Project Wonderful

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Republicans, the Final Frontier, to Go Where No Democrat Has Gone Before

I've wanted to have a post on tracking for a really long time. Thanks to Aaron Fielding (that's me and him above) for making it happen!

I began tracking in 2010 for a gubernatorial candidate. I continued tracking in 2011 for an independent organization in the Northeast mostly Republican Presidential candidates. I have covered events with Mitt Romney, Rick Perry (my favorite), Michele Bachmann (scariest), Jon Huntsman (nicest), just to name a few.

Ever since George Allen’s infamous “Macaca Moment” tracking has become an increasingly important part of campaigns, for our side anyway Republicans still haven’t taken to tracking as extensively as our side, my theory is they are just going to make up what our candidates say so what’s the point.

Tracking is fun, frustrating, and the most unusual position on a campaign. People think it’s easy, but it takes a smart, savvy, thick-skinned individual. You’re job is to attend events featuring candidates and elected officials from the other side. Most of the time (especially during the height of the campaign season) you are attending local County/City Republican Party events and everyone there will hate you and in some cases threaten you. I will be taking you to my process of tracking and also some tracking best practices.

Finding the Event
With Facebook, Twitter and Google, finding events are becoming easier, especially if you’re a Republican tracker finding a Democrat event, but Republican candidates, local parties, and yes even the Tea Party uses electronic media to broadcast events. Every morning, and whenever you have some down time at the office, checking the candidate’s websites (campaign and/or official), state party website, local party websites, local Tea Party website and other like-minded groups (my personal favorite is the 2nd Amendment Task Force they are a fun bunch).
Tweet-Deck is a great tool for finding events, especially last-minute radio interviews event, if you are running statewide it’s hard to be everywhere, but morning radio shows are an easy way to communicate to your constituents, and some elected officials do this pretty regularly.
After an e-media search comes the fun part, contacting their offices. It’s good to have volunteers and interns do this, after awhile their staff (both campaign and official) will know who you are and won’t tell you anything.

The Event
Republican events are just like our events, they have staff, and a sign-in table. It’s good to get to the event early, but you don’t want to get there to early (if it’s just you and the candidate’s staff they are going to have to talk to you and the jig is up).
Going into the event, you are going to be asked to sign-in, I would politely decline. After going passed the sign-in table you need to find a good spot to set up so you can cover the event with your camera, not a flip-cam mind you a camera with your tripod. (It’s not good enough just to get them on camera, it needs to be usable for a television ad).

Good Video – Notice how the camera is not shaking and is in HD.

Bad Video – See how the video is not in HD, the sound is bad and it’s shaky.
After setting up your camera, you should leave it on, if you see someone coming towards you, you should begin recording, sometimes being kicked out of the event is actually a bigger story than what the candidate says. And you never know when something like this is going to happen.

Being Kicked Out – ***Being physically assaulted by campaign staff is always a win*** For the most part it will be a staffer asking you to leave. Tell them no, you are there because it is a public event and you have every right to be there. Now, if someone from the facility where the event is taking place and/or the police ask you to leave, you should.
When the event begins, it’s a good idea to film everything and take detailed notes with timestamps, this is important when Communications wants certain footage.

Post Event
You should film the target until they leave, it’s always good to get footage of what vehicle they take, it’s good to know what they travel in, I once had to go to an airport to get the tail number of a private plane, plus you could get a gem like this: About 40 seconds in.
After the event is over, it is important to get your detailed event memo out to staff so they can determine if there are any issues they want to push out.

Holding candidates accountable for what they say is an important part of Democracy. This is why tracking is so important. Yes, getting a candidate on film using racial slurs, messing up the pledge, or saying how you like to fire people is great and the press loves it, but most candidates are polished enough not to make those mistakes, so getting where they stand on the issues is why we use trackers. After you track someone long enough, you will know what they are going to say, but if they change what they say, leave something out, or add something new it is important we know what that is, it could be the beginning of a Flip-Flop, or something bigger that we need research to start working on so we can create something like this.


If anyone has any questions, please feel free to ask, I have been through just about everything and would be glad to help in any way that I can.

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