that three dollars is the “magic number” when soliciting donations. People are more than willing to part with this seemingly trivial amount in the chance of winning a dinner with Sara Jessica Parker. Obama’s analysts then use data lists of past donors and volunteers to target these individuals again. These are strategies implemented by Google (News - Alert), and just recently Facebook. By infiltrating browsers with cookies, advertisers are better equipped to target ads in real-time.

Analysts have noticed that potential voters expect a more dynamic online relationship with politicians, a relationship extending beyond ‘like’. Websites such as “Will of the People” have taken advantage of this new politically enthusiastic market by offering voters services that allow them to discuss their pressing issues for a fee.

Edited by Jamie Epstein
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