One of the leading digital consultants behind Bernie Sanders’ presidential run has placed the blame for Hillary Clinton’s loss on her campaign’s “arrogance” and criticized her use of tactics like paid TV and canvassing.
Scott Goodstein, who heads Revolution Messaging, detailed for the first time Sunday how he was “brushed off” by the Clinton camp after offering to help them do outreach to Millennial voters during the general. “Her team seemed to care little about learning from Sen. Sanders' successes and about how his tactics could be used in the general election,” he wrote.
Rival presidential primary campaigns don’t always sing kumbaya, even if the candidates make nice. But questions about the nature of the collaboration between the Clinton and Sanders camps have lingered as the finger pointing over who's to blame over the party’s dismal cycle has intensified.
At the same time, as questions about the future direction of Democratic campaign consulting get explored in the coming weeks, digital consultancies like Revolution are going to use 2016 to make the case for a greater slice of the budgetary pie.
In his opinion piece, Goodstein responds to Clinton manager Robby Mook, who he quotes as saying Millennials were the reason for “why we lost.” He also cites Clinton ally David Brock who said in a recent speech: “And I’m angry at the millions of disaffected [M]illennials who sat on their hands in the most consequential election of our lives and didn’t even bother to vote.”
Now, Millennial voters aren’t the only scapegoat that’s been singled out by Team Clinton. Senior members of her staff and Clinton herself have blamed fake news and white supremacism.
Guy Cecil, who ran the Clinton-backing Super PAC Priorities USA during the 2016 cycle, singled out FBI Director James Comey’s second letter to congress on the subject of Clinton’s emails, which was made public the Sunday before Election Day, as the reason for her loss. “Our party must rebuild but this view is absolute truth. Our data showed the race move .5% every night for several nights after the letter,” he tweeted Dec. 9.
Meanwhile, the day Goodstein’s piece was published ex-Clinton staffers ranging from former communications director Jennifer Palmieri to digital director Jenna Lowenstein were tweeting about Russian hackers influencing the result for Trump. C&E reached out directly to several Clinton consultants. One declined to comment saying the loss was still too raw and there was already enough finger pointing going on.
In fact, Lowenstein may be the Clinton strategist most exposed to any fallout from Team Sanders’ allegations. She was on stage with Revolution Messaging’s Keegan Goudiss at a panel in Philadelphia during the DNC where the two made a show of pledging to cooperate. “We’re in lots of conversations,” she said at the time.
Those conversations led nowhere, Goodstein revealed.
“My team offered to help — just like Hillary Clinton's team helped then-Sen. Barack Obama after he won their primary in 2008,” Goodstein wrote. “In reaching out, we met with some of Clinton's biggest Super PAC donors, spoke with the campaign's lawyers and also reached out to Mook, adviser Joel Benenson and others. While I'm not a millennial, my firm Revolution Messaging specializes in youth voter outreach and helped Bernie Sanders win a record share of youth votes in the primary — more than Clinton and Trump combined. I also ran social media, developed young voter materials and assisted with artist and musician outreach for President Obama's record-breaking 2008 campaign. So I was surprised, and very concerned, when Clinton's campaign and their independent coalition leaders all brushed me off.”
Goodstein’s piece did draw some quick reaction from the consulting industry — particularly from those who stand to benefit from an accelerated shift to digital. Sean Duggan, a vice president of advertising at Pandora, praised it. “Great insight as usual from @goodstein,” he tweeted.
It also touched off testy exchanges over the value of the Millennial voting block. Young voters are notoriously fickle, and despite their value to Sanders and President Obama’s campaigns, many down-ballot strategists believe they aren’t worth the trouble to target and turnout.
In a tweet directed at Revolution Messaging’s Mike Nellis, Michigan-based strategist Joe DiSano wrote: “to the ones that sat this out because Uncle Bernie wasn’t on the ballot…fuck em.”
That’s the kind of attitude that Goodstein is up against. Still, he called for shifting his party’s strategic focus away from tactics like paid or volunteer canvassing and TV advertising, and toward digital persuasion. “Democratic campaigns have been built on door to door operations, affectionately nicknamed the ‘ground game;’ that was everyone's first job in politics. But canvassing has diminishing returns,” he wrote.
The Clinton campaign, he added, “relied too heavily on outdated voter engagement methods that are ineffective for millennials. … We must retire the party's dinosaurs who still can't see it and do a much better job engaging millennials.”