Exclusive: Inside story on how Team Romney rode the online SCOTUS wave

posted at 2:01 pm on June 29, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

By now, everyone knows that Mitt Romney and the RNC raised a whole lot of online cash in the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court decision on ObamaCare.  How did they make it happen?  The big campaign haul came in part from the decision itself, but Team Romney’s early decisions on organizing and preparation for fighting the online battle put the campaign and the RNC in position to capture lightning in a bottle when it struck.  I spoke with Leonard Alcivar and Zac Moffatt, two key members of the Romney campaign’s digital efforts, to get some background on the story.

With the general-election campaign in full operation, it’s sometimes difficult to remember that Romney only wrapped up the nomination two months ago.  At the time, the entire Romney campaign effort consisted of 87 people. In contrast, the Obama campaign had been in general-election mode for over a year at that point and employed over 700 people, many of which were dedicated to handling Team Obama’s digital efforts in-house, Moffatt told me. Today, Moffatt estimates the campaign staff to be between 350-400, with 80 dedicated to managing digital issues, including state-based personnel.  In order to ramp up quickly and efficiently for general election effort, Team Romney relied on building relationships with outside providers for key digital services, including donation processing — a decision that would pay dividends when the court’s decision prompted an avalanche of both visitors and especially donors.

The court’s decision itself sparked considerable traffic and donations, with the Romney campaign raising roughly what they’d see in online donations in a day within the first hour.  Naturally, a great deal of interest erupted in Mitt Romney’s expected statement on the decision, and Alcivar says that conservative activists reached out to campaign yesterday to tell the campaign what they wanted to hear from Romney: a passionate commitment to full repeal and an articulation of how ObamaCare erodes freedom and damages the economy.  Romney delivered with this four-minute speech:

The campaign also released this web video as part of their fast response effort:

At that point, what had been a flood of traffic on the campaign and RNC websites turned into a deluge.  Within an hour, the campaign had to expand their infrastructure from eight servers to 24 in order to keep the donation pages running — a contingency that might only happen once in a campaign, but for which Team Romney had prepared from the beginning.  Traffic increased to five times what the sites would normally experience, but more critically, donations exploded to something close to twenty times their normal rate.  The infrastructure decisions made two months ago played a critical role in keeping up with demand.  As Moffatt explained, normal web-page hits don’t put a lot of stress on servers, but the secure donation transactions require many times more in server resources.  Donor pages had three to four thousand simultaneous transactions at times in the rush following Romney’s statement, and the sites stayed up to take advantage of them all.

In the end, the Romney and RNC campaign websites had 200,000 unique visitors in the 24-hour period following the Supreme Court decision — with 47,000 donations.  That’s a conversion rate of nearly 25%, far above the normal rate for campaigns. The success wasn’t limited to just the campaign websites, either.  Obama has a 5-year head start on Facebook, and has 27 million followers already, while Romney had 2.1 million before the court decision.  Despite that, Team Romney beat Team Obama on Facebook “engagements” in the first 24 hours after the decision, 493,400 to 464,000, when Obama supporters had more to celebrate.  Romney picked up three times as many supporters in the period as well, 28,713 to 9,600.

Moffatt, who quarterbacked the digital efforts this week, says that this shows not just how Team Romney’s preparation and organization succeeded, but how Romney himself engaged the conservative outrage over the court’s ObamaCare decision, and how conservatives embraced the campaign as an outlet for it.  That is exactly what Moffatt envisaged when the campaign shifted its focus from the primary to the fight against Barack Obama.  Team Romney intended to “move from a campaign to a cause,” and when the Supreme Court gave them the opportunity to make that a reality, they were fully prepared to take advantage of it.

Update: I got the communication backwards on the conservative outreach yesterday; it was conservatives who reached to to Team Romney, not the other way around.  I had it incorrect from my interview notes, and I’ve corrected it above.


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Comment pages: 1 2

nathor – David Axelrod is paging you.

BTW, I hope you all realize how unwise it was for some to suggest we should take this to the convention in Tampa, hoping for a great big floor fight, leaving us with a scant amount of time to raise money and focus our efforts on beating the O.

Buy Danish on June 29, 2012 at 4:51 PM

So tired of the ABR’s and Obamabots vomiting on every Romney post.

Good job by the 2 month old Romney campaign on handling the post court fallout.

bluealice on June 29, 2012 at 5:01 PM

Think it’s time for all ABO folks to get behind Romney wholeheartedly. I am not a fan, and Romney did not reach out to me. But when that court issued their lawless decision yesterday, I was one of the first to make my first-time donation to the Romney campaign and urged others to do the same to set a record and send a message. Don’t think Romney had much to do with it other than assuring us that he will repeal Obamacare as one of his highest priorities. Once we get him elected, we need to hold him to that. The country depends on it.

Christian Conservative on June 29, 2012 at 5:40 PM

Romney is pandering to the right. Remember Romneycare is what Obamacare is base on.

Yes yes. Without Romneycare, Obama and the Democrats would have been clueles about how to create a government-mandated health care approach on their own. Pffft.

Don’t be fooled.

jdun

No need….you’re fool enough for all of us. Get a clue. Romney very well may screw us over, in which case we’re in the same spot we are today. Obama has already and will continue to screw us over.

Romney = a chance at getting rid of it. Sure, he might screw us over, but he might not.

Obama = no chance in hell of getting rid of it, and he 100% guaranteed, no doubt about it will screw us over.

It’s not complicated…unless you’re a supreme court justice perhaps.

xblade on June 29, 2012 at 6:34 PM

throwing good money after bad…anyone who sends $ to a guy worth a quarter billion is a darned fool and . . . don’t trust a milquetoast to do a man’s job! NoMittObama 2012!

JINDAL/WEST 2012….because America is worth saving and Obamacare is worth repealing!

Pragmatic on June 29, 2012 at 7:29 PM

Think it’s time for all ABO folks to get behind Romney wholeheartedly. I am not a fan, and Romney did not reach out to me. But when that court issued their lawless decision yesterday, I was one of the first to make my first-time donation to the Romney campaign and urged others to do the same to set a record and send a message. Don’t think Romney had much to do with it other than assuring us that he will repeal Obamacare as one of his highest priorities. Once we get him elected, we need to hold him to that. The country depends on it.

Christian Conservative on June 29, 2012 at 5:40 PM

If the country’s depending on it then the GOP better DUMP ROMNEY NOW! He can’t be trusted to do the right thing! There is still time …. JINDAL/WEST 2012 Palin for Secretary of Energy

Pragmatic on June 29, 2012 at 7:31 PM

Roberts appeared to be a solid conservative and he betrayed America….mittens milquetoast is a solid ZERO and we want to trust him with the car keys? ….not in my lifetime folks! I will not have THAT on my conscience!

DUMP MITTENS NOW…..there is still time…..

JINDAL/WEST 2012

Pragmatic on June 29, 2012 at 7:42 PM

Is there a reason for this post?

Anyone can “add a digital partner” in anything web-related.

There are some really cool new companies… Ebay, Paypal, verisign… oh wait – they exist for anyone with a 50 IQ to ramp up.

I cant wait for tomorrow’s “How HTML can make you money” article and post.

Though I hope some brain power is spent on getting these crap barge ad overlays off HA.

Odie1941 on June 29, 2012 at 8:45 PM

Sounds like they have a private vCloud and a load balancer. Take it from an IT guy… It is not a big deal to bring up a bunch of web server VMs to meet demand. It is good that they had them staged, but any competent infrastructure group would have that ready to go.

stvnscott on June 29, 2012 at 9:42 PM

Pragmatic on June 29, 2012 at 7:29 PM

Pragmatic on June 29, 2012 at 7:31 PM

I will not have THAT on my conscience!

Pragmatic on June 29, 2012 at 7:42 PM

Two responses:
1. I don’t think you know what “pragmatic” means.
2. I couldn’t care less about your precious conscience. I care about our country and its future. If YOU care about your country, tell your conscience to shut up cause it’s time to get serious.

Support the GOP, the only entity that has the ability to preserve some semblance of our country, then YOU help give them the will to do it.

Yet right now you’d rather complain about their lack of will and insist on supporting someone who has no ability.

Tell that to your precious conscience.

I had a religion professor say to the class once, “Some of you have higher standards than God. If it is true that God is holy, what does that make you?”

The correct answer is “wrong, even though my conscience tells me I’m super-holy.” So much for conscience.

rwenger43 on June 30, 2012 at 1:13 AM

Exclusive: Inside story on how Team Romney rode the online SCOTUS wave

First they pressured Roberts to find a way to keep 0bamaRomneycare alive…

Feel free to be skeptical but you have to admit it does explain why Roberts came to the conclusion NO ONE WAS EXPECTING.

NEVER trust ANY LIBERAL. Never!

DannoJyd on July 1, 2012 at 1:32 AM

Romney may, and I repeat, may get elected, but repeal ain’t gonna happen. If anyone saw Mitch McConnell on Fox News with Chris Wallace this morning, tell me how, even with a majority, this baffoon is going to get anything done. He has been there so long he can’t even explain Federalism anymore, or how it applies in the situation of RomneyCare, even when Wallace tosses him a softball to answer. Personally McConnell is the type of Rhino that has ruined the Republican party and is why I am now an independent. The one good thing is that I am old, and won’t have to put up with the further decay of the republic much longer. I don’t know when McConnell comes up for re-election, but for heaven’s sake get rid of him.

georgeofthedesert on July 1, 2012 at 6:40 PM

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