Digital Helps Get Out Vote in Walker Recall Election

  |  June 4, 2012   |  Comments

Political contest in WI tomorrow serves as a trial for voter mobilization in November.

Tomorrow's Wisconsin recall election, which will decide the fate of Governor Scott Walker, is serving as a trial for get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts in the swing state come November. Groups on both sides are tapping national interest in the Wisconsin election, pushing web-based volunteer opportunities and running display and search ads as well as Twitter and Facebook ads.

The Republican National Committee is immersed in a big GOTV effort, running ads on Facebook, Google, Twitter, and YouTube that target Wisconsin voters. But the party also wants people in states near Wisconsin and across the country to use its digital phone call platform to contact voters in the Badger State. The phone system is built on the RNC's new Social Victory Center - the Republican answer to President Barack Obama's acclaimed online organizing platform.

Tomorrow's election in Wisconsin - a 2012 swing state - "means a lot for the election in November," said Kirsten Kukowski, RNC press secretary. "This is a good opportunity for us to employ all of these efforts to see what works from a GOTV perspective.... We're seeing what happens; if it works well, then maybe we're on to something,” she said, adding "It's all hands on deck in Wisconsin for sure."

Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy (R), a former reality TV star, is seen in a web video encouraging people to use the RNC phone call tool, which automates calls to voters for volunteers who want to help remind people about the June 5 election. Groups on the Democratic side are using similar phone systems. Organizing for America - Obama's campaign operation - is promoting its own online call tool, which like the RNC's lets people log in through Facebook. The Democratic Party of Wisconsin is also pushing its online volunteer tool for GOTV calls, and is running display ads that say, "It's time to show Scott Walker the door."

"There are virtually no undecided voters left, so it all comes down to Getting Out The Vote. Whoever best turns out their base will win," states a Democracy for America web page featuring the left-leaning group's call from home campaign.

The RNC is focused specifically on driving people in nearby Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Iowa to make calls on Walker's behalf. It's also promoting an absentee ballot app through search ads. "We have made over 2.5 million voter contacts since January in Wisconsin," said Kukowski. "All of that is going to turn over to our general election victory efforts in Wisconsin."

The GOP ran a Promoted Tweet on Twitter from Chairman Reince Priebus recently linking to a donation page. "Let's keep Wisconsin on the fast track to economic prosperity," wrote Priebus.

freedomworks-walker-wiThe recall election is the result of a campaign by Democrats and unions aimed at unseating Walker after he signed legislation depleting collective bargaining rights and raising the amounts public union workers must pay into their benefit plans. For both sides, the recall has helped build supporter lists, generate donations, and glean data about Wisconsin voters and issues that resonate with them which can be put to use during the general election.

Groups including tea party super PAC FreedomWorks and the Republican Governors Association Wisconsin PAC are also backing Walker with digital ads. "Scott Walker: Putting Wisconsin back to work!" proclaim display ads from FreedomWorks.

The Walker camp itself is pushing its "You + 2 = Victory" GOTV campaign, which will send people vote reminders when they sign up at It also created a site calling Barrett "Tom the Taxer," which suggests his record as Milwaukee mayor resulted in the city becoming "the 9th poorest big city in the country."

Though the RNC started its GOTV campaign in earnest a couple weeks ago, the party kicked off its efforts to defend Walker last March with a TV spot and microsite attacking Obama for kowtowing to "Union Bosses." Kukowski said the Union Bosses campaign "was definitely a fundraising effort." RNC search ads running recently to mobilize voters use the union message, too. "Cutting Government Spending Works. Send A Message to Union Bosses."

Revolution Messaging, a mobile consulting firm serving Democrats, accused the right of sending spam text messages to Wisconsin voters calling Tom Barrett, the Democrat running against Walker, "a Union Puppet who will give Union Thugs everything they want." The text suggested recipients call Barrett's office to "ask why." Revolution created a petition asking the Federal Communications Commission to "put an end to political text spam fraud."

scott-walker-dems-wiThe Democratic Governors Association is running its own ads attacking Walker. Last month, the DGA ran display ads claiming that a poll "shows the Democratic nominee is up by 1%. Help us defeat Walker." More recent polls show Walker ahead of Barrett.

A video from We Are Wisconsin PAC featuring rapper Head-Roc paints Walker as a wealthy fat cat who doesn't care about the poor and has been viewed around 10,000 times.

The Barrett camp itself is running ads that tell voters "Join Tom Barrett. Defeat Scott Walker."

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Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.

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