Old Dog Mitch McConnell Tries New Internet Tricks

McConnell is known for his old-school tactics in the Senate, but went high tech to win re-election.

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So it may not have made all the difference in what looked to be a nail-biter, but we're told that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell ran one heck of an E-campaign. Much like the presidential candidates, the Kentucky senator used everything from E-mail to online advertising to YouTube and Facebook to boost his re-election chances against challenger Bruce Lunsford and ended up beating the Democrat by six percentage points and being re-elected to a fifth term.

While many members of Congress failed to be superinnovative on the Web this election cycle, Senator McConnell was interested from the start. While he's known in Washington for using old procedural tricks to trip up the Democratic majority on legislation the GOP opposes, McConnell turns out to be equally masterful with the new tricks of the election trade. "Senator McConnell, when he hired me, stated as a goal that he wanted to run the best Senate campaign in America and he wanted to take advantage of all the latest technologies and methods," Campaign Manager Justin Brasell tells Whispers. With that, McConnell's Web team created a new site for the senator, TeamMitch.com, and advertised heavily through Google. They promoted the senator's campaign using banner ads that were often timely, like the General Petraeus one shown above that was placed on conservative websites around the time the general was testifying on Capitol Hill. McConnell would check with staffers for weekly updates on how many people were viewing his YouTube videos, how many were opening his E-mails, etc. "He followed it pretty closely," Brasell says.

The Web presence brought in supporters and money alike. "Conservatives were really looking for a way to support him and they were using Google to do it," explains Peter Pasi, executive vice president of Emotive, the company that developed McConnell's Web strategy. When people Googled the senator's name, they would see sponsored links from the campaign that enabled them to donate to the candidate. "What we found is that starting around September, when the race got really tight, we had a lot of money coming in just from basic search," Pasi says. By Election Day, the average person who Googled McConnell was giving the campaign $80. And for every $1 the campaign spent on advertising on the search engine it was making between $25 and $30.

Now that McConnell can settle safely back into his Senate seat for a fifth term, Brasell contends that the senator will surely want his Republican peers to jump on the Web bandwagon. "He will certainly encourage other senators to take the same approach," Brasell says.

—Nikki Schwab