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GOP Outgunning Dems Online in House Races

12:05 PM, Apr 21, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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ClickZ reports today that the GOP is quantifiably outperforming Democrats in online buying for House races in 2010:

Consultants on the right and left, along with digital media sellers, say Republican House candidates are serious about using Web ads and other online efforts this midterm election season. They suggest key factors include the desire to take back the majority in that chamber, complacency among Democrats, and even attitudes among party leadership.

"Republicans are throwing the gauntlet down," said Andrew Roos, account executive, AdWords, Google elections and issue advocacy, speaking during a panel on online ad targeting at the Politics Online conference in Washington, D.C. this morning.

Brian Rosenberg, senior account executive at Cox Cross Media, pegs the GOP-to-Democrat House candidate ratio at 3 to 1. He's getting calls from Republican media buying agencies that are sending out proposals for primary campaigns.

There are plenty of factors involved. The party out-of-power has more incentive to stay on top of its digital game and innovate. The GOP has also been spurred by the obvious technological components to victories in Virginia, Massachusetts, and Gov. Rick Perry's primary win in Texas.

Another consultant offers an interesting theory: That traditional Republican firms are more attuned to direct mail than TV, and understanding direct mail microtargeting makes one more likely to naturally understand the benefits of online microtargeting. Traditional Democratic firms, on the other hand, are more focused on TV, which doesn't translate as well.

"Digital paid media intrinsically makes more sense to [direct] mail guys right away," and many older Republican media execs specialize in direct mail, explained [Josh] Koster [of the firm Chong + Koster]. On the other hand, most big Democratic media buying outfits specialize in TV buying. "At least the more junior varsity TV firms are more scared of digital media, and on the left it's the TV firms running the show," he said.

I think he's right that online microtargeting is an obvious successor to direct mail microtargeting, as I wrote in this week's piece on the right's progress online, but that doesnt explain why Democrats got such a jump on Republicans in this area in the first place. In the end, though there are differences between the talent on the left and right, the biggest factor in technological invention seems to be electoral necessity.

In other techno-GOP news, Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers is banding GOP House members together to increase their Twitter followers— an area where they already lead Democrats by a wide margin. She made a list of the 56 GOP House members on Twitter, so they can be followed with one click. Now, a friendly competition is on:

After this week's competition to gain the most Twitter followers, the 32 remaining candidates will move to Facebook and then YouTube, aiming to grow their friends and subscribers faster than their GOP House counterparts.

What's the prize for winning this competition?  Other than bragging rights, we are not quite sure.

From a regional, rump party in the dark ages on the web to a tech-savvy party that wins in Massachusetts— all in one year. Not bad, but the progress has to stick and spread between now and November and after.

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