22 people had to approve Romney tweets

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Aides to Mitt Romney’s presidential team in 2012 are airing their frustrations with the campaign, alleging that tweets had to be approved by nearly two dozen people by the end of the race.

“So whether it was a tweet, Facebook post, blog post, photo — anything you could imagine — it had to be sent around to everyone for approval,” former Romney campaign aide Caitlin Checkett told Daniel Kreiss, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication in a new academic paper.

“Towards the end of the campaign that was 22 individuals who had to approve it,” Checkett said.

Zac Moffatt, the Romney campaign’s digital director, cracked that they had “the best tweets ever written by 17 people.”

The paper lays bare some of the difficulties Romney’s campaign had in keeping up with the demands of the 21st-century campaign, which requires candidates to push their message on an ever-growing list of online platforms.

Former Romney staffers told Kreiss they were stymied by bureaucracy, even when they had the resources to produce original digital content.

Press releases became the basis for online content simply because they had already been approved by campaign leadership, they said.

“So I felt like that was a huge problem because of course people don’t want to go to your website and read press releases and we knew that,” Checkett said.

Romney’s digital team had some victories, however. During the first debate between Obama and Romney, according to the paper, they practiced for a month in advance. That allowed them to run an efficient rapid-response operation that helped make the case that Romney had decisively won the debate.

But, more broadly, the Romney team was outpaced by the Obama operation, according to the paper.

The Obama campaign’s digital team had significant autonomy to push out content to supporters. That allowed them to respond nimbly to news events, according to the paper, in a way the Romney campaign found more difficult.

Romney’s loss also triggered an awakening within the GOP about its digital shortcomings.

The Republican Party’s “autopsy” of the 2012 campaign found that building out the digital capabilities of its campaigns was crucial to the GOP remaining competitive with Democrats.

“We need to define our mission by setting specific political goals and then allowing data, digital, and tech talent to unleash the tools of technology and work toward achieving those goals,” the authors of the autopsy wrote.

Since 2012, Republicans say they have made massive investments in technology that helped them win control of Congress in this year’s midterm elections.