Romney's digital director talks lessons learned

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With the election over, digital strategists for both presidential campaigns seemed more than willing to put any animosity behind them at a panel co-hosted by CNN and Google in Washington, DC.

Andrew Bleeker, senior online strategist to the Obama campaign, participated in the same panel. 

"We never really set out to run a digital campaign but we set out to run an efficient campaign," he said, explaining that "individual decisions" were made regarding which methods best suited different strategies rather than setting aside a percentage of the budget for digital. 

Moffatt said some of his energy during the campaign was devoted to pushing back against the narrative that Republicans don't use the Internet well. 

"We needed to show after 2008 that we as a party were investing in [digital and online data]," he said. 

Although many GOP operatives compare the Romney campaign's digital strategy unfavorably to the Obama campaign's, Moffatt said he thinks "the party's in a much stronger place going forward." 

He referred in part to the "legacy item" of more than a million donor names the campaign handed over to the Republican National Committee this week that are brand new to the RNC.

In contrast, Bleeker described the attitude toward the digital strategy within the Obama campaign as "a 'don't talk about Fight Club' culture."

Obama's digital team has only begun to share details of their strategy and the infrastructure that accomplished it post-election. "I think we built a whole new campaign infrastructure that didn't exist before," Bleeker acknowledged. 

Moffatt said building in-house "wasn't an option for us," due to the time constraints, and admitted that made the Romney team very "vendor-centric." 

One possible consequence of that structure has been identified as the failure of Project ORCA, a web-based app meant to coordinate volunteers that crashed in deployment on Election Day. Moffatt said the digital team did not have anything to do with building the application. 

Bleeker stepped in to defend Romney's team on ORCA, saying he thinks the role the app played in possibly tamping down voter turnout is "vastly" over-hyped.

"While we did find it kind of funny, it wasn't that amusing because the same thing happened to us in '08," he noted, referring to Project Houdini. "We won anyway."

He also complimented Moffatt on building an audience "very quickly" online, acknowledging the time advantage for Team Obama. He joked that a "good way to figure out who's running" in 2016 is to pay attention to who is building up digital infrastructure now. Bleeker recommended that any potential candidates start early building tools like QuickDonate, email lists, and social media followers.

Bleeker said the biggest lesson his team learned during the campaign was to "test everything." 

"And be flexible, go with what works best not what looks best" or seems best, he said. The campaign has already revealed that email fundraising pitches generated some of their biggest revenue this cycle, and often the email content that got the best response was the content the team would least expect. 

Post-election, Bleeker returns to his digital marketing firm, Bully Pulpit Interactive, and Moffatt to his, Targeted Victory.

Updated at 11:07 p.m.