The beginning of the month saw the financial reports for the looming congressional races, primary and general. And with it, also came some useful positioning as to how the upcoming campaign may go.
First, the money; Nate Reens provides the details:
(Steve) Pestka, a former Kent County judge and state lawmaker, banked nearly another $130,000 in contributions from others to put him on even footing with incumbent Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township, according to the records that cover the first quarter of fundraising this year.
Given the national stature of Amash, it would be foolish to think this $200k is anything more than pocket change. A serious threat — and Pestka is clearly approaching the serious threat threshold — will be the motivation. As the proclaimed heir to Ron Paul, Amash can tap some incredibly deep pockets.
That’s why for the D’s it is less a matter of dollars than of organization. Of the two Dems, the Pestka campaign has the present advantage here over that of Trevor Thomas — certainly it has deeper connections into the community.
Second, the frame. Of more interest than the numbers was the social media frame from the Thomas campaign, providing a sharp contrast between themselves and the Pestka campaign
Total Facebook Likes: Trevor For Congress: 566 / Vote Pestka: 268
Weekly Facebook Mentions: Trevor for Congress: 113 / Vote Pestka: 44
Total Twitter Followers: Trevor For Congress (@TrevorThomasMI + @Trevor4Congress): 1,106 / Vote Pestka: 86
Total YouTube Views: Trevor For Congress: 6,904 / Vote Pestka: 60
So let’s score this. Social media and the internet generally facilitate five political tasks: Content, Messaging, Fundraising, Networking and Branding.
Content — That would be web site and YouTube views. The continuing, puzzling absence of content from Pestka and the YouTube views from the Thomas campaign together suggest an early lead. Score Thomas.
Messaging — Twitter and Facebook are both classic push media for this task. Moreover, they reach national audiences. Strategically, the battle will be fought in a four county district. Seemingly large numbers are at best non-conclusive unless made geographically more precise — the number of followers in the district or region are far more important. No score.
Fundraising — if the Obama campaign is any indication, this is a function directly of Facebook and to a lesser extent of web sites with their more passive appeals to Give Now. A secondary indication of capacity would be the Facebook mentions (though an even better would be the Twitter mentions) — these indicate potential sources. For now, the numbers are likely too small to really offset the advantages of ordinary fundraising, and there Pestka has the lead. However, strategically the Thomas campaign cite of the numbers indicates an appeal to national donors. For now, a draw.
Going into the general the networked base will be a significant resource for the Amash campaign. So every effort now is useful when anticipating that turn.
Networking — A classic function for Facebook (and before that, MeetUp — do we use that still?), particularly useful when tasks like petitions or door-to-door call. Thomas Facebook numbers do not look especially large, given their national character and the Pestka campaigns obvious organic connections. This is an area needing work in the Thomas campaign. Call it Pestka.
Branding — Political branding (and its evil twin sister, negative advertising) is typically a function of heavy advertising cycles, with direct mail. Here, social media provides a means to circumvent these onslaught through directly appealing to likely voters and supporters. However, to be effective these efforts need to be done earlier, and more consistently than in conventional campaigns. Tempo and quantity are parts of the brand. Since the beginning of April and after the above data, the Thomas campaign has noticeably stepped up its messaging/branding campaign.
As the unknown in the race, the task of branding is paramount for Thomas, whether it will be enough to claim voters is an open question. In contrast Pestka has a brand but it likely needs refurbishing.