The million-dollar web gurus driving today's presidential campaigns

More than ever, presidential candidates are turning to the web to talk to voters more personally.

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    Hillary Clinton's campaign staff place a sign promoting her website on the podium where she'd later deliver her official launch speech at a campaign kickoff rally on Roosevelt Island, New York City in June.
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The names Andrew Bleeker and Becki Donatelli may not ring a bell for many Americans, but for a number of US presidential candidates leading on both ends of the political spectrum, they represent indispensable, million-dollar players who could just about help them win the race, campaign disclosures have revealed.

Mr. Bleeker, founder of digital consulting firm Bully Pulpit Interactive, is managing online outreach for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Before starting his own shop, he worked for the campaigns of Secretary of State John Kerry in 2004 and President Obama both in 2008 and 2012.

Bleeker’s tailored digital approach during the last presidential election has been widely credited as a deciding factor in Mr. Obama’s victory.

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Ms. Donatelli is the president of Campaign Solutions, a firm currently commissioned by no less than four Republican senators: Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Marco Rubio of Florida, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. A veteran of digital campaign strategy, Donatelli first began working on campaigns when she joined Ronald Reagan’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 1976, and claims she was the first person to raise political donations online.

In 2008, Donatelli also raised a record $100 million online for Senator McCain’s election, according to her biography on the American Program Bureau.

Now, Mrs. Clinton and the four Republican senators have paid Bully Pulpit and Campaign Solutions $1.4 million and a combined $1.7 million respectively – another unprecedented high for online outreach in the world of campaign finance.

How does Donatelli prevent a conflict of interest? By deploying tight firewalls that separate the teams devoted to each of the candidates, she told Reuters.

Republicans are looking to “get serious about closing a digital strategy gap with Democrats that cost them dearly in the last election,” Reuters reports.

Since Obama won reelection in 2012, GOP activists have compared the strength of his digital outreach to that of Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s. While Team Obama harnessed a sophisticated system to determine which voters required the most attention, Mr. Romney’s supporters lagged behind by relying on an outworn strategy of canvassing neighborhoods and impersonal email blasts, according to experts.

While the concept of using people’s preferences on social media for targeted advertising is well documented, campaign strategists are now honing in on the same information to profile voters more personally.

“Not only do we know now that Joe is a plumber, we know he has a personality that responds to fear-based advertising,” Barry Bennett, who is managing Republican Ben Carson's presidential campaign, told Reuters. 

This report contains material from Reuters.

 
 
 

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