"Think of Dashboard as an online nationwide field office," Obama field director Jeremy Bird said in a video announcing Dashboard last month, calling it a way to join other volunteers "who have stepped up to register, persuade and turn out the voters in your community."
The Romney team is moving quickly to execute its own digital field program while insisting it's not trying to compete tool-for-tool with the Obama operation.
"We don't define our success by vanity metrics, rather by actionable, defined items that will help us be successful in November," Romney digital director Zac Moffatt said. "Digital should be a platform to make things easier. We don't have to match the Obama folks, we just have five or six things we need our digital program to do."
The Romney team last week instituted a digital ticketing program for campaign events across the country. To attend an event, supporters must furnish their contact information, which the campaign will use to invite them to other events and — more importantly — build a voter list. The Romney campaign also recently adopted the use of Square, a mobile phone payment system developed by Twitter that allows people to swipe credit cards easily using a mobile phone or laptop.
Such tools "are a value proposition for both sides," Moffatt said. "We get to collect more data and have a better conversation with our supporters."
On a recent day in northern Virginia, volunteers were heading to a local county fair dressed in red T-shirts proclaiming "Tell Obama — Keep the Change." But the shirt's real added value was the black geometric pattern called the QR code, allowing the voter direct access to a campaign web page — and giving the Romney team their contact information — through a single key stroke on a smart phone.
Pete Snyder, a longtime social media marketing executive who chairs the Virginia Victory Fund, a statewide program to assist Romney and other Republican candidates, said improving the campaign's use of technology has been among his top priorities.
"If you look at 2008, there was a real technology gap. We're light years ahead of where we were," Snyder said, saying his goal was to apply technology in a way that would triple the get-out-the-vote program that helped elect Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell in 2009, just a year after Obama became the first Democrat to carry Virginia in a presidential contest since 1964.
"What we've built from scratch is going to be pretty lethal come November," Snyder promised.
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