Republicans produced a host of missteps at their convention in Cleveland last week as many in the opposing party gleefully looked on. But as the political world now descends on Philadelphia, Democrats find themselves in a far tougher position than many thought they’d be in to start the week following the revelation of DNC email exchanges that have stoked the anger of Bernie Sanders backers.
The quick resignation of DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz in the wake of the committee’s hacked email scandal only serves to underscore the concern over the potential for tense exchanges between supporters, delegates and operatives that will be played out in real time for a larger audience than ever before through live streaming.
So what takeaways from Cleveland help set the stage for this week’s DNC? First and foremost, it was the power of live content that helped drive events surrounding the GOP convention. Cleveland offered access to online viewers through a YouTube streaming channel and a Facebook Live studio. But given the current media environment, Republican consultant Mike Murphy thought not doing more to bring casual viewers behind the scenes at the showpiece event was a missed opportunity.
“I would have had a GoPro camera backstage,” the longtime GOP media consultant said during a panel hosted by The Atlantic in Cleveland last week. “We are in a culture of unfiltered media. There could have been more” ways to get digital video content out of the convention.
Murphy wasn’t the only consultant to notice a dearth of convention video, whether pre-produced or otherwise. There was a general lack of biographical or narrative videos that typically play for attendees between speeches.
The RNC did use its Instagram to showcase some different angles. But as events got underway last Monday the feed was used primarily as a portrait gallery for its speakers, with the odd venue snap mixed in. The DNC’s handle already boasts 1,700 more followers than the RNC with its total of 5,746. Consultants and campaigns can watch to see whether that gap grows based on the content the DNC’s digital team puts up.
On the strategy front, many Democrats are already warning of the ease of underestimating Donald Trump and the GOP’s 2016 effort. Case in point: GOP strategists spent much of the week in Cleveland bashing the Republican nominee’s campaign, both publicly and privately.
Alex Conant, a former Republican National Committee spokesman who worked for Marco Rubio during the primary, said: “There’s no pathway for him.” When GOP digital consultant Zac Moffatt, pollster Chris Wilson and Republican strategist Mindy Finn were asked to point to what Trump was doing right, they couldn’t muster a single positive.
A major concern among Democratic strategists is sufficiently motivating and mobilizing the party’s base in an environment where many may not be taking the GOP nominee’s campaign seriously enough, something Trump allies continue to hammer home.
“He turned out to be right about the fact that all the things that you and I take for granted — polling, analytics, targeting, paid media — turned out to be completely unnecessary,” Roger Stone, a former Trump adviser told C&E in an interview.
“He ran a totally communications-based strategy based on getting on television and all other mediums as much as humanly possible — doing ten, twelve, fifteen interviews a day. I was skeptical that could work as an antidote to paid media, but I turned out to be wrong and he turned out to be right.”